November 10, 2017


New York Spaces sat down with Martin Kesselman of InColour in TriBeCa—who recently created an original white paint in Farrow & Ball—to unlock the mystery of monochrome. Kesselman chose three color palettes and described his approach to each.

by Deborah L. Martin

Martin Kesselman In Colour
Martin Kesselman
Martin Kesselman.

New York Spaces: How would you define monochrome when it comes to interior color?

Martin Kesselman: A monochromatic color scheme by definition is derivative of one particular color, but there's definitely room to experiment, using warmer or cooler colors and mixing them to create a harmonious room. The key to all of it, whether you are going with lights, jewel tones, or darks, is to create a balanced feel, something that is complete. You want the color to surround you. When you do a room this way it has an infinite feel to it.

When people think of monochrome, they often think of whites and light colors but it can be any color really. Whatever we are doing, we are trying to create balance. You can play in darks, lights, jewel tones, and you want to find that sweet spot. The choice of a single color, which can be an emotional trigger, brings everything together in a room.

NYS: How would you deal with a light palette so that it doesn't become boring?

MK: Well I think I would lean towards the greys, such as Farrow & Ball's Dimpse. Ammonite, and Pavillion greys, mixed with Elliyah, which is the white I developed for them. It works in a room especially where a client has a lot of art. Greys aren't going away, and they have a lot of variation. For example, Ammonite is really part of the taupe family with a bit of magenta in it. It is organic and neutral and doesn't read cold. Mixed with an architectural white, it's very peaceful. To add visual interest, I would use different finishes. Gloss and matte on the walls, and satin on the trim, perhaps. Or maybe an artisanal finish like French strié. It's the subtleties that count with monochrome.

NYS: Tell us about Elliyah.

MK: It's an architectural white for Farrow & Ball, but it has a lot of nuance to it. It doesn't feel flat. It absorbs light and glows from behind. It is softer than gallery white, which can be harsh in a home environment. But it isn't off-white. The great thing about it is it responds to light beautifully.

NYS: We've been seeing a lot of jewel tones on walls. How do you do that successfully?

MK: With jewel tones, because of the richness of the colors I would do this in a space that is more enclosed. I chose Century by Benjamin Moore's amethyst for this, but I'm fond of the deep blues, greens, and reds as well. A room in this color makes me think of being inside a jewel box and discovering a brilliant precious gemstone. I would paint all the surfaces, including the ceiling and doors so that the color really envelopes you and makes you feel extravagant. It's another place where varying the finishes will really make the room. You definitely want the shimmer and reflective nature of high gloss, so that the light makes the room sparkle. Instead of using varying tones as with the lights, I would just use one shade and really change it up with the finishes.

Sometimes color is really about creating a mood, or a feeling. This is especially effective with jewel tones.

NYS: Black walls are so dramatic. How do you feel about black?

MK: There is an endless variety when it comes to black, and we do a lot of it. Sometimes people feel that it will make the room small. It does give you a cozy, nesting feel, but since the color disappears, especially at night, it can also feel vast. If it is done right, it can be very romantic, or very serene. As with the other palettes, everything gets painted, baseboards, ceilings. Doors. I did a black room once with an overdyed pink rug and it was fantastic. It was wild and sensual and romantic all at the same time.

NYS: Can monochrome work in any space?

MK: Yes, absolutely. I started doing it really as a way to deal with architectural oddities. Sometimes you have a chair rail or an exposed pipe or something and you don't have the big budget to do a major overhaul, so using color can really change the way your eye sees the space. Instead of focusing on the weird molding, you can focus on the dramatic color. Another important factor is light. There are so many different options now with lighting. LED, warm daylight, all of these things add layers to a color palette. Color is really the most important design decision you can make. A finished feeling is critical. Color is the thing you notice.

Martin Kesselman owns InColour, a color design studio/paint store in a landmark building in TriBeCa, at 100 Lafayette Street. InColour caters to both the trade and the general public, and offers expert color consulting as well as luxury brands like Farrow & Ball, and Century by Benjamin Moore for retail purchase.

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