The walls were closing in on Gwen Jansen. Not because her three-level, carved-into-the-hill house in south Eugene was so dark, but quite the opposite. So much window light played off the vaulted white walls, the home seemed cold and sterile. And impersonal was the last thing Jansen needed following the untimely death of her husband and very best friend, Doug Tistadt, about six years ago. A boldly painted dining room alcove features a porcelain plate of the Dutch painting “Elizabeth Bas.” Jansen loves such eclectic décor. “I think we’re all afraid of color, which is a shame,” says Jansen, who’s assistant to the director at the University of Oregon’s counseling and testing center. “When we buy houses, we’re told to paint for someone else. Keep the walls white, because we’ll want to resale the house. We never actually live in our own homes. So when my husband died, I decided to start living for where I was instead of for when I resale it.” Jansen consulted a friend, artistic painter Andy Fry of Eugene, to muster her nerve for painting walls in bold colors. Together they let loose with an informal painting style Frye has dubbed “color flow.” It truly works by thinking outside the box.
A single room, or even wall, may be painted in multiple colors. A hue on one wall, for example, may round the corner and artfully swoosh into a different color of paint on the next. “This is very bold, the idea being you can get a wraparound feeling (of color),” explains Fry. “Instead of having hard edges, if you can turn the corner with the same color and go into some kind of pattern on the next wall, you feel like it’s a smooth transition. It’s like living in a round space rather than a square space.” The vaulted formal entry has three colors of purple and mauve. Taking the plunge, yet choosing a powerful palette of wall colors can be a real scare. The trick is to relax and mix the colors you simply enjoy the most. “Usually people have a sense of what they like and don’t like,” Fry says. For Jansen, that meant playing off the dominant colors in her eclectic decor and furnishings. Purples, burgundy, greens and reds emerge in her favorite home comforts, from throw rugs in floral and kelp patterns to assorted Americana crafts and lamps from stores such as New Twist.
On the living room’s dominant wall, Jansen and Fry chose marsh green as the backdrop for an oozing, lava-like flow of purple. The same green runs solid on the living room’s other walls, which are complemented by the ceiling painted an iridescent “pearl with a swirl.” The kitchen brightens with a color flow of yellow and gold, but seems pretty tame compared to splashes of barn red toward the dining room. Meanwhile, guests pass through a front entry awash in three tons of plum and mauve. Fry handled the early brushwork with the latex paints, but Jansen has dabbled with blending colors herself as operation warm tones continues in the 2,400-square-foot home. “I think it’s all about playing with paint until you get what you want,” Jansen says. “If you don’t like it, you can always paint over it. It’s really a pretty inexpensive way to decorate.” Plus, it brings a spirit of the outdoors indoors, Fry thinks.
“Gwen’s home was very cold and white,” he explains. “And she has lots of windows. As soon as we put that beautiful sage green around the windows, the view just jumped out at you. No longer do you see the white walls, you see what’s outside her house. “Gwen Jansen decided to let loose with color in her south Eugene home rather than keep the walls white for supposed “resale value.”
A cue from nature.
Indeed, contrary to popular opinion, Fry thinks darker colors around windows actually seem to brighten rooms. The pupils in your eyes will adjust for the darker tones, enabling you to see more of the light coming through the windows, he says.
Plus, he adds, how many trees, lawns and sunsets are egg-shell white?
“Color makes the interior of a house feel more like being outside, in a cozy, forested, garden environment,” he says. “When you’re outside, you see all kinds of colors around you. But if you come into the house, and if the walls are white, you’re in a very foreign environment compared to outside. “If you bring outside colors into the house with paint, rugs and plants, the indoors feels like it’s outside.
The stove’s smooth, bluish-green stonework has a color elegance all its own, and when kindled, the flames flitter inside the glass hearth. “It burns clean, efficient, and it doesn’t harm the environment,” Jansen says. Barn red, yellows and golds pep up the kitchen/dining room area. She had seen the stoves at last year’s home show in Eugene, then worked with Uwe Mirsch, owner of Oregon Firesides, to adapt a model to her wall space and floor supports. At least one friend now calls Jansen’s home, which is on a zero-lot line and thus shares a few feet of wall space with a neighboring house, a “sanctuary” from life’s stresses. “She calls up and says, ‘Can I come up and sit in the sanctuary?'” Jansen says with a laugh. Yet, the color makeover has been just what the doctor ordered for Jansen, too. She has family, including her parents, grown son Coben Tistadt and two informally adopted children who also are on their own. She also regularly hosts dinners for the students in her diversity classes at the UO.
But losing her husband, a respected Oregon forester, plummeted her into deep grief for most of the past six years. “The painting has been more healing than anything,” Jansen says. Though raised in Newport, she dreams of a vibrant artistic lifestyle in New York City. So no apologies for painting her walls purple and green, Jansen says. “I don’t want to live in a world that’s egg-shell white.” With a hearty fire in her new Tulikivi wood stove and walls awash in green and purple, Gwen Jansen’s once-white living room is now oozing with colors in warm tones. Home & Garden staff writer Kelly Fenley may be reached at 338-2292 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Be bold, but prime walls for bright colors. Eugene artistic painter Andy Fry says there is no special technique for color flowing walls. He uses regular latex paints and standard paintbrushes.
When painting with bold and bright colors, be sure to prime first. “It’s very important you have a red or purple primer underneath the base coats,” he says. If the primer is white or even gray, the bold base colors will not cover in one coat.
His bold colors of choice are from the Ralph Lauren line, he says.
Written By Kelly Fenley for the Home and Garden section of the Eugene, Register-Guard in 2003