How to Create a Mood Board


The design process can get overwhelming - even the smaller projects. By creating a mood board, you are creating a reference you can return to again and again so you won’t lose sight of your intended design goals.


Hey, everyone. Just wanted to let you know that the latest issue of Marin Home Magazine is out. My article, "In the Mood", has some great tips on how to create an inspirational mood board. Hope you'll pop on over and read the FREE digital edition on issuu! Lots of great stuff in there, including an article on Frank Lloyd Wright's Civic Center design. (I can see the gold spire from my backyard - cool, huh?)

I know I haven't posted for awhile, but I'm still here. :)  For those of you who have wondered whether or not I'm still taking on clients - yes, I am! Please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'd love to talk to you about your upcoming color and design projects.

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The Deets on My Apartment Therapy Room For Color Contest Entry

It's time for Apartment Therapy's Room for Color contest again. I entered last year and was one of the finalists in the "Dark" category. (I wish they didn't use that word, "dark". It sounds so scary! I much prefer "deep." Because a space with deep colored walls can have lots of light and therefore not technically be "dark". But I digress...)

Here's a collage of my living room entry from last year, "Kelly's Deep Teal with a Funky Vintage Vibe":

This year I almost didn't enter. Honestly, my "Mystical Atelier" wasn't done done. There are a lot of things that are kind of wacky and unfinished, but I figured what the hell. It was a good kick in the pants to spend a little time cleaning up and styling and taking some decent photos of a space that is how it is. It's a real living space, not a perfect one. At that is a good thing to share.


This room wasn't much to start with. It's a 1950s box with zero detail. The glass in the window is broken, there is a hole in the floor where an outlet used to be, the door doesn't close properly, and it has a silly central vacuuming plug that we have yet to remove from the wall. (I'm sure you can spot it if you look carefully!) The furniture is mostly hodge-podgey leftovers - pieces that didn't fit in the rest of the house - and the area rug (from Overstock) was a quick fix. We needed something for the pup to lie down on so he didn't bang up his bony little elbows. Oh - and it desperately needs window treatments. But, like I said, it is what it is. And hopefully there is some inspiration in that.

After (or rather, "in-progress")

As I wrote in my entry, I was "looking to create a masculine, intellectual, artistic space for reading and playing music. Charcoal gray on the walls was the right color to help lay that character foundation. To keep the space from getting too moody, however, I came back in and painted the bookshelves in a bright red."

The walls are painted in Sherwin Williams Sealskin, a deliciously warm and deep charcoal gray. The bookshelves got leftover front door paint in Sherwin Williams Real Red. (You can see the same color on the front door in the living room pics.)

And just for fun, here's a before of the bookshelves, which we purchased from an estate sale just across the street. Keepin' it in the hood.

As most of you know, I love vintage. The chair was a find at an antique store a number of years ago. It looks pretty, but being a real Victorian piece, it desperately needs to be re-stuffed. Someday.

The mirror is also vintage from an estate sale. I stole it from the living room to fill up the wall space for the photos. But it looks so good there, I'm going to leave it. 

The armoire - which is HUGE - was made by my dad to house our gargantuan TV back in the day before flat screens. This is literally the only room in the house where it fits. It holds a lot of junk, which is good. And not so good.  

I had fun with this gallery wall. My husband has a strange collection of "anthropological" things, and one day I curated this small gallery for him. Yes, that is an actual coat of arms from his family's lineage. The desk below the display was my grandmother's.

I found the green lamp - which I love! - at a garage sale for $3. And the mid-mod end table? Free on the side of the road.

The fern was another item I stole from a different room. But, again, it looks too good in here to move back. I'll just have to buy another one.

The day bed was a recent purchase from Cost Plus World Market. It's not super fancy, and I hope to replace it with some cool vintage velvet find at some point, but for now it does its job well. And I love how the cream color brings lightness to the space. Oh- and the pillows and throws? Some are from Ross Dress for Less (I am not ashamed!) and some are vintage. 

So, now you know all the dirty little secrets behind this room. Hopefully it endears you so much that you feel an overwhelming urge to head over to Apartment Therapy right this second and give it your vote! Voting ends October 3rd. I'd be much appreciative if you can share the love. I promise to send it right back atcha. 

Pratt & Lambert Style & Design Guild

I've got some fun news this Friday. Pratt & Lambert Paints has officially launched their re-vamped Style & Design Guild and I'm honored to be one of the members!

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The Style and Design Guild is "a think-tank for the design industry composed of an exclusive team of interior designers, architects, stylists, writers and fashion-forward thinkers who have a shared passion for visual intrigue and for pushing the limits of design."

The other members are: Michael Bagley, Joseph Boehm, Luis Caicedo, Stacy Garcia, Maria Killam, Laura Kirar, Rae McConville, Kate Smith, Asler Valero, Kendall Wilkinson and Eldon Wong. I'm in very good color company!

So head on over when you get a chance. You can check out my favorite Pratt & Lambert colors and my top five design tips, including this one:

“Eliminate the need for perfection. It is the enemy of creativity. When we strive for perfection in design we can sometimes overlook the most beautiful solutions. It’s the imperfections of a space that make it feel most like home.”

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Tips for Using Radiant Orchid and Exclusive Plum: My Full Interview with Better Homes & Gardens

I haven't yet weighed in on the whole Pantone Color of the Year thing. And to be honest, I wasn't sure if I had too much to say about it. But, apparently I did back in January 2012 when Better Homes and Gardens interviewed me about violets! I was doing some file purging on my computer this past week and was kind of excited when I realized how ahead of the color game we were. Kudos to BHG for featuring a hue that was just a hair before its prime. (See the orchids in the styling? Kinda makes you wonder where Pantone gets its inspiration...)

In case you have been living under a color-deficit rock, Pantone crowned Radiant Orchid as the official 2014 Color of the Year in December. And shortly after that, paint giant Sherwin Williams officially named Exclusive Plum as their own Color of the Year.

There are many opinions floating around out there on these hues. Some love them, some are haters. I like to look at the colors of the year as more of a concept, rather than actual specific paint suggestions. And, as a concept, I think violets are gorgeous. I've actually found violets, in general, to be extremely popular with my clients for at least the last five years. I've been spec-ing different variations of them for exteriors and interiors, as well as bathroom and kitchen tile! I wonder if I'll be getting more requests - maybe bolder requests - in the near future. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'd love to share the full Q&A I did with Better Homes and Gardens for their January 2012 issue. Enjoy!

Oh, and to clarify, the BHG color story was focused on red-violets. Radiant Orchid falls in the red-violet category, while Exclusive Plum falls more in the blue-violet category. A quick color lesson: the red-violets tend to read a little sweeter, warmer and more feminine than the blue violets. Not always, but it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

Q} For each color represented on a lid, tell me how you’d use it in a room and what color(s) it pairs well with?

A} "Purple Davenport" (deepest red-violet): 

Love the idea of a bed or bath painted in this hue. It could be used in place of more traditional reds, perhaps in a dining room or a front door. Also could be as an accent color in pillows, upholstery fabric and drapery. 

Pair with:

Buttery creams or warm, pale greys for a more sophisticated palette. Black, dark browns, grays and even indigo blues for a more mysterious effect. Other equally saturated hues such as turquoise, jade, grass-y or limey greens, golds and oranges for a playful, energetic look. 

Bath Materials Design board by Story & Space for BHG's digital edition

"Mouthwatering" (bright berry violet)

 Would be stunning in a bathroom or entryway. It’s pretty potent, so use it in a space where you want to get attention. As an accent, like "Purple Davenport", would be lovely in pillows, upholstery and drapery. 

Pair with:

Whites, greys and blacks for a more graphic, contemporary feel. Like "Purple Davenport", could also be paired with any of the equally saturated hues listed above. Would look amazing with deep charcoal greys which would bring an edge of sophistication and mystery. Also a good match for creams which could soften this boisterous hue.

Inspiration Board by Story & Space. Violets and Navy = yum!

"Sweet Surrender" (nearly-white violet) :

Could be used as trim and ceiling for a room in painted in "Purple Davenport" or "Mouthwatering".

Pair with:

Because this hue is so pale, it can handle being layered with other deeper red-violets...and even truer reds. For a softer effect that doesn’t go too girly, use it with pale silvery greys. 

"Spangle" (dusty pale violet):

Beautiful hue for anything silk or linen. A duvet in this color fabric would be heavenly.

Pair with:

Would work well, like the others, with blacks, whites, and greys.  Also could work with very pale olive greens or khakis, which ground this heavily scented hue.

Color Design project by Story & Space. Violets layered with greens.

Just a touch of violet in these greys. Color Design by Story & Space.

"Storybook Charm" (mid-tone dusty violet):

Fun color for a laundry room. Also could work as trim and ceiling color for a room in 

"Purple Davenport" or "Mouthwatering".

Pair with:

  Like "Sweet Surrender", this hue can also be paired with other red-violets. It would also look stunning with the deepest blue-violets and smokey taupes. 

"Red-violets aren’t just for girls. The deepest of these hues can be mysterious and powerful."

Q} What mood does violet set? 

A} This particular group of hues is comprised of red-violets, as opposed to blue-violets which means that they have more of a red undertone. This inherently makes them warmer-feeling than their blue-violet counterparts. 

Each of these hues will provide a very different mood when painted on all four rooms of a space. "Purple Davenport" would create a somewhat rich and mysterious space that wouldn’t necessarily read as feminine, depending on what colors and textures it is combined with. "Storybook Charm", on the other hand, lends itself to a softer much more feminine feel. "Mouthwatering" is red-violet with a little spunk. It is a fearless hue, for sure. This paint color would have a candy-like presence with a sweetness you can almost taste. "Sweet Surrender" is the softest of the group, with just a shimmer of red-violet. A room painted entirely in this hue feel like a whisper of pink...soft and romantic. "Spangle" might look dainty, but get it up on all four walls and it’s no shrinking violet. Like the other lighter hues, it is sweet and romantic, but it would also have a strong presence. This is by far the girliest hue of the bunch.

Kitchen Design by Story & Space. This client went bold with the backsplash - so much fun!

Q} How can you make violets look less girly?

A} We all have very complex psychological associations with colors -not just violets - that are based on our cultural upbringings, amongst other things. Although there is an inherent sweet and floral association with many of these red-violet hues simply because they are the color of familiar flowers, much of our perception of red-violets is taken from what we’ve learned over time. Violets weren’t always associated with girly-ness. Purple was, and still is, a color of royalty. Red-violets can be very powerful and just depends on the exact hue we are referring to. 

With that said, color is never viewed in a vacuum. That means that we experience a color with everything else that surrounds it. When we use a paint color on the walls of a room there are always other design elements that come into play and affect how we perceive that hue. To keep a red-violet room from becoming “too girly” it’s important to consider the other colors and textures in the space. Adding lace, dolls, floral fabrics and more red-violets to an already “lilac” room is only going to emphasize the girliness. 

"The palest red-violets are like a sweet, fragrant whisper, while the deepest shades are a symphony for the senses."

To create a less girly space, it’s important to bring in elements that are inherently less girly. Black and white photography, industrial inspired decor, streamlined furniture designs are just a few ideas on how to tame the romantic quality of red-violets. Also, pairing red-violets with colors that are not perceived as feminine, such as greys, blacks, browns, deep blues, etc, can help combat that girly feel.

This client took a deep eggplant-y violet accent from inside to out. Color Design by Story & Space.

Q} What tricks are there for using violets? Does a little go a long way with the richer shades?

A} The deeper shades of red-violet are actually less feminine and, in my opinion, easier to decorate with. The deeper the hue, the less sweet and romantic they are. The lightest tints of red-violets read as the most delicate and feminine, whereas the deepest shades read as more powerful and masculine. They also read more passionate. I would suggest to anyone painting their walls in these hues who is trying to steer clear of a romantic effect to go deeper in value. 

Look closely - that's a deep red-violet on those pillows! Color Design by Story & Space.

Q} How can you make lilacs/violets/purples more livable? 

A} I think the first thing to do is to eliminate that assumption that they aren’t livable. And the idea that violet/lilac/purple is one hue. There is a huge range of violets, and, like any other hue, different variations create entirely different moods and effects. Next thing, remember that colors do not live in a vacuum. These red-violets can look very different depending upon what colors and textures they are paired with. Think about the overall mood you are going for in a space and then select a violet that supports that mood. Sophisticated and mysterious can be achieved using red-violet just as well as sweet and romantic can. 

Q} What rooms are they best used for?

A} They can be used in any room. Depends on what mood you are trying to create and what specific red-violet is being used. Also depends on your personal preference, color tolerances and psychological associations. I wouldn’t ban or promote violet for any particular space.

This client went violet all the way! Bath Design by Story & Space

Q} Is it a trendy color? Classic? Timeless? What tricks are there to giving it longevity?

A} Any color can have longevity as long as it speaks to you. If you love violet, use it. If you don’t love it and you are using it simple because it’s trendy, it won’t have any longevity. 

"Think red-violets aren’t versatile? Think again. While the softest tints speak of romance and sweetness, the deepest shades are rich and powerful."

Will you be using Radiant Orchid or Exclusive Plum...or any other variation of violet in your home this year? Are you inspired, or ready to move on already?

Marin Home Magazine: Color, Mood & Space

Marin Home Magazine has just launched their Fall 2013 issue. Please check it out - it's a good one! And it's where you'll find my latest article on color - "Color, Mood and Space." Give it a read and let me know what you think! 

"It’s important that we select our colors thoughtfully. Not fearfully, but with conscious intention to create a space that makes us feel how we want to feel."

How to Select Paint Colors for a Mountain Cabin - Part II

A few years ago I worked with my brother on the exterior colors of his mountain cabin in Twain Harte, CA. Then I blogged about it. Turns out, this has become one of my most popular blog posts! And when Deanie from Oregon came upon the story, she did more than read it. She took those colors and painted them on her very own mountain cabin...with some pretty fabulous results.

"Hi Kelly.
I had emailed you earlier in the summer about using your mountain cabin colors for a house we have in Bend, OR. I decided to go for it and I couldn't be happier! We needed new siding and we decided to push out the front porch too. While looking for color inspiration I came upon your post and was sold! The house needed to look more like a mountain cabin and less like a unmemorable suburban house. The builder working in it was extremely hesitant, but I was confident! He now has changed his tune and loves the colors! Here is the before and I'll send the after... Thanks again for your inspiration!!!"
- Deanie S.

Here's Deanie's before and after:

And here's my brother's cabin:

I think it's kind of fun to see the same colors applied to a different structure! I also thought it'd be fun to ask Deanie a few questions on her paint selection process. I sent her a long list and she was kind enough to answer my questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. Thanks, Deanie!

Q} How long have you owned your cabin?

We bought the house about 8 years ago and we rented it out yearly for the first 4 and we've used it for ourselves as a vacation house for the past 4 years.

Q} What prompted the new paint job?

The house was built in 1993 and is a pretty standard "suburban" type house...not very interesting architecture at all. We needed to replace some damaged siding on two sides of the house and the house needed painting also, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to make some other exterior changes.

Q} What were you hoping to achieve through color?

We really wanted to change the look of the house completely. It was a house that you could drive by and not really notice at all. It also looked like it belonged on any suburban neighborhood street, not in a mountain vacation community. The houses across the street from us have the Deschutes River right behind them and they are million dollar homes with a lot of great architecture and character. Some are beautiful log homes with slate roofs or cedar shake with dark green trim. Our house just didn't fit. We wanted to make the house look more like a cabin and more like it fit with the other homes look and feel without it costing a million dollars! :)

Q} Was it difficult to find a palette?

Yes!!! We worked with a builder who was helping us with the design elements like adding the cedar shingles on the top gable, adding braces, and enlarging the front porch. I'm sure in his line of work, it is better to go safe, but safe would have defeated some of the purpose of this project....completely changing the look! He was trying to steer us very safe with very neutral, I thought boring, colors. I had first been thinking of a cottage red, but I ended up thinking the house is a little too big and didn't have the right architecture for a cottage red. 

Q} What process did you go through to find the "right" colors?

I have a Benjamin Moore color wheel that I've had for years and I've used for the interior of the Sunriver house and my house here in Washington. I pretty much carried it with me and drove around neighborhoods I liked comparing colors. I spent a lot of time on Houzz looking at cabins and craftsman type homes looking at their color selections. I also bought about $150 worth of samples from Benjamin Moore and had a big piece of plywood in the garage that had all my choices on it...but I still wasn't really inspired by any of the colors.

Q} What eventually led you to my blog post? What was it that intrigued you about this particular color palette?

I knew I wanted to go dark and rich for the colors and felt that it would make the house feel more substantial and give it more character. Besides Houzz I hadn't looked online and didn't really know where else to look. Then I just thought about what I wanted the house to look like and even thought it didn't look like a mountain cabin now, that is what I wanted it to look like, so I just typed into Google "Colors for a Mountain Cabin"...and I think your post was the first thing that popped up! And WOW! I knew it was perfect right away! I showed my husband and he really like it too! We really wanted some cedar accents and so the front door was also exactly what we wanted too! And since I had the Benjamin Moore paint wheel, I could look at the colors right away and I went down and got samples. 

The interior is all Benjamin Moore too, Solitude (blue/gray) on a couple of walls and Pale Celery (soft creamy yellow) with red and green accents, so I also was excited about how the exterior would complement the interior.

Q} You had some initial resistance from others to the color selections. What were the big warnings and fears?

I brought the paint samples down to Sunriver in July and painted one big section and of course next to the faded, washed out gray/blue that the house was, the French Beret looked REALLY dark! As I said, the builder wasn't confident and seemed to be afraid that with the Hot Apple Spice trim was going to make it look "gingerbread-ish". He was still trying to steer us toward tans and beiges. 

Q} What made you eventually "go for it"? How did you find the confidence to trust yourself?

I just knew myself and I knew that I would really regret it if I just went the safe route. My husband said,

"What's the worse that could happen? We don't like it? We don't like it now and it's a light color and even if we don't like it after, at least it won't be the same and it probably can't be any worse!"*

And we were paying a lot of money to make the house look very different, I would have been disappointed if we had paid all that money and just have it look a little different, so I just thought "What the hell...Go for it"! The builder absolutely LOVES the colors - the neighbors LOVE it, and we LOVE it! It achieved exactly what we wanted! The house looks like a mountain cabin now! The colors are rich and masculine and fit so well with the neighborhood and with the dark green evergreens and the rusty, red volcanic dirt of the high desert area.

(*I love this! What a smart man. It's the truth, right? )

Q} What would you recommend for others who are searching for the perfect exterior colors for their mountain cabin?

That you go outside of the box for a mountain cabin. I wouldn't have painted my house in Washington those colors. We have a farmhouse style house here with dormers and a big covered front porch. The house is white with green trim and fits perfectly the type of house it is. With a cabin, or a house that you are trying to make look cabin-ish, I really like the dark, forest-y colors that actually blend in better than light colors in those surroundings.