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From the PublisherYou're lucky if you survived design in the 1980s without a permanent allergy to flowers. In those chintz-clogged days, acres of lush floral prints were slipcovered and swagged with abandon.
Once the decade closed, the decorating world put itself on Claritin and, with the exception of the English country crowd, it has adhered to a strict flower-reduction diet. But even with that much breathing space between this century and the folly of the last, the mere mention of a book called The Floral House (Chronicle Books, $24.95) is enough to tickle the nostrils.
Fortunately, Julia Bird's book, lushly photographed by Pia Tryde and written by Jane Newdick, is absolutely fresh and new. Bird, a well-known English stylist, has no use for the "hotel bedroom" look. She's intent on pioneering a new floral style that's clean and sophisticated.
Her formula is simple.
"Imagine a stark white interior," she says, "and then, in your mind's eye, throw a brightly colored floral tablecloth over the table: The room is instantly enlivened and imbued with personality." Begin with a room that is carefully composed of a mix of contemporary and country pieces, a blend of peeling paint and polished steel. Then add a floral pillow, a slipcover for an armchair, a platter with a graphic nosegay, a bedspread with woven blossoms.
Flowers, Bird believes, "should never become the first thing to strike you on entering a room; rather they should be the elements that bring color and visual interest to the space." The Floral House is decidedly unfloral.
Bird is a stickler for backgrounds that are simple and solid, but she doesn't favor white on white. Tropical red, hot pink, cerebral blue, tawny brown, warm yellow--all shades of nature are fine with her, providing they're properly combined. But she has firm opinions about what's proper.
For instance, Bird begins her neutrals chapter by declaring that "the clever and contemporary way to use neturals is to add hints of sharper light colors, such as dashes of citrus yellow and lime." She specifies that the neutrals be stone-colored beiges and butter yellows with "no pink or blue." Any green accetns must have plenty of yellow and nothing that approaches blue or turquoise.
When it comes to her blue palette, she points out that blue absorbs light and, thus, any use of blue must be given lots of air. "Mix blue with lighter shades of lilac or white for a contemporary upbeat feel," she commands.
Blue, rare in the garden, is actually quite forgiving in the house. Most shades go together, even greeny blues and pinky blues that Bird would not normally blend.
Her prescription for a tropical palette calls for a concentration of reds, pinks and oranges--the color of nasturtiums, godetias and poppies--with an occasional hit of green, turquiose and yellow.
"A good way to accommodate these colors," Bird writes, "is to use them on things that are portable, so that if you suddenly find their intensity is too great, you can move them around or even remove some of them." Instead of painting a wall magenta, she'll color a moveable panel so it can be shifted from room to room or be redone as the seasons, and the light, change.
Offices, she advises, are good places to experiment with bold color. Unlike a bedroom, an office is a place to be awake and stimulated.
Her theory must be true, because sitting in her own office, with its hot-pink plastic chair and fire-engine-red country cupboard, Bird has porduced one of the most stimulating decorating books around. -Universal Press Syndicate