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Color Wheels? Absolutely, Says Carleton Varney

Posted on January 22 2021

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

Keep color rolling on the roadways of America, I say.

Next time you are taking a spin or a happy trip across the state — from Palm Beach to Naples, perhaps — or during a scenic drive on A1A, take a count of all the vehicles painted black, cement gray, beige or some other color you might just as well call “mud.”

Then reflect on the car colors of yesteryear.

I grew up in the 1950s, when the highways of America were filled with bright and happy hues. You might see a sky-blue Thunderbird, a hunter-green Packard, a bright-red Chevrolet and some other make with designer colors, perhaps a combination of salmon and cream, or turquoise and white.

The colorful cars of yesterday still can be seen on the streets of Cuba. I recall my last visit to Havana, where one could ride in colorful cars of the 1950s, thanks to longstanding trade restrictions. Mind you, the cars were often a bit rickety, as parts to recondition them were not easy to secure.

Last season, I was a judge at the antique car show at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. I was tasked with selecting the top vehicle of beauty, inside and out. As I looked at the cars, all bright and beautiful, I examined the exteriors and interiors. The seat upholstery and the materials on the dashboards and steering wheels were all so happy, creative and interesting.

But, of course, my eye gave top marks for color — and there was lots of it on the leather and dashboards.

The winning car was a Ford convertible in aqua blue with cream seats, red carpeting and a paneled dashboard that recalled the look of a light-pine library.

Vintage cars can give you lots of decorating ideas for a home today. I certainly don’t recommend you take any ideas from the interiors of most of today’s vehicles, which are all gray and beige and, well, you know.

I hope car manufacturers in America, Europe and Japan will one day wake up to the idea of using color and textures in their designs. How I would Iove to see more color!

I own a red Volkswagen Beetle, from which I shall never part. Recently, I looked at a new car for a friend, who had asked for some color advice. The color selected was a hunter green with a champagne convertible top, along with champagne leather seats and vivid tomato-red carpet.

Of course, the dealer explained that the color changes meant repainting the vehicle — and that would add to the cost, as the car was only available off the floor in dreary colors.

Alas! The world seems to be getting drearier and drearier, color-wise. But I plan to keep rolling out the idea that color means happiness, whether on roadways or in a home.

1 comment

  • Nancy Jane: January 25, 2021

    Hello Mr. Varney,
    I remember working with you many years ago when I was on the committee for the restoration of the president’s house at Michigan State. You did the Master bedroom which was I believe donated by the Millens.
    Anyway, I have just read your article on color and wondered if you did color consultations for home exteriors. I have just purchased a home on Glenn Drive in Harbor Springs and after doing an addition and remodel I’d like to have a colorfully but lovelyl facade for the house.
    I would be happy to meet with you in PB to get your advice if that is even a remote possibility
    Hopefully this isn’t an impossible request for such a distinguished Designer.
    If not, please contact me at your convenience so we can discuss fees and details.
    Gratefully yours,
    Nancy

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