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  • Writer's pictureDebbie DeMarais

Find Your Color Palette—With Inspiration from the Colors of the Southwest

This is part of my series about using colors from your surroundings to inspire the colors you use in your home. The first post turned an adobe courtyard garden into a workable color palette. The next one was all about the colors along the Rio Grande.

Weathered wooden gate painted blue in an adobe wall in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Weathered blue Santa Fe gate near Canyon Road.

Today’s inspiration comes from a blue gate. If you know me, you know I love a good walk for inspiration. And I’m lucky to live in a city with inspiration around every corner. Here in Santa Fe, you can easily stumble upon a 100-year-old adobe house or a stunning courtyard as easily as you’d find a Starbucks in Seattle.

What does a blue gate mean?

Another sight you’ll encounter here are blue gates. Why blue? Painting a gate, door, window frame, or shutters blue is believed to ward off evil spirits because the color tricks them, mimicking the appearance of a blue sky or water, which ghosts are unable to cross. In the early nineteenth century, cerulean blue was depicted as a spiritual color, which you’ll find as the base for many a gate in Santa Fe.

I found this gate during one of my walks near Canyon Road. See the richness of the abode brown wall as it plays off the blue gate? This is very symbolic of Santa Fe. Earth and sky.

Here are a few paint colors from Benjamin Moore that nicely translate this image:

Four paint color samples based on a blue gate in an adobe wall
Clockwise from top: Tawny Rose, Pony Brown, Evening Blue, and Metallic Gold

Not all color comes from paint

I love how colors found in your natural surroundings translate to color palettes to design a home. But not every color in your home comes from paint. The rich browns can be featured in wood tones of the architectural features of a home such as beams or vigas. Wooden furniture like coffee and side tables, picture frames, and woven window treatments also bring rich brown tones you can work with.

Then it’s just a matter of adding in the sky and water tones with your blue picks. Blue can be incorporated through décor elements, as well as from accent colors on the trim, or through furniture.

A variation on a theme

In the design project pictured below, my clients had décor elements and artwork that they loved and wanted to incorporate into a fresh design plan with some new furniture, built-ins, and wall colors. While the main color palette here in the project was blue, you can see I didn’t bring it in through paint.

Living room with red fireplace in Southwest style home
Many of my color consultations involve finding colors that work when blending current decor with new items.

The leather sofa, the dominant tones in the rug, and accents in their collection of artwork bring in rich blue tones, which are balanced by variations of brown. While rust is an ideal color for a fireplace, my client was not afraid to go deeper. So I suggested this stunning brick color.

We toned it down with the creamy wall color (a soft and subdued play on brown) plus camel colored chairs. The deep color of the fireplace is grounded by the calm blue tones, and balanced by a marvelous built-in bookcase I designed and had custom fabricated for behind the couch. And the rug I found played the critically important role of tying the whole room together.

Custom designed built in bookcase in SW style living room
A custom designed bookcase solution makes efficient use of a recessed portion of wall.

Use color inspiration to create a home you’ll love

Finding inspiration in nature and developing a love of color opens up many opportunities for decorating and designing a home. Use what appeals to you in nature, and even some of the pieces of art or décor that you already own to help you create a palette. Use color wisely and you’ll create a home you’ll love for many years to come. All you need is a little inspiration and trust in the process.


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