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Carleton Varney: Why I love soft, subtle lavender as a decorating color

Posted on May 27 2022

By Carleton Varney Special to the Palm Beach Daily News


In my Elysium days of classroom music lessons, I learned a number of songs relating to color, including one of my favorites, the English folk lullaby “Lavender's Blue.” Search the Internet and you can find a number of versions of the song. To me, they are gentle reminders of the 1940s and ’50s. 

I have always loved the color of the lavender flower itself and the lavender-like hues of lilacs and tulips. You can mix any number of great colors with lavender, which can go everywhere in the house — and outside, too. At its palest, it doubles as a neutral. 

When I’m in the neighborhood off South Dixie Highway near Forest Hill Boulevard in West Palm Beach, I have noticed a house painted lavender with rich amethyst for the shutters and doors. I call this a flower-color house — and I love it.

I’ve become quite bored today by houses painted gray, beige or brown. I much prefer flower-color homes, although I realize they are not to everyone’s taste. Even in Palm Beach, where white and tan houses are so popular, I sometimes see houses painted pale pink, light blue and subtle yellow, although I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one painted lavender. Would the color get the nod from our stringent Architectural Commission? Maybe not. 

Here is a lavender scheme for a glamorous living room, which is perfect for you flower lovers. Or, if you’re not quite ready to take a full plunge into lavender, adapt these ideas for a smaller space, such as a foyer or powder room. 

Let’s begin painting the room a soft lavender with glossy white trim for the woodwork. For your window drapery, choose a print or plaid in gray and white, a good choice if you want to get away from a strictly minimalist look. 

Use a curvy Vladimir Kagan-esqe sofa as the centerpiece for your room and have it covered in lavender velvet. For the throw pillows on the sofa, consider a combination of silver lamé, lavender and white. 

Club chairs can be upholstered in a rich gray or amethyst.

For table lamps, you might choose versions with bases made of clear acrylic, white milk glass or even white plaster. You can often find the latter in the shops on South Dixie Highway’s Antique Row.  

Alternatively, your lamps might have bases in the rich purple that graces the perfume bottles that hold Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion. Take a trip to the cosmetics counter to see the color for yourself. You can use the same color for other decorative accents in the room, as well. 

Top your lamps with white shades and place them on white end tables. 

A wood coffee table with a pearlized finish would be my choice. Be sure it’s fitted with a glass top to protect the base. On it you can display an array of orchid plants in soft colors. 

And for the wall about the fireplace mantel, go for something striking and contemporary, perhaps an expansive Jim Dine painting or print with his signature hearts. 


  • Marsha Carol Watson Gandy: June 10, 2022

    A beautiful room, and I would want to have a special place for my African Violets. My maternal grandmother grew them all her years, and she taught me to love them and grow them. I have spent my adult life admiring their beauty. I have always had them in a place “of Honor” in my home, In Memory of my Beloved grandmother: Lillie Belle Houston Bass. She lovingly taught me many things—-and I cherish the memories of our times together.

  • Lynn Taylor: June 10, 2022

    Thank you Carlton! This has to be my favorite of your color input articles! Weather wallpaper, a chinoiserie print duvet, side panel drapes, lamp, cheerful nosegay, large lilac bouquet or inside of the front door, lavender/periwinkle has always been part of my adult life!

  • Rosemary Mays: June 10, 2022

    Beautiful! I always learn so much from your column. Thank you

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