Home Decorating Pretty in Pastels

Pretty in Pastels

Maybe it’s our post-holiday wish for all things easy and relaxing, or maybe it’s the never-ending expanse of white wonderland outside our windows. Whatever it is, when we saw this casually elegant, gently hued New Jersey living room designed by Kevin Isbell  in the December/January issue of House Beautiful, we couldn’t resist letting out a collective sigh.

Beyond the obvious pastel prettiness, we’re big admirers of some of the visual tricks Kevin employed in this space. To make the low ceilings seem taller, for example, he painted the ceilings a high-gloss blue (Constellation by Benjamin Moore). He then used a muted green—Celery, also by Benjamin Moore—on the walls, with darker echoes of the color in the sofa, the curtains and accent pillows, and the feet of the armchairs, to ground the lighter tones.

The mix of textures—from the mohair-covered cushions on the sofa to the smooth cotton twills of the armchairs and love seat, and the rough-hewn quality of the natural-fiber rug and woven basket—almost begs a bit of fondling. We love Kevin’s expert balancing of feminine colors, florals, and ribbon trim with masculine dark woods, dark leather, and strong lines, like the leather-upholstered, nailhead-trim klismos chair, the collection of framed architectural drawings, and the leather-topped metal coffee table by the secondary seating area.

And those brass accents? Genius for adding a touch of shine, warmth, and luxury to the room. But perhaps the most brilliant addition is the Victorian sorcerer’s mirror placed over the extra doorway, to create the illusion of a solid wall behind that distinctive, 12-foot-long sofa. It’s a lesson in how to play with challenging proportions, and how to create a soft, easy, welcoming sanctuary.

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Lolly January 10, 2013 at 10:23 am


Joyi January 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm

My husband and I were desperate to vanish the gloom out of our North facing main living and kitchen. The colors were purple / wine and olive, which I do love; but in those rooms with both of us being affected by depression, it was a recipe for disaster. He and I were each separately thumbing through our “House Beautiful” magazine and both of us stopped and started really looking after getting to the pages that featured Kevin Isbell’s handiwork.

Neither one of us are anything except blue collar living in a modest ranch style house – popular in the Dallas, TX area in the mid 1950’s. In our backyard are two HUGE Pecan trees that block summer heat and sun, but also do the same in the winter. We both were relieved to find out the other stopped on the same pictures, but we were still scared to paint our ceiling blue… 8 foot ceilings. I read the article, got the exact colors and noted that Kevin Isbell was using the colors that he did to both brighten and heighten the room that he used them in and I noticed how he tackled adjacent rooms, so on and so forth. I didn’t dare mess with the colors, since clearly only a designer would have pulled them together. So, despite the high price of Benjamin Moore Paint, we still bought it. However, we did have to go semi-gloss on the ceiling instead of high-gloss. The price difference was significant.

With that said… we still have a long way to go, since we are adding insulation to the outside walls and redoing the kitchen pretty much from the ground up, but we have started. With three of the four walls and the ceiling painted and trimmed, we can now imagine the colors in our space – and we did good. We did very good. 🙂 This will take us a good several years to finish all the way, but when we are done – all but the kids rooms will be a creation based on this article.

I hope that others, that are considering this design idea, but are wary of the blue ceiling, will give it a go anyway. I can honestly say that not one person has walked in the house and even realized the ceiling was blue until it was pointed out to them. Somehow, it visually does not draw attention to itself.


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