This Energetic Shade of Green Will Bring Your Home to Life
Often unexpected in design, leaf green offers a breath of fresh air to Maine interiors
Come high summer, Maine is awash in leafy greens. The tree canopy has filled out, foliage plants have stretched their fronds, and ferns carpet the forest floor. In fact, if you live surrounded by trees, you may have even noticed that the light in your home has a green cast when the foliage is at its peak. These leaf-color greens are a cheerful choice for decor.
Green often plays second fiddle to blue on the coast, but it shouldn’t. “Leaf green is a fresh, lively color,” says interior designer Melissa Ervin, who is based in Charleston, South Carolina. “It lends a great feel and vibe on the coast.” Designer Lisa Teague of Upcoast Design in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, agrees, but adds that the color works almost anywhere. “In a more bucolic setting the palette will be a little bit different than if you’re right on the shore. If a client has a garden, we pull those greens in from there.”
Designers often like to say that green is “nature’s neutral”—and it’s true that greens are wildly versatile hues. However, you’ll need to be a little discerning with leaf greens, which are a bit brighter and more saturated than other shades of green. Here’s how to use the color with success.
Look outdoors for inspiration.
“Whether you are on an ocean or a farm, when you look out a window, chances are there is a shade of green out there,” says Teague, who suggests pulling color inspiration from your landscape is a safe way to go. “It just feels good.”
Embrace leaf motifs.
Something that will always look natural in leafy hues is a botanical print—whether a traditional chintz or a more modern palm leaf. Many designers try to make a connection between the outdoors and inside: a plant-inspired pattern is the fastest way to signal nature indoors.
Pick a green you can live with.
“I rarely use colors that are clear and clean,” says Teague. “Even if they are bright, they have an element of dirt.” Teague says, if you’re choosing from standard paint chip strips, zero in on the greens that are three or four down from the top (unless you are trying to make a bold statement). The top colors are too light, and the bottom three are reserved for small rooms or an accent wall, she says. Before you paint, order or paint large samples, “especially with greens,” says Teague.
Bring a windowless room to life.
Green walls cast a slightly greenish light, so people often avoid the color in their bathrooms. However, a leaf green can be just the thing to liven up a space that lacks a view. The key is to get the lighting right with a soft, diffuse source like the linen lampshades used in the powder room seen on the opposite page.
Consider it underfoot.
Painted floors are a low-maintenance, casual choice for a Maine summer cottage. Interior designer Melissa Ervin first painted a floor leaf green 15 years ago when her contractor wasn’t able to match the stain on a new kitchen floor to the rest of the house. She says the effect was so pleasing that even the paint crew remarked on it. She repeated the painted green floor in a more recent coastal home, pairing Farrow and Ball’s Bancha with cypress-paneled walls. (For more inspiration see this month’s Style Room, page 28.)
Become a plant parent!
Here’s an easy way to add leaf green to your home: bring home some actual green leaves. Foliage houseplants will bring a pop of green, and there’s no risk that they’ll clash with your existing decor. Writing in The Perfectly Imperfect Home, design writer Deborah Needleman says, “[Plants] really do establish a homey well-tended feeling in a room. The key is to have plants that look as if they’ve just come in from the garden.”
Pair it with blue.
“I love green and blue together,” says Teague, who describes the combination as a really fresh and beautiful look. This combination is also a good choice because so many homes in Maine already feature the color blue: leaf green can simply be layered on top. Ervin notes that many of her clients are requesting a blue and green combo lately.
Create a playful palette with pink.
For something more unexpected, Teague suggests pairing leaf green with pink, coral, or even raspberry, like she did on a custom sectional sofa (above). Teague says the key is to work with colors that have “the same weight of color, and they just play off of each other.”
Decorate Like a Tree
Leaves get their green hue from chlorophyll, but change to their fall colors when the days get shorter and the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down. This reveals yellow, orange, and red pigments that are masked during the warmer months. That transition from leafy green to rich yellow, rust, and crimson is one of the most celebrated color moments in the natural world. It’s also a great idea to steal for your own home.
If you have a room with a neutral palette as its base, you can easily mimic the seasonal change with your home accessories: For example, you might swap your neutral-colored sofa’s accent pillows from leaf green to a range of autumnal colors in fall. In an all-white kitchen, you can change out a few key accessories like tea towels, a fruit bowl, and café curtains, following the color cues from your landscape. In a bathroom, two sets of colorful towels—one leafy green and one pumpkin or rust—can completely transform the look of the room. Take your tree-spiration further by weaving in natural wood furnishings and accessories. Leaf greens (and their fall alter egos) work with almost any wood tone because they are found together in nature. However, do pay attention to the woods you use and limit the tones to just a few to avoid a hodge-podge look.
The word green is derived from the Old English grene, which refers to the color of living plants.