The Chemistry of Art

Image from House Beautiful Designer Jeffery Bilhuber

I was working on a project for our house and looking at modern art prints, when I began to think about how art can be key in striking the right balance in a room. Some of my favorite designs are ones where at first glance the art and the room appear to be opposites. Opposites can create an intense chemistry. Great designers know how to confidently punctuate a room with art. In her Book Decorate Fearlessly Susanna Salk explains that the key element in great rooms is whimsy. It’s those “personal touches where there is no fear, only confidence.” It’s that moment where you begin to see the personality in a room, and some of my favorite rooms create that whimsy with art. By playing with the level of formality between the furnishings and art, you can create a personal and very memorable room.

Traditional Design with Modern Art

Color plays a significant role in pulling these elements together. In some cases it is clear that the artwork has inspired the color palate. The fabrics and furniture lines may be traditional, but the artwork and its colors are what drive the room.

Image from Designer Eileen Katherine Boyd
Ethan Allen

Other times the artwork is the focal point of the room. It may relate to the color in the room, but the art is what draws you in. It commands your attention and begs you to stay.

Traditional Home Magazine
Image from Artist Amanda Stone Talley

Modern Design and Formal Art.

Art can also create that same friction and interest in a more contemporary room. In some modern designs colors might be repeated in accents, but it’s the art that grounds the space and gives it weight.

Image from Designer Geoffrey De Sousa the artwork is Seven Horses by Jean de Merry

Other times modern groupings of these formal pieces keeps the eyes moving and interested. The clean lines of contemporary furniture let the art shine and stand on its own. Arranging the paintings in a contemporary manner catches the eye and plays with expectations.

Image from
Image via Style Blueprint from Little Green Notebook

So the next time a space feels a little flat or you want to give a room a refresh, think about the difference that a piece of art could make.

A New Door Opens

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes another opens, but we often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” New doors hold great possibilities but ours needed some new paint before I could step into it as my own. Our house has these great double doors, which are one of my favorite things about the exterior. The only issue was they were hunter green and the hardware had seen better days. So an update was definitely needed, but sometimes it’s easier to identify what you don’t love than to find the perfect new shade.

     The façade of our home has mixed material finishes with orange toned brick and siding. We plan to update the golden beige siding color later this year, but since my husband isn’t crazy about painting the brick, I had to work with the orange.  I knew I wanted to paint the door something other than green and I wanted to go with a brighter color. Something that would stand out a bit. I loved the colorful Georgian doors I had seen on a trip to Ireland years ago, but given the very traditional style of our home I didn’t want to go too bold. In the end I decided to go with blue but a shade that had some green in it to complement the orange brick . There are so many great blue front doors out there.

Durrow House in Ireland. This door is a favorite photograph from my trip.

Links to other great photos and front door ideas:

I just love this Southern Living collection of doors from Charleston, SC
 Better Homes and Gardens
Has a great collection of blue doors at this link.

Armed with sample paint pots and lots of inspiration from pictures I began painting sample boards to try out various shades of blue green.  When I looked at the first set of colors I chose nothing looked quite right so, I took to mixing my own. A little Benjamin Moore Hale Navy with some Van Courtland Blue and a touch of Wythe Blue and voila I was finally able to get more of the shade I was looking for. I took pictures in different lights and got opinions from family and friends.

Testing the final color choices.

 I was feeling confident about my choice until the afternoon before the painter arrived when I got brave enough to paint the actual front door. The painter had taken a while to get to us and I didn’t want to be the house of many colors for months on end. Then as the paint was drying I began to have visions of 1980’s country goose blue. I texted my sister and sister in law who tried to allay my fears via long distance text messaging and I decided to stick with my choice.

Last minute paint testing
Image via
1980s country goose This just wasn’t the look I wanted for my front doors

The painter came on Friday afternoon and painted just the front doors which gave me all weekend to worry about the country goose problem; by Sunday I was still concerned but I had come to the conclusion that it was the trim color and not the shade of blue that was the issue. So in a crazy effort to fix the mess and assure myself that we were not paying to have the house painted a color I would later regret, I painted the trim and sidelights with some leftover white dove paint. My husband thought I was nuts and you should have seen the confused look on the painters face when he saw all the new trim paint. After I explained to the painter that he had not been replaced and he was not seeing things he smiled with approval. We went with the blue paint on the doors and the shutters as well. In the end I think my husband has forgiven me for my drop everything paint crisis and I like the view from my new blue doors.

My new blue doors

There is No Place Like Home

     Home is not just a residence or a location. I have come to learn that it’s more of a feeling. I certainly never expected that I would leave the city I grew up and lived in for over thirty years. I loved living in Houston. We had friends and a cute little ranch style home that I had spent the last eight years loving, painting and decorating. I had big plans for that house. But sometimes life throws you an unexpected curve ball. Mine came in the form of a job change for my husband. After years of training he was offered a fantastic job as a medical professor. The only problem was it was in Chicago. Suddenly my familiar life changed as our family moved 1,000 miles away. Everything happen so quickly it was hard to catch my breath and take it all in. The house I loved sold in days. I left my job and soon everything I owned was boxed and in a moving van.

Moving Van

          The whirlwind weekend we spent finding a home in Chicago was exciting but once I was there the house that looked like it had so much potential suddenly seemed overwhelming. The avocado kitchen and the sea of green and gold walls made me feel like I was living in the Emerald City. Like Dorothy I longed to clicked my heels and go home. Here I was with my two tiny girls and everything we owned in boxes. We had moved before but it was nothing like this. Even as we began to unpack the new house didn’t feel like ours. My oldest daughter who was two at the time cried and asked to go back home and it was hard to explain that this was our house because I knew exactly how she felt. It takes time for a place to begin to feel like you belong there. Now over a year and countless gallons of paint later I must admit this house is beginning to feel more like home.

Bienvenue to Maison McCauley

Hello and thank you for visiting Maison McCauley!

I started this blog after our family made a cross country move to Chicago. I left my career as an attorney after we moved in order to spend more time with my two young daughters. The change gave me the opportunity to pursue my love of writing about food and home. I am at my happiest when I am lost in a creative project or when am sharing what I love with others.

Erma Bombeck once said that when she reached the end of her life and was before God she would like to “not have a single bit of talent left” because she used everything she was given. This blog is my outlet and way to share my talents and every bit of what I truly love with others. My recipes and writing have appeared in Life in the Woodlands Magazine, Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen and I am a contributing columnist for The Hinsdalean Newspaper. So join me as I dish on the latest recipes and projects from my home.