Interior Design Inspiration: Color in Nature

Color LoveInterior Design Inspiration

Have you ever seen the movie Pleasantville? Where Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Maguire are transported into a black-and-white TV show and when Reese introduces some excitement into their worlds, the whole town comes alive in Technicolor? The notion that we all need a little—OK, a lot—of color in our lives drives my interior design, and I’m constantly on the hunt for new inspired palettes. And while inspiration can be found everywhere, I especially love to look to Mother Nature, since that’s often where I find the most intensely beautiful hues. In fact, the name of one of my Pinterest boards is Nature is Not Neutral. Whether it’s the saturated fuchsia of bougainvillea or the wispy, romantic lilac of lavender fields, there’s a never-ending spectrum awaiting you if you only take a moment to look outside.

Lake Forest Show House Upper Gallery by Summer Thornton Design


For the space we designed in the Lake Forest Showhouse, we took the idea of color found in nature very literally. We not only infused shades of green in the furnishings and window treatments, but we also used floral fabrics, live plants and ornate planter pedestals so that the upper gallery would personify the beauty of formal gardens. Hints of red and orange in the table accessories and chair fringe dash color to the room like vibrant blooms would do to a landscape. The original architecture of the estate was designed by David Adler, so we paid homage to him by fashioning the interiors in the style of his sister, Francis Adler Elkins, one of the great grand-dame decorators of the 20th century who was revered for her bold choices and ability to mix traditional and contemporary aesthetics while injecting a bit of whimsy. Likewise, the black-and-white checkerboard flooring in our nature-inspired sitting room exemplifies the space's formality combined with the quirky glamour of the 1960s.

Lincoln Park dining room, chartreuse, by Summer Thornton Design. Gardens at Chateau de Versailles, France, daffodils, tulips, trees, Trover, Mark Rentz.

Interior via / Garden via

Is there anything dreamier than the formal gardens at Château de Versailles? This image was taken behind the palace by someone filled with wanderlust, which I can totally relate to. It was spring, so the grounds were blooming with swaths of daffodils and tulips. And just like the rainbow of greens, yellows, reds, whites and purples seen in the garden, the dining room we designed for a Lincoln Park home expresses a similar palette in a modern way, giving the owners a California cool vibe with natural fibers and organic textures. Chartreuse takes the spotlight (hello there, boucle by KnollTextiles) but light pinks and aquas in the artwork complement the yellow-green shade, and a mustard-y antique Oushak rug from ABC Carpet & Home recalls the ground cover of the garden. White walls and millwork keep the space light and bright.

Hydrangeas, forest, Japan. Color in nature. Chic dental office by Summer Thornton Design

Hydrangea via / Interior via

I never thought hydrangeas could become any more gorgeous, but then I came across this image taken by a hiker in a forest in Japan and suddenly a world of colorful possibilities opened up. Apparently the entire mountain is covered with them—like something out of a dream. When we were tasked with designing a chic dental office that would have the stylish comfort of a home, we installed picture moldings, preppy styling and plush furnishings to achieve our goal. The palette is light, but we chose Pindler's Verano fabric in Bluebell to add a pop of periwinkle to a tufted sofa in the waiting room. It reminds me of that mountain—a sea of purple, blue and pink petals drawing your eye for miles amidst the woodlands.

Lincoln Park Vintage Remodel by Summer Thornton Design, tulip wallpaper, coral highboy. Colorful tulips

Interior via / Tulips via

If hiking a Japanese mountain full of hydrangeas or jetting off to Versailles isn’t on your immediate itinerary, there is still so much natural beauty that can be found just around the corner. Flower markets put some of the most captivating ranges of color right at your fingertips, like this array of tulips in tangerine, yellow, blush and flamingo pinks, lavender and soft white. The bright, happy energy of tulips adorns the wallpaper of a vintage Lincoln Park interior remodel that we designed in the quirky, eccentric style of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. In this bedroom, the colorful Brunschwig & Fils Guermantes wallpaper, with its pale green field, provided the perfect foil for a coral-colored highboy that nods to the home’s history as well as the family’s modern sensibilities.

Sunset, beach. Dining area by Summer Thornton Design.

Sunset via / Interior via

But there’s no color palette in nature that excites the imagination more than sunsets. Mostly because you can’t quite define the colors found in them. Sometimes it’s purple, sometimes blue or pink or orange. And when they all blend together with the blue waters and white waves of the ocean, it’s magic. We transformed an Old Town Chicago apartment for a preppy New York transplant that turned out to be equal parts Jenna Lyons, Tory Burch and Kate Spade. The breakfast area particularly recalls a sunset-inspired palette, with China Seas' Arbre de Matisse Reverse linen in China Blue for the window shades, Groundworks/Lee Jofa's cantaloupe-hued Kumano Weave fabric on the seats, and a pinkish-purple banquette cushion with red trim. The blue-and-white Chinese ginger jars and white bamboo lattice-back chairs give the design a twist that is fresh and fun with a touch of whimsy, just like the owner.

If you don't already, be sure to follow my blog with Bloglovin' to stay up to date with the latest.