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Take your decor over the rainbow, as Judy Garland did

Posted on November 30 2016

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

When it comes to colorful decorating, you might say that I am always chasing rainbows.

I keep all the colors in the rainbow in my design arsenal and I’m not afraid to use any of them. Nor should you be.

Back in the 1970s, when I was a young man at Dorothy Draper and Co., I had the pleasure of working on a two-bedroom apartment in New York City for the late Judy Garland. She is, without a doubt, in my mind the only entertainer who could deliver Somewhere Over the Rainbow as it should be sung — heartfelt and full longing. Alas, her daughter, Liza Minnelli, never sings that song, perhaps because it is so identified as her late mother’s signature.

While the rainbow offers colorful decorating choices — red, violet, green and blue — I can tell you that the Judy’s apartment in midtown Manhattan was a vision in lemon and lime. Lime green was dominant throughout. With the exception of one bedroom, the walls were sunshine yellow, a color the singer and actress found happy and joyous, especially in the morning.

When you are decorating, you can bring sunshine into your own life by using yellow as a background color and then adding the colors of the rainbow. Pair sunshine yellow walls with greens, as Miss Garland did. Choose, perhaps, a green-on-white silhouette-print of floral motifs for drapery, topped by valances of soft yellow and trimmed in green-and-white braid or fringe. On your sofa, a yellow-and-white woven tweed would be my choice, accented with flower cushions to match the drapery.

Miss Garland liked mirrored end tables flanking the sofa, and on them we placed black-lacquer ginger-jar lamps with accordion pleated shades. It’s still a lovely look. We grouped pull-up chairs around a round white card table, which also could be used for informal dining. The chairs were finished in black lacquer with seats upholstered in white patent leather. Talk about a dose of Hollywood.

Perhaps if you lean toward more of the rainbow, you could bring into the sofa grouping armchairs upholstered in a kumquat orange.

In the same way, think about a rainbow scheme for your bedroom. Try sky blue for a wall color and, for drapery, a print with blossoms of lavender, red and blue — along with green leaves — on a white crisp glosheen chintz. Upholster your comfy furniture in a practical lavender fabric and accent the sofa with pillows in a rainbow of reds, whites and royal blues. You might even consider placing a pot of gold on your end tables — gleaming brass lamp bases, topped by paper accordion-pleated shades and trimmed with tassels. It would nice to see a bit more of the gold on the base of a glass-topped coffee table.

If you are handy with watercolors, why not paint a big colorful rainbow or an abstract of rainbow colors — on white rice paper? Frame the paper, maybe 5 feet long by 32 inches high, in a golden frame and hang it over your lavender sofa. Be proud of yourself, and sign your painting in the corner.

I have always believed that there is an artist in all of us that can find expression in any number of ways. You might not be a canvas painter, but a painter of words or of arithmetic equations.

Judy Garland loved her colorfully decorated home. Why not borrow a little inspiration from the rainbow for yours?

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