Caroline Willis: I was a history major at UVA with every intention of going to law school. Upon the advice of several people, I took a summer internship at Christies rather than a paralegal job. From there I went on to a receptionist position with Gomez Associates in New York. Then I moved up to a design assistant’s with Mariette Gomez’s firm–a FABULOUS experience. She is definitely one of my design idols and I was too young to appreciate how fabulous the whole thing was. I moved to Atlanta and took a job with Dan Carithers–another design great and major mentor for me. I went out on my own in 2001.
I love to work with gray. You have to be careful that it does not come off too cold. Some of my favorites in the gray/taupe family:
Pratt & Lambert Putty 2279 (my dining room color–tweaked a bit)
Pratt & Lambert Appaloosa 2251 (close to my library color)
Pratt & Lambert Shadow Beige 2257
Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan HC-81 (not a true gray, but comes from a gray place–a nice light neutral that does not go yellow or pink)
Benjamin Moore China White ( a white that has gray in it–again, does not go yellow or pink)
Benjamin Moore Alexandria Beige HC-77 (a dark warm taupe that works well with gray)
Benjamin Moore Litchfield Gray HC-79
Duron Tavern Taupe 8673M (More taupe than gray–but warm and works well with gray tones)
Melissa Hawks: What is the trick to getting the gray to work in a space – how do you layer the room and what do you think are the important elements to balance so you get just the right amount?
Caroline Willis: I think it is important for rooms to feel layered and not to feel too”schemed”. I love using lots of tones of the same color in a room. Blues pair nicely with grays as do whites. I think gray is truly neutral, so most colors can work with it, but the shade has to be right. Darker grays can be pretty with yellow–but too much cream or soft yellow fights gray in my opinion. Some of the bolder gray with a super bright color do not do it for me–small doses. I think gray should be restful. Paint is a great starting point.
Melissa Hawks: What designers do you look to for inspiration?
Caroline Willis: I am inspired by so many designers. Mariette Gomez and Dan Carithers have had a huge personal influence on me. I am always impressed by Victoria Hagan, Stephen Gambrell and Jeffrey Bilhuber. Atlanta designer Nancy Braithwaite (who uses gray perfectly) is incredibly talented and has always been a kind mentor to me. I pour over design books and love Michael Smith’s books and works. I love the old Parish Hadley look find inspiration from those pages as well.