Home Styles and Colors In the Rockies
I recently returned from a ten-day trip to parts of, and places in, Colorado, visiting relatives and helping with color choices for interiors.
My visit took me to the Fort Collins area — to the east of the Rocky Mountains near the base of the foothills. And to the Grand Junction area — on the western side of the state as the mountains dip into semi-arid, high desert terrain.
Fort Collins, established first as a fort in 1864, has a marvelously charming, tree-lined Downtown as well as Old Town Historic District, frontier in character. It’s is also a sizable college town (Colorado State University).
Grand Junction, western Colorado’s most populous city, and also Colorado’s Wine Country, got its name from the confluence (or junction) of the Upper Colorado River (once called the Grand), and the Gunnison River. Here you’ll also find a charming historic downtown.
Viewing a topographic map, the Rocky Mountain Range cascades down the North American continent beginning in Canada, plunging first through the western edge of Montana and the eastern portion of Idaho, takes a chunk out of western Wyoming, consumes the western portion of Colorado and a portion of Utah ….then tapers off at the southern end of New Mexico. An expanse of mountain that inspires the many rustic and rough-hewn architectural styles and interiors of homes that inhabit the range.
Not too surprisingly even outside of the mountain range a tempered mountain design culture exists and is a popular theme in the “colorful” state (“Colorful Colorado” is one of the state’s nicknames). Those mountains do hold some sway over the design aesthetic of homes in Colorado and the other mountainous states, spilling into desert and high desert areas as well.
The state derives its name “Colorado” from the early Spanish explorers of the area. The Spanish word colorado is an adjective meaning “red” or “reddish”. The name was inspired by the red colored earth found in parts of the area.
Fittingly, red seems to be a popular color in Colorado interiors. Often red combined with golden and yellowish tones. The red tones used cover a gamut of red and reddish hues: rusty-reds, pomegranate, poppy, tomato, cranberry, persimmon, merlot — you name it. For the golden tones and yellows: corn husk, marigold, mustard, maize, wheat, and more.
Why Red? And, Why Gold and Yellow?
The designs of mountain homes frequently feature a great deal of wood. Wood species typically have either a yellow-golden cast, or deep orange or reddish undertones. Using these colors in interior fabrics and accessories creates a rich, warm, and comforting blend. A blend that complements the green of trees and foliage in the spring and summer, mirrors the color of turning leaves in the fall, and creates a warm and sheltering environment when the ground is covered with snow. This warm palette is a color scheme that works well through the seasons.
Outside of the mountainous area of Colorado, rugged and rolling hills, meadows and planes turn dry and arid in the summer months sporting golden hues; true also of other Western states. Red is a perfect accent for those wheat-yellow and tannish-golden tones. Using yellow and gold for interior surfaces, furnishings, and accents gathers the outdoor colors into the interior space. Red adds interest and punch. It’s easy to see why the color scheme often spills into the desert areas of the Western states as well.
How Interior Designers Have Used This Color Scheme
Employing our featured red and gold color scheme, the rooms below are culled not only from Colorado, but also from Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
Three Distinctly Mountain-Style Homes
These three homes, designed by Montana based interior designer Carina Russell, are fine examples of rustic mountain homes in the log, timber, and stone style, a style that employs wood beams, split logs, and stone walls and fireplace surrounds as typical features. The designer uses some bright and some deep reds in drapes and furniture fabrics. The yellow or gold in the rooms sometimes derives only from wall color in a creamy-yellow off-white. In some rooms yellow or gold are picked up in fabrics and carpets.
Some lighter and brighter examples:
Log and stone receive a lighter touch in these two archival images from the former Western Interiors & Design Magazine. In the first image the golden tone is in the wheat color of the chair fabric. In the second image the very golden tones of the wood receive shots of bright accent of red.
Designer Ellisa Cullman also uses a creamy wall color with accent pillows furnishing a bit of subdued red on the rusty-toned leather sofa. Image is from Architectural Digest online. Photo is by David O. Marlow.
With only hints of the rustic, this light and airy room, in traditional style, by interior designer Charlotte Moss at her Aspen, Colorado ski retreat is decorated in reds and yellow-golds. Photographer: Pieter Estersohn. Elle Decor.
For a more contemporary feel, interior designer Kourtney Pulitzer uses an eclectic group of furnishings. Yellow in the colorful painting adds to the red and gold accents. Shown in Luxe Magazine. Photographer: James Ray Spahn.
Shown in Mountain Living Magazine, Harker Design has created a contemporary and calm atmosphere with an eclectic blend of updated, traditionally-styled furnishings upholstered in contemporary fabrics of red and gold tones. The interior furnishings are set against clean-lined rustic architectural features. The colors bring warmth into the room set in the winter against a backdrop of snow-covered surroundings.
Reds and golds are married with blue in the dining room, creating a dynamic contrast to the view of the snowy landscape.
Also shown at www.mountainliving.com, this living room, with interior design by Worth Interiors, has, as well, clean-lined mountain-style architectural features. The designers have picked up the rusty-red cast of the window frames and used the color in the pillows. The contemporary upholstered pieces are in wheat tones.
Shown in the next three images, interior designer Karen Marcus pumps up the red
and gold heat in this Colorado mountain retreat using a palette of Turkey red and marigold yellow, accented, sparingly, with black. Photographer: David O. Marlow. From Architectural Digest online.
In a Contemporary Vein
Below, CCY Architects create a contemporary nod to mountain style. Red in the carpet and the bench, and some pink on the door, are accents to the wheat-toned paneled walls. Shown at www.mountainliving.com.
This very contemporary Colorado mountain home has interiors designed by Alex Jordan and Dan Smieszny. The designers have used rusty red in the leather armchairs and golden-toned accent pillows. From Architectural Digestt online. Photographer: David O. Marlow.
Finally, this very contemporary room in a Colorado home from Denver based O Interior Design. Bright orange-red in the painting is picked up in an accent pillow. Other pillows have soft red tones combined with the wheat-tone that is also used for the upholstery fabric.
As for my color consulting in Colorado, well my niece lives with her husband and two children in a suburban home near Fort Collins, in a moderately mountain-style influenced home. I helped with a pale green for her formal living room/dinning area. I also consulted on bluish tones to be used in other areas. The great room of the home is high-ceilinged, with a stone fireplace. My niece had already painted walls in the great room and an adjacent stairwell in a golden beige. Two accent walls are painted a deep, deep red. Her choice of the red was based on their love of red, and not consciously based on a particular scheme. But, it is interesting that the result fit the red-gold color scheme.
My cousin in the Grand Junction vicinity was in the process of remodeling a home she’ll be retiring to. We painted most of the walls Behr “Cottage White” (1813). For accent in the living room and entry way I suggested “Haystack” (LA617) from Valspar’s Laura Ashley Home line. It looks great, adds interest, and works with the fabric we picked for window valances. The front door (indoors and out) is also from the Laura Ashley line: “Summer Pudding” (LA318), a wonderful soft red. Was I thinking red and gold color scheme? No, not really; it just flowed from the space, “client” preferences, and coordinating with fabrics. Sometimes things just evolve that way.
Colorado was wonderful. Cooler and greener than expected for August; a bit unusual in fact.
I’m back home now in California, thinking, reading, exploring, choosing, consulting…and enjoying – color, color, color.