It’s Not Easy Being Pantone 377C

photo by S.J.Maylee

Visiting the Hamptons in the summer is always a treat.  There is much to be awestruck by: the natural beauty of the beaches, the sprawling farmland and wineries that dot the countryside, not to mention the man-made eye-candy: lush gardens and verdant lawns, (even in drought) lavish homes accessorized with dormers and porches and chimneys, popping out like chicken pox.  The precisely trimmed privet hedges so tall, gardeners have to walk tight ropes to prune them.

Feeling the summer breeze off the ocean, like a powder puff on the back of my neck, and the salty mist that prickles my skin, makes me so happy.   I’m a voyeur of it all, both organic and manufactured.  I swoop in and scoop up everything my senses can handle, like a seagull at the shoreline snatching anything digestible.

Say what you will about the people who summer in the Hamptons, but there are many normal people who live in there too.  The others, in my opinion, just add to the spectacle.  Such was the case on a recent visit to a Southampton farm stand−the small structure on the side of the road, virtually cropping up from the lettuce fields.

We were on our way to visit some friends.  En route, we pulled over to a farm stand to pick up some flowers for our hosts.  The buckets of bright orange Nasturtiums were intoxicating.  The carrot colored blooms, teetering on spider-leg stems, poked their heads above leaves as big as saucers.  Planted in woven bushel baskets, these happy flowers were perfect.  On my way to the register I noticed a woman stepping out of a Mercedes convertible, which she had just pulled onto the small patch of gravel beside the farm stand.  She grabbed a pot of geraniums out of her car, and plopped them on the counter, telling the cashier she was returning the plant she had bought that morning.  Reason for return?  They were not the right red.

Hmmm, this was a new one.  But believe me; I understood where she was coming from.  I understand color.  First of all, I worked in the cosmetics industry for more than a few years and secretly, I’ve been doing makeovers on women−in my mind−on trains and buses practically forever.  The wrong colors on a face drives me crazy.  Yes, I’m talking about you, Anne Hathaway.  Whoever told poor Anne to wear that bloody red lipstick, those kohl rimmed eyes and shoe-polish brows (ad infinitum) should be tied to a picnic table for a bunch of five-year-olds to do a Jackson Pollock on them−that’ll show ’em what wearing the wrong colors feels like. (…that might be a tad aggressive, scrubbing Anne’s face should suffice.)

Color in the home is just as important.  I have at least eight years’ worth of Martha Stewart Living magazines starting from the late 90’s, just to have pages and pages of color juxtapositions at my fingertips.  Nobody could combine subtle colors, with just the right amount of gray, like Martha.  My ten year stash of Elle Décor provides inspiration for more bold color and pattern combos, when it’s called for.

I’ll admit that I’ve peeled the bark off of a neighbor’s tree because I was desperate to match the play of color: mushroom, pale silvery mint, and chocolate, for our guestroom makeover.  To get the right color for the legs of a wing chair I was refinishing, I layered contrasting shades of brown then scratched them with course sandpaper to create wisps of all three, creating the look of an undulating multi-colored wheat field.

But, even I have never done what this geranium-toting Hamptonite did at the farm stand.  After depositing the plant on the counter to return it, she plucked a card out of her Louis Vuitton wallet.  I snuck a peek over her shoulder and recognized it right away.  It was a Pantone chip, (not unlike a paint chip you’d find at Home Depot) mostly used by graphic designers for color matching.  Pantone 185, red with a trace of orange.  The plant she returned clearly had too much blue.   It just didn’t work with the poolside chaise upholstery.

The farm stand cashier perhaps knew this woman, or women like this woman, because he did not even flinch.  He let out a discreet exhale, as if she were the tenth person that day with the same request, and simply said, “Check out the potted poppies, I think they’d be perfect.”

***

In what way is color important to you?

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