ColorTherapy: Mustard and Teal

The Sunday New York Times this week ran a blurb in which color experts cited their favorite color combinations. Why wasn’t I asked? Allow me to pipe up and elbow my way into the group…I’ve said for years that color is contextual: Flamingo in your kitchen might look Ace Bandage in mine depending on light, lighting, architecture, woodwork and a certain je ne sais quois you can never quite put your finger on. Pea Green might be warm or cool, dark or light, strong or soft depending upon what other colors it’s sitting next to.

I first saw Mustard and Teal together in a Paris furniture store window a few years ago, on a two-toned toile de Jouy room divider. I wish I had a photo of it (though it’s indelibly etched in my mind) to add to the few other pictures I’ve cobbled together here so we can examine their range.

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Joseph Albers, one of my old favorites, provides us with an example in my opening photograph, and I’ve now removed the darker color to show more purely what I’m talking about. The way these two colors vibrate together is both somber and invigorating, antique and avant-garde, earthy and splendiferous.

One could possibly paint them in the same room together, perhaps one color each above and below a chair rail. More likely, I’d do adjoining rooms or two rooms off of the same hallway, such as a dining room and a library; for as you move around a small house or New York apartment, your separate room colors will still have a dialogue with each other.

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I recently ran across these rugs at ABC Carpet, which had me thinking about this color combination anyway. Here the colors are more regal and exotic, due I think to the addition of resplendent jewel tones. We’re not just talking paint colors anymore, but a whole decorating scheme. What about a rug like that in a Mustard-colored room with blue drapes?

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Speaking of regal, it must be noted that these are the same colors in a peacock. Suddenly, our Joseph Albers painting feels like an abstract image of a peacock feather.

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Lastly, here’s another version of this color combination from an old, wrinkled tear-sheet. This time, the blue in the branches runs to slate and the base color is nearly green, but it suggests the same thing. How classy is that? When someone says they want a yellow room, this is usually the first thing I’m thinking about.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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Style, DIY, Color, Painting

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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