When Melissa and John Bolinger purchased their 1925 Cape Cod-style home, they struggled to reconcile their home’s architecture, their previously-purchased Spanish-style furniture and their desire for a romantic, airy home. They brought it all together by choosing the right color of paint.
“Built in 1925,” Melissa says, “this home had been cherished by its previous owners. You could tell by the cheerful paint colors—sunshine yellow and watermelon red—under all the paint and wallpaper we removed. There were toile wallpapers and chandeliers in unique locations: one in a bathroom and a large one in the upstairs hallway.” While she and John stripped away the wallpaper and painted over the walls, they wanted to respect their vintage home’s bones. “I decorate from my gut and use the architecture of whatever I am decorating as my guide,” she says. “A modern home can be romantic, but if the architecture is streamlined, ornate moldings will ruin it; almost in the same way a Victorian home would be ruined by minimal moldings and steel windows.”
Melissa’s decorating choices were also influenced by the furniture she retained from their previous home, which matched that building’s heavy Spanish architecture and rich and varied paint colors. “I tried to keep the color variations within a three-color scheme. It was rich and cozy, but I was craving a softer flow of color,” Melissa says.
Although Melissa dreamed of white, airy walls, she recognized that she needed “the interest and dimension color brings. When I finally decided to paint, I was limited by the color story of the majority of our furnishings, which were moved from our Spanish home. I dreamed of grass green, coral pink and soft golden yellow fabric combinations, but with dogs and major renovations to prioritize, I was forced to work with the brick reds, golds and olive greens that dominated our furnishings. Because our home is airy and cottage-like, I wanted to keep it that way with soft wall colors, but I couldn’t go too pale or the contrast between our furnishings and walls would be too strong for the romantic vision I had.
“In the end, I chose Benjamin Moore’s Straw Hat, which sometimes reads like a golden sand color and sometimes like a buttery yellow, for the majority of the walls on the main floor. I emphasized the living-room fireplace and kitchen range wall with Benjamin Moore’s Sombrero. The powder room and dining room walls were painted in Sombrero, a similar, but deeper shade of Straw Hat. Our ceilings were painted with Benjamin Moore’s Glacier Blue, a soft gray-blue with enough color to be noticed but not enough to be obtrusive. It not only lifts the already taller than average nine-foot ceilings but creates the most peaceful sky-like quality and emphasizes the charming beams and moldings. The colors upstairs are similar to downstairs, except one of the bedrooms and bathrooms have warm pink walls. One of the pink colors used is Benjamin Moore’s Phoenix Sand, which produces a sunset-like romantic glow.”
The result of Melissa’s paint choices is a nostalgic home that is romantic without being fussy. “People say it is charming and happy,” she says. “People like to be here.”
By Meryl Schoenbaum
Photography by Bret Gum
Styled by Jacqueline deMontravel and Valerie Spelman