By Design by Elaine Markoutsas

Color Helps To Brighten Decor Amid Strange Days

Some summer, right? So here comes fall, back to school (for some physically, others virtually), with all the seasonal changes. The aroma of pumpkin bread may bump that of banana bread. The air may feel a little crisper. Daylight patterns are shifting. So are the palettes in home goods -- ahead of the tree leaves, which eventually will show off brilliant red, vivid yellow and blazing orange hues.

It's a good time for a little color of your own -- in home decor. From tableware, bedding and pillows to small tables, chairs and sofas, there are plenty of options for adding a little pop in solid hues or patterns. Even a tiny change of scenery is so welcome, especially for those who are still working from home.

Consider a feature wall. One bold wallcovering can bring an edge to a room. Add some life -- literally -- with plants. Besides the smallish containers with grow lights for kitchen counters, one company -- Rise Gardens --manufactures etagere-like furniture that houses an entire indoor garden. It's done hydroponically, so not a lot of watering involved. They'll get you started with seed packs for herbs and vegetables, and an app tells you when to refill water and nutrients.

There's no design map for stepping things up with your decor. Just buy what speaks to you. A single addition can be huge!

Where to start? Take a holistic approach. If the idea of some kind of pattern appeals, break away from neutrality on the walls or on the floor. Yes, you can totally go small with accent pillows. But maybe you're in the mood for something more dramatic.

The style trends for wallcoverings and rugs actually parallel one another, with geometrics leading the way. What's appealing about geometric shapes is that they can be paired effortlessly with other patterns, such as florals, for balance. A modern pattern also is a foil for more traditional looks. And geometrics can be subtle or electric, depending on the color scheme.

A new pattern from York Wallcoverings, for example, takes on a very different look in a bright navy on gray, rather than a subtler white on gray. It's especially striking as a backdrop to solid browns -- in a brown channeled leather sofa and a rustic wood coffee table.

Digital printing, of course, has revolutionized imagery for the wall. One floral design from Tempaper, a company that manufacturers removable wallcoverings, depicts a series of exploded dahlia blossoms with an amazing fidelity to form and color. Imagine a blooming garden -- for as long as you care to enjoy it. The paper can be pulled easily if you want to move into something silvery and ethereal.

Bold floral motifs in bath towels are more common in Europe, where lush and textural patterned towels in a range of on-trend colors are more available. A pretty new offering at Anthropologie features an allover retro-flower print on a textural towel in salmon and dark berry hues.

On the floor, sophisticated pattern can read as art. In fact, Danish designer Cecilie Manz approached the pieces of a rug collection for Fritz Hansen in the same way she creates a composition on canvas. Her concepts unfold as collages with paper, before she transforms them into wool weaves that are tufted in different heights. The depth and tactility add to their appeal.

For the most part, Manz presents a toned-down palette, centered by grays and beiges, plus "nuances you would find in nature during autumn/winter or at sea." At the same time, she feels the need for more intense, rich colors. So shades of saffron lend excitement, depth and variation to the wools in geometric blocks of color.

"I love working with colors," Manz says. "It feels almost healthy because it's connected to joy."

Chicagoan Michael Thompson, known for his kite art, also has a deep connection to color. His beautiful compositions, crafted from fabric and bamboo, actually could take flight, but most find themselves on the walls of collectors. One of his latest pieces, available at Pagoda Red, employs materials he scooped up during a trip to Japan last year.

"I saw piles and piles of kimonos," says Thompson. "I couldn't look through them anymore." Once he got them home, he cut them up, stashed them in bins, then started constructing his pieces.

"The layout is like a collage," he says, "balancing, with color relationships, spatial things, overall designs. There's some narrative, with a background, foreground, garden. Sometimes it's purely abstract."

So much of what is resonating today in home design is artisanal, often based in ancient crafts. A new collection of small plates at Anthropologie is reminiscent of shibori textiles. Crafted in porcelain, the glaze mimics the dazzling effects found in Japanese hand-dyed fabric, and the bold designs are a wow for the table.

At CB2, a collection of pillows by jewelry artist Jennifer Fisher features tie-dyeing for moody effects. Also at CB2, a mottled iridescence is celebrated in the medium of glass. A shapely couple, which also could double for dessert serves, is finished in the style of vintage lusterware.

A new quilt at Anthropologie not only brilliantly shows off autumnal tones, its all-by-hand work features artisanal dyeing, stitching and appliqued patchwork, with the final touch of kantha stitchery.

Dawn Sweitzer has revived the art of eglomise -- reverse painted glass -- with her company Notre Monde, which in January merged with Belgian furniture manufacturer Ethnicraft. Tables and trays are breathtaking, some with swirling colors, and others with pinpoint geometry. Two new patterns, launching in September, display a very precise geometry in concentric squares of different scales, displayed in a perfectly seasonal pumpkin and grayed beige.

Complementing those popular clay tones is a range of rich green, saffron and purple, colors which have for the last year or so transcended the season. As WFH (work from home) and Zoom have become more ingrained, more and more people are seeking desks and office chairs.

For some, it means having a little fun with something small scale but with a ton of style. A desk currently on sale on the Anthropologie website, for example, is a black-and-white optical inlay in bone, with a teal painted drawer, shown with a bright yellow velvet office chair.

For spare form with plenty of style, an asymmetrical desk from Ligne Roset, introduced in 2013, is every bit as cool today. Its simple pairing of natural oak with a cantilevered, angled, lacquered surface in yellow is a knockout.

Upholstered beds have been on trend for some time, and one of the prettiest we've seen is from Roche Bobois. The ochre envelope has some texture -- exaggerated in the headboard with an extraordinary fine quilting.

Tactility boosts the warmth and sensuality of a room. That's one reason leather and velvet are so appealing. Dressmaker details highlight a tufted sofa from Poltrona Frau, shown off in a fetching shade of rich plum called Ume. The piece was introduced in 1912, the year the company was launched in Turin, Italy. The brand, which has never taken its color cues from fashion or current trends, recently introduced a concept called Color Spheres. Colorist Giulio Ridolfo has updated a range of colors from seven families and 14 subgroups (73 colors in all), all cohabiting harmoniously.

One of the more versatile and fun introductions is from Marrimor, which bills its products as "nice things for nonconformists." It cleverly combines the function of a pouf or ottoman with that of a table, which is labelled "toof." A powder-coated metal piece overlaying the mohair velvet pouf pulls out when needed.

There are some unexpected applications of velvet, as well. A bar from Anthropologie is clad in velvet, with a fluting that reads as a tone-on-tone vertical stripe, for extra dimensionality.

Apparently, there's been an uptick in the purchase of booze during the pandemic. So all the more reason to own a proper bar -- if you don't already. Cheers!


-- Anthropologie, 800-309-2500,

-- CB2, 800-606-6252,

-- Fritz Hansen Store New York, 212-219-3226,

-- Ligne Roset, 212-375-1036,

-- Marrimor, 877-778-1770,

-- Michael Thompson at Pagoda Red, 888-878-8628,

-- Notre Monde, Ethnicraft USA, 336-821-1385,

-- Poltrona Frau Group North America, 212-777-7592,

-- Rise Gardens, 201-849-7138,

-- Roche Bobois, 212-799-0090,

-- Tempaper, 732-920-2654,

-- York Wallcoverings, 800-375-9675,