ColorTherapy: Monet’s Dining Room

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I’d like to introduce another series to Color Therapy, in which we look at great rooms for their color. You may not know this, but the only reason Color Therapy exists is because I was charged with recreating Claude Monet’s dining room for Mr. Apartment Therapy himself, Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan.

The original room is in Monet’s estate in Giverny, which he designed himself. It’s painted in two colors of yellow with dishes and furniture to match, and Maxwell wanted this room replicated in his Long Island bungalow, at a scale greatly reduced. This is a different size building, a different style of architecture and it exists in a different part of the world, but we wanted to find something that felt the same in spirit, if not in form. I was on Long Island, Maxwell was in the city, and I began sending photos of my progress. Maxwell posted the photos on this website for further feedback, and a column was born.

I had pots of paint and began experimenting: banana yellows, school-bus yellows; sunflower, chamomile and taxi. I seem to recall having a Yellow Blackout. I was painting and painting and painting until I passed out and when I awoke, everything was yellow.

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What we loved about the original room was how vibrant and optimistic it was—like you were bathed in golden happy sunshine. Our result was lovely to be sure, but decidedly not Country French. I’ve thought about this over the last year, and decided to go back and look at our original photo and to reimagine possible color combinations for a contemporary urban environment.

I agree with some of the comments posted on the uses of yellow, as it’s a difficult color to get right. I hate the pale pancake-batter yellows many people choose by default; I also find many yellows to be needlessly acid. And as a personal preference, I choose green-yellows over red-yellows every time.

Now that I have all six of my color decks fanned out in front me, I’ll say that not a single thing matches exactly the bright yellow in the photograph! So I’ll repeat myself and say that color should be chosen specifically for your room, your lighting, your furnishings and your personality. That said, certain things stand out to me:

What about a combination of Ralph Lauren’s IB70 Collegiate Yellow, IB71 Beach Yellow and IB72 Bicycle Yellow? Even though they’re right in a row on the color deck, they’re different hues and values and I think they would create a dazzling room together.

I find the Benjamin Moore Color Preview deck to be less helpful, but would consider either a combination of Sunburst 2023-40 and Citron 2024-30; or Sun Porch 2023-30 and Yellow Finch 2024-40. Either way, we’re crossing light and dark with warm and cool.

And lastly, Fine Paints of Europe has so many beautiful and complex yellows I don’t even know where to start. Try the H-series out of their Inspiration deck.

Send me your ideas for future great rooms! I’m considering the following: the Boucher room at the Frick, Le Corbusier’s palette and the Villa Savoy outside of Paris, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Email Colortherapy@earthlink.net, and put GREAT ROOMS in the subject line.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.

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