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The House of Hues

A Designer Forsakes Plain White Walls for a Palette of Buoyant Color

July 11, 1999|BARBARA THORNBURG

Designer Bruce Bolander originally envisioned white walls for the two-story Malibu home he built in 1997 for himself, his wife, Bonny, and their two young children. Then he changed his mind. "I don't consider myself particularly good with color," he says. "So I thought: Why not experiment a little?"

He started outside, choosing a canyon green for the exterior stucco, then painted the porch doors the color of the sky. Bolander, who studied art and architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the cole des Beaux-Arts in Fontainebleau, France, took an artist's approach to the interiors, painting one surface, then selecting the next color based on the hue he'd just applied. "It's like drawing," he explains. "The first one or two lines are arbitrary, then you have to respond to those lines."

After painting the fireplace wall in the living room gray-green like the Agave attenuata growing outside, Bolander covered an adjoining wall with the gray-blue of the landscape's Agave americana and so on, until, finally, he ended up with an aqua ceiling. This produced a subtle stepping of analogous color rather than sharp contrasts. "The color for each wall is slightly different," he says, "but the color value is nearly the same." The exception is the orange front door; beside a trio of Charles Eames leg splints, it stops the eye like a bright exclamation mark. The kitchen boasts sunflower yellow walls topped by celadon overhead, and the master bedroom is awash in robin's egg blue, French blue and turquoise.

In all, 18 hues create a syncopated rhythm of upbeat color throughout the house. "Sometimes design scares people away," Bolander says. "but this is welcoming. Color makes people feel good."

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Bruce Bolander's Approach to Colorful Style:

* If money is no object, use Schreuder paints for their depth of color.

* Explore fresh combinations such as baby blue and black.

* Recycle forlorn junk into functional objects.

* Choose low-sheen paint--it looks similar to flat but is easy to clean.

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