New Year, New Office (or Global Bazaar?); Chartreuse Makes Me Happy!

Would you like to see where I work? Come on in….

This may be the only time you’re invited. It’s not that I don’t want company. I really do, but early January is actually when my office looks its best.

For the last few days I’ve been tossing out cardboard boxes and holiday wrapping paper, sorting through teetering stacks of books, getting rid of piles of clippings and half-eaten chocolate to make room for the spices, textiles and irresistible objets that I always seem to bring home from my travels. So it’s unusually neat and clean, but here’s the real incentive:

Last spring I changed the color of the walls from a truly yucky hue that could accurately be described as “pond scum.” (There’s actually a decorator who uses those very words to describe her favorite green.). It was supposed to be a pale, buttery cream, but an odd trick of the light made the walls look downright dingy.

It was so depressing to be here, especially at night.

But thanks to paint wizard Ellen Kennon, I’m now enveloped in a truly delicious shade of….


And I absolutely love it. It’s bright without being electric, stimulating without making me feel like I’ve drunk a triple shot of espresso. This particular chartreuse has the virtue of also being soft and inviting. During the hot, steamy summer, I was cool as the proverbial cucumber up here under the eaves. And now that the skies are gloomy, being here is almost as good as a trip to the sunny tropics.

What I really love is the way the sassy chartreuse walls set off the David Hicks-inspired fabric that I used to reupholster my grandmother’s chaise longue and the wild red and orange Berber rug from Morocco.

And the hue is perfect with the contrasting color Ellen recommended for the inside of the bookcases. She calls it 75% Peacock Blue, but I just call it Fabulous. Really, it’s so much like the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean that I always think of the beach at Turks and Caicos whenever I look in that direction.

Bring me a Mai Tai and a hammock, and I’ll be happy.

Ellen’s full spectrum paints come in an amazing range of hues. Some, like silvery Lichen, which was featured in House Beautiful last year, are quite subtle. Others are pretty punchy, like Albania Teal, a vivid blue-green that artist Hunt Slonem used in his New York studio.

The pigments are “blended from the seven natural colors of sunlight” which means they are “chameleon-like in their ability to pick up colors from adjacent material and to change color as the light changes.” Most important, they don’t “turn muddy or lose their character in low light conditions like standard paints.” Could this be why she’s a favorite of top decorators and shelter mags like Architectural Digest and House Beautiful?

Here are a few more peeks into my dazzlingly clean office:

For a change I can see the surface of my desk!

In case you’re wondering, the peacock fan and little Ganesh are from Mumbai, the parrot is Indonesian-Chinese and the evil-eye amulets are from Istanbul. The travel journals are invaluable when I’m posting about some far flung place I’ve been.

I mounted three glass Ikea panels over my desk. On the left, I scribble a running list of blog ideas, which keeps me organized, while the two righthand panels display all those bits of ephemera that I bring home, along with family photos, exotic paper money and hotel key cards.

Favorites include a pin of the King and Queen of Bhutan (so handsome/beautiful!), a photo of my Dad holding a baby (moi!) and a sketch of a domed edifice I bought from a street vendor in St. Petersburg.

My office is quiet but I definitely don’t work alone. I found this luohan in a local antique shop. I’m not sure where he fits into the pantheon of Chinese deities, but his serene, meditative smile makes him a soothing presence. I enjoy draping him with necklaces like these pink coral strands from Morocco and dark amber beads from Russia.

The camel is the SpiceLines mascot, so naturally there are a few of those in my office.

These Tibetan chests stacked on top of each other hold all my camera equipment and books of memory cards. On top I’ve created a “sniffing bar”—an idea I stole from Goumanyat et son Royaume, a Paris spice shop. A few times a week, I unscrew the tops of the jars and inhale deeply. Right now, I’m trying to train myself to correctly identify, by scent, the peppercorns from four different regions of India that I found at Olivier Roellinger, another exceptional Paris spice merchant.

B once called my office a bazaar, and he wasn’t too wrong. Lately the stacks of textiles just keep growing: On this old Mexican-French chair, there are kiras from Bhutan, including the mysterious ngo-sham that might have belonged to the 2nd King’s wife, a length of rough linen from France and a burgundy wool poncho from Northern Argentina. On top, there are prayer flags, bamboo tea strainers and butter boxes from Bhutan, a South Seas seashell fan found in Maui, and in the way back, a figure from a shop in South India (her sister stands guard around the corner).

Now, what’s in your office?

Ellen Kennon gives color consultations via phone and email. Take a snap of a room you’d like to change and get your party started…

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