Paint choices: A color story told with bravado

March 21, 2012

It was Annie Oakley and Gen. George Custer who finally helped nail the right paint color choices for Michael and Margie Golden’s Alexandria home.

The American icons are subjects of two Andy Warhol screen prints in the Goldens’ home. Oakley’s and Custer’s vivid reds, yellows and bluish greens inspired the Goldens and their color consultant, Jean Molesworth Kee, to go bold for the walls.

“This was not a place for neutrals. You need bravado when it comes to Warhols,” Kee says. “The art needed something to stand up to it, and the Goldens were game.”

Working with the couple’s mix of antique and contemporary furnishings, she pulled together a palette of vibrant C2 paints that fit the style of the rooms and the personalities of the owners.

The collaboration began about six years ago. The Goldens were finishing a renovation of their 1950s raised ranch, enlarging the rooms and creating an open floor plan with lots of light.


Michael and Margie Golden in their living room. They used color to highlight the art in their Alexandria home. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Margie works as a veterans law judge at the Department of Veterans Affairs, competes in triathlons and makes jewelry; Michael, a retired lawyer, is writing a book about his father’s World War II experiences. Among other things, they share a love of Portuguese water dogs and gardening. The couple nurtures their woodsy lot, a showplace of pale pink camellias, blue hydrangeas and purple rhododendrons.

Their architect’s wife recommended Kee to help the Goldens finalize decisions on the color of the exterior stonework and the roofing materials. They soon realized Kee could help them do a lot more. “There were so many choices; we were overwhelmed,” Margie says.

Kee said the Goldens had already injected color into their interiors: Their lower level was eggplant, and they had accent walls throughout. They told her they liked the warm colors of Tuscany and the Mediterranean. “They were definitely not ‘neutral’ people,” Kee says. “They made it clear that they had a lively, playful side and wanted their home to reflect that energy.”

The Goldens wanted to work with their furniture, rugs, collections and art but were open to out-of-the-box colors. “There aren’t that many people who are not afraid of venturing beyond off-white,” Michael says. “She got us right away and showed us things we would never have considered.”

The Goldens and Kee went over strategies for choosing colors that flow from room to room and complement one another. The Goldens’ front door leads into a large foyer with a few stairs up to the main floor. On the right, the living room is open to a dining room, library and kitchen; to the left, down a long hallway, are three bedrooms and three baths. The lower level has a large family room.

Kee dug into her arsenal of saturated paint colors and picked a bold apricot (Delicata by C2) for the foyer and living room. “At first, that squash color shocked us,” Margie recalls. Michael remembers hesitating a bit when Kee talked about “wrapping the entrance hall walls and ceiling” in the vivid color. But Kee explained to them that the color would change with the light and that the treatment would create a sense of a “welcoming enclosure.” They loved it. “She didn’t push us but encouraged us to be bolder,” says Margie.

To rest the eye, the library and dining room were painted in subtler bluish- green shades, Bluegrass and Inuvik Ice, both by C2. At the end of the hallway to the bedrooms, Kee created a focal point: a narrow wall of red, Hot Tamale by C2. It sets off a sculpted red-and-gold paper collage. Kee explains that she sometimes likes to use color to change the proportion of a space, in this case shrinking the bowling-alley look of the corridor.

They selected a warm khaki, C2 Hammock, for the master bedroom and papered the wall behind the bed in a watery blue Paloma Picasso grass cloth.

Kee believes that interior spaces often benefit from a touch of black. Pepper, the Goldens’ Portuguese water dog, filled that need. “Pepper is everywhere, and she’s the little bit of black that every room needs,” Kee says.

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