When a New Jersey couple chose to base their vacation home’s color scheme on a hand-painted malachite wall, they were unaware that in metaphysics the mineral is known as the “stone of transformation.” That was just a happy coincidence. What they were drawn to was the intense green color and stunning concentric banding that characterize polished malachite, an agate-like gemstone that has been carved into ornaments and worn as jewelry for thousands of years. Aptly, the decision to make this one-of-a-kind wall the focal point of their family room marked an aesthetic shift for them, from safe to daring.
“Our beach houses have always been on the white side,” says the wife, who with her husband looked to no avail for an interior designer in their area whose vision meshed with theirs. It wasn’t until the couple was 250 miles from home, in Newport, Rhode Island, that they serendipitously learned of Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, who would steer their home’s concept and color palette 180 degrees away from neutral.
“Live Vibrantly” is the tagline of Blakely Interior Design, based in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, not far from Newport. “Color is at the core of everything we do,” says Photopoulos, the firm’s president and creative director. “I encourage my clients to embrace color and push them just slightly beyond their comfort zone.” Trust in the process is all she asks in return. “It takes someone quite brave to do some of the things we did in this home.”
With six bedrooms, seven bathrooms (plus two powder rooms), and several public spaces, the new Shingle-style house in the town of Mantoloking was fortuitously in its early, framing stage when Photopoulos got involved. “I’m proud of the fact that we were able to influence every single design decision,” she says. In addition to space planning and décor, the designer had input on details like multilayer crown molding, coffered ceilings, and custom mullions in glass cabinetry.
Directly or tangentially, all of the home’s color concepts flowed from the malachite wall, a custom mural by Rhode Island artist Deb Sabo. “Green—ranging from soft aqua to bright emerald—is repeated in several areas of the home as a common color to pull it all together,” shares Photopoulos, noting a lacquered Kelly-green custom vanity in one daughter’s bathroom, green-and-white cane-patterned wallpaper in the master bedroom, and leafy “Mille Feuilles” Christopher Farr fabric on the host chairs that anchor each end of an exquisite Dunes & Duchess dining table. Depending on the space, accent colors for accessories, throw pillows, and artwork include vibrant coral, soft pink, yellows, and blues.
Blakely Interior Design’s penchant for using exuberant color is complemented by its technique of layering in a variety of fabrics and patterns. “We use a lot of different textiles to complete the palette,” notes Photopoulos. Further, she says, “We’re very big on details, so we’ll use trim, contrasting welts, and accent fabrics that really tell a full color story within a space.” For example, the bathroom with the Kelly-green vanity also has festive cabana-striped wallpaper in the water closet, and Roman shades with pops of hot pink in the fabric and jaunty pompom trim.
But the eye also needs relief from punchy color combinations. “As we’re designing, we think through systematically where we are putting color and how we balance that throughout the space,” explains Photopoulos, who goes on to explain the strategy behind the restrained palette in the kitchen, located adjacent to the malachite wall: “Coming out of a room with such boldness, we wanted to keep the kitchen classic, timeless,” she says. Against white cabinetry and countertops, an island and custom range hood in Sherwin Williams “Iron Ore,” the designer’s favorite almost-black shade, offer depth while still maintaining a neutral aesthetic. Brass chandeliers, hardware, and hood trim pull in the gold tones favored elsewhere in the house.
“They pushed me outside my envelope, and I trusted them,” says the wife, adding that she “would use Janelle and her team again in a minute.” The husband, who rallied for the malachite wall, stands behind that and other gutsy decisions. “We embrace living vibrantly in this house,” he says with a nod to Blakely Interior Design’s tagline and an unmistakable smile in his voice.
For more information, visit blakelyinteriordesign.com.