I am a die hard fan of the East End, but even I have to admit that the months of March and early April are not kind to us out here. The deciduous tree canopy grows ever grayer, shingled homes seem nearly colorless, and all seem to need a coat of paint. Sheets of gray rain or damp fog shrouds our neighborhoods rendering them a homogenous lifeless hue.
While New Jersey pops, Washington blooms and the Midwest springs to life, one hundred miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, Mother Nature tests her Hamptonites, stingily holding out her colorful show for East Enders who, of course, will be richly rewarded later.
I am so starved for the color green at this time of year that even emerging chickweed can give my heart a lift. The Puritan in me begs a hold out, but the dam has broken, and I only desire to see green.
This, of course, is not my own peculiar neurosis. My office mates are carting in green themed fabrics by the barrel load. Meanwhile, Marder’s green bags are flashing their sunny faces around. The Kirov Ballet is strewing the stage with malachite tutus. Madison Avenue boutiques are brightening windows with their own peculiar shade of green. Fashion is purveying two striking hues of green; one so brightly tinted with yellow that nature might become nervous, and another green so sickly iridescent and insecticidal you just want to swat it.
Tony Duquette’s new book illustrates his fabulous use of kelly greens, which harmonize his Chinese reds in a way that rivals the best Christmas pairings.
Interior designer Sister Parish, famous for many things, and not the least her ability to close a sale, said that greens go together. Of course, an entire spectrum of greens live comfortably in nature, so why not in your home? At this point in the calendar year, I am so deprived of nature’s green, I might agree.
Manhattan’s downtown bars have surreptitiously introduced absinthe, the notorious “green fairy” liqueur that drove Toulouse Lautrec and his bohemian cohorts into a hallucinogenic delirium. Absinthe’s green is also soaking its path through the channels of haute couture and onto its runways. Accessories in home furnishing boutiques are totally clued into this trend. Dashes of these could be just the shot you need.
Palm Beach greens (colors certainly not made by God), have enjoyed their graphic revival thanks to the effervescent talents of Jonathan Adler and the revival of interest in Slim Aaron’s photography depicting a lifestyle some might aspire to. These brightly cheerful greens bring a cockeyed optimism so needed in this gray recessionist climate.
In florist shops, antique shops, the Botanical Garden Show and Bridgehampton’s Garden Ornament Show, you will always spot a particularly pleasing shade of green: a bit blue, a bit mossy, a bit French, a background color that showcases limestone statuary, a linen white. In the fabric markets, a new green has appeared so saturated with black and brown that without sufficient light you have no idea what hue it is. It is both mysterious and elegant. Seen in velvets, mohairs and natural pressed linens, it is striking. Added as a border to a carpet or drapery, it encapsulates a restrained chic.
I suppose I can never tire of Pratt and Lambert’s black watch green, a color frequently used for shutters, doors and windows in the Hamptons. When our East End light shines bright, this very dark color takes on a pleasing blue green with a great deal of life to it. Simply classic!
Boutique hotels and metro bars are cladding their furnishings with emerald, the newest graphic punch. Combined with dead white, black and walnut, one can develop a color story that is at once fresh, sophisticated and retro.
Colorist Donald Kaufman writes, green “is unlike anything else in the spectrum—a natural neutral. It incorporates the cool of blue and the heat of yellow. This dual personality enables it to be as effective a backdrop in living spaces as it is in the landscape. Hunter, celadon and khaki were used in many historic houses as a bridge between nature and architecture. It is the only color that in a dark, intense shade can be neutral.”
Historically, Muslims have always found green a holy color, therefore, Muhammad’s cloak has frequently been painted green. I have always been told that green was a sacred color and that Persian rugs seldom contain this hue. Only rugs meant for the clerics or the most noble were woven with green fibers, making green rugs quite rare.
The Chinese have always treasured celadon, guarding the formula secretly, while Russian Czars and Napoleon Bonaparte celebrated richly vibrant hues of green. Washington found the bright pistachio green so “grateful to the eye” that he painted his large and important dining room this color. The Egyptians spread ground malachite dust on their eyelids, while 18th Century English and French unknowingly and slowly killed each other and themselves with wallpapers with greens that contained arsenic as part of their formula.
(It seems that every color of paint was carcinogenic at some point in history!)
Currently, green has almost developed into a verb with the ever evolving environmental movements. Magazines, newspapers and the internet are filled with the “going green” motto of the moment. Containers and all manner of recycling paraphernalia sport green.
But with these gray weeks passing all too slowly, I long for shoots to emerge with that spring green. I relish the oak forests dusted with chartreuse and I bring as much of this color as possible into my bayside home as I await nature’s unveiling. Whether it be napkins, placemats, towels, glass vases, plants or maybe even a re-freshened entry color, green is a welcome antidote to these waning winter days.