Thursday, April 10, 2014

Aqua--What Is It? Why Is It?

People are always asking me, “Do you like aqua?”  The answer is, “How could I not?” but maybe also, “How are you going to use it?”

Aqua can be a peaceful, soft colour, and I use it all the time.  Aqua curtains?  I love them.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

 Aqua printed fabrics?  I love them.

Room by Leta Austin Foster
Photograph Credit: Edward Addeo

 The checked fabrics on the sofa and the stool and the curtains are from Chelsea Editions while the printed linen on the walls is from Colefax & Fowler/Cowtan & Tout.  How could I not love these?

Room by Leta Austin Foster
Photograph credit:  Edward Addeo

 Of course, I love the old aqua paint of this lovely 18th century console which was sold by N. P. Trent when he had his beautiful shop on South Dixie in West Palm Beach.  This is just my kind of thing.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

Here we used various tones of aqua in the upholstery to pick up the beautiful pale aquas in the wallpaper (Brunschwig & Fils) and from the usual colour of the ocean outside—the day that picture was taken it was, sadly, more of a blue, but that’s the nice thing about aqua: it looks good with other aquas, blues, greens, and wonderful with beige or brown.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

I don’t just use it in fabrics and wallpaper, but I paint with it too.  This little chest, one of a pair, was painted in the Swedish manner, using Farrow & Ball’s “Pale Powder” and “Pointing”, separated by a thin gold line, by Adra Brown, a remarkably talented (and beautiful, even though that’s besides the point) artist in West Palm Beach.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

Heavy aqua linen makes the most luxurious curtains, especially when they are embroidered along the edges and lined and interlined as these beautiful curtains done by Paul Maybaum were…and the walls are the same “Pale Powder” painted talked about in the blurb about the furniture above.  I consider that paint my neutral.   

Room by Leta Austin Foster

I have used the pale powder blue again in the picture above, this time in the Swedish painting on the walls, again by the very talented Adra Brown and James Garza, both of West Palm Beach, which made a small Dining Room cum Sun Room look bigger and more important.  We used glorious aqua curtains with the leading edges and bottoms embroidered by Michael Savoia, one of America’s great embroiderers (  With the beautiful fabric and the rich linings and detail work by Paul Maybaum, these truly are works of art.  The aqua colour scheme is picked up again on the chairs and even in the table linens.  You can peek into the room behind this room, another Sun Room, and see that I am carrying my aqua colour scheme on in the rattan chairs painted in aqua green, a la Nancy Lancaster.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

So do I like Aqua as a colour inside the house.  I love it, but with a caveat.  Don’t go too strong.  What looks great in a picture in House Beautiful may not be too livable in the long run.  Look at the two pictures below.

These rooms are just not livable—at least for an appreciable length of time.  Those blue-greens are just too! Too!  And they are just too cutsie.  And that brings me to my philosophy.  Houses are NOT fashion.  They are not done with tricks.  No matter how many cunning articles (“101 ways to Use Aqua in Your House” “Fun Tricks with Aqua as shown by a Master”), a house should be decorated to last a l-o-o-o-ng time.  Decoration, especially good decoration, is just too expensive to try and be fashionable.  I will never forget reading the “In” and “Out” columns of a famous fashion newspaper, and in November of one year, they said that the really “In” thing was to have all your linens by Porthault.  Only the following January, Porthault linens were listed on the top of the “Out”.  Might make good reading; certainly wouldn’t make happy readers.

But surely you won’t do any of those horrible things, not you, my loyal readers.


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