Destination: Door County


It’s time for a little vacation from work and writing.  No cell phones, no computers, no deadlines.  This year I’m off to one of my favorite spots, Door County.  It’s the large peninsula on Wisconsin’s eastern shore that jets out into Lake Michigan.  We all have to recharge our batteries once in a while and I like to choose a place where nature rules.

Rated by Money Magazine as “One of the Top Ten Destinations in North America”, Door County, often referred to as the “Cape Cod of The Midwest”, has over 300 miles of rugged shoreline, five state parks and eleven lighthouses (more than any other county in the US) not to mention acclaimed performing arts, more than 80 galleries and museums, incredible one-of-a-kind restaurants and shops and some of the friendliest people on earth.  National chains are not even allowed north of Sturgeon Bay.  Outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, fishing, boating, hiking, golf, etc.  There’s always something to do or you can do nothing at all.






It offers breathtaking views perched above the water or overlooking any of the more than 30 islands that dot the shoreline.  Driving along the peninsula,  you travel from one village to another, each situated along the water with many featuring their marinas and their love of the water.  Buildings date back to the early 1800’s and most of the historical charm is maintained in the architecture.  It’s no wonder Conde’ Nast and Travel & Leisure magazines have written quite a few articles about it.

The scenery is nothing short of amazing.  It’s the perfect string of small coastal villages without the influence of the corporate world.  The air is crisp, even in the summer, with little need for air conditioning most of the time.  Traffic can be a little hectic since over 2 million visitors come here each year and just like the vacations you took 30 years ago, everything is still two lanes wide.






But don’t let the small town charm fool you. If you’re planning a trip there, you’d best be advised to make reservations at least 6 months in advance if you want some of the best accommodations.  There are some great inns and B&B’s, but no big hotel chains.  My choice is to find a great home on the water for rent and use it as a home base during my time spent there.  Summer is by far the busiest time and traffic can often come to a standstill especially in Sister Bay or Fish Creek or if there is a local weekend festival or fair…which there are a lot of.

If you want to enjoy the area with fewer crowds in the streets and restaurants, you might want to consider going after Labor Day.  And if you’re wanting to enjoy the fall foliage, I’ve found that the second or third week in October is usually peak color.  Here’s a few pictures from my last trip.  I’ll try to take more pictures this year of the small towns and local flavor.















So I’m off to enjoy fried cheese curds, cherry pie and fish boils. Afternoon naps and picnics in the park. Time for homemade ice cream and outdoor concerts.  I’m taking a time warp to the past so I can endure the future.

“Color Me Crazy”

One of the best and least expensive ways to pull a home’s design scheme together is by coordinating the colors.  While that sounds like an understatement, most people tend to panic after they’ve picked the first one or two colors and have no idea what to do next.  To those people I say relax.  It’s only paint.

Actually, there is a simple method to it.  First, you need to have some idea of the overall feeling that you are looking to accomplish.  Do you want something serious and formal or something with a coastal feeling? Maybe you want it to be bold and contemporary to highlight your art or collections.  Or maybe you want an eclectic feeling so you can reuse some family heirlooms.  Whichever concept you have in mind, there are colors that will compliment it.

If your design plan is going to include area rugs, I suggest you start there.  It’s much easier to find fabrics to go with rugs than the other way around.  It’s also a good idea to have the rug in your possession when you are choosing fabrics and colors so you can be sure to get the perfect colors.  Once you’ve selected the rug, which for most people will be in the main living area, it’s time to start working on your color palette.

Select one color from the rug that seems most appropriate for your design plan.  This should be your main living area color.  This color will tie the rest of the home together as you move from room to room.  Unless you have an extremely large room, you should probably stick to colors that are not too saturated or dark.  Strong colors are best saved for areas where you need a more dramatic effect.

Next, select three or four other colors that might work in adjoining rooms.  Don’t make a final decision and start painting just yet.  There is still more planning to do to make sure it all comes together in the end.   The next step is to decide on a trim color and ceiling color.  While some people disagree with me, I like to make sure all the trim inside the house is all the same color.  One of my pet peeves is having the living room trim color on the outside of a bathroom or bedroom door and the inside of the door is another color.  When the door is open, the two colors fight each other.  I tend to keep the trim in the white family.  Whites looks best when they are truly white or a slightly warmer white such as Benjamin Moore Dove White.

One you’ve picked your trim color, you’ve also picked your ceiling color as the two always work well when they are the same shade.  For those with architecturally interesting ceilings or a need to be more daring, consider ceiling colors that match or coordinate with the walls.

I like to use semi-gloss on all the trim and a flat finish on the ceiling and walls.  Flat finish paints tend to hide imperfections and won’t give a reflective quality, which softens the light in the room.  Semi-gloss on the trim hides a few sins but still gives a nice sheen to highlight the trim details.

Now it’s time to have a little fun.  Start putting together your fabrics and use your rug and paint colors for reference.

The main living area color should follow the architecture of the home.  If you have hallways to bedrooms or other rooms, keeping it the same color will make your home feel larger and more cohesive.  Color changes are best accomplished when changing rooms and you have trim or doorways to separate the colors.  Also keep in mind that colors should complement each other.  Again, refer to your fabrics.  Chances are that the fabric designer has already done your homework and if you stick to their choices, the colors will flow pretty nicely.

For the closely adjoining rooms, select colors from the main area instead of introducing a new color.  Some people like to keep all the walls the same neutral color which gives a lighter feeling.  However, if you want a little more interest, subtle color changes can make a big difference.  The secondary areas such as a dining room or family room could use one of the secondary colors from the living room that didn’t play a large role.  This helps tie the two rooms together.  Once the rooms are related by color, move on to finding fabrics for that room.  Also keep an open mind to using wallpaper in a room or two such as the powder room, master bath or dining room.  See my article “Wallpaper, Wallpaper, Where Art Thou” for some suggestions.

If you home is based on using a palette of 4 colors, try to stick to these colors or shades of them throughout the house.  Let different rooms highlight each of the different colors.  Of course there are little tricks you can do along the way like painting the ceiling of the bathroom a shade darker than the walls or intensifying one of the colors for one of the bedrooms.  It will still feel like part of the same design thread.

If you already have existing furnishings, try to find colors that will tie the rooms together.  You don’t need to match a color exactly… it could be a shade of that color.  I always suggest getting sample colors mixed and put on the wall to look at for a day or two and see how they look in the room.  Sometimes the light in the room can make a color look quite a bit different than a paint sample in the store.   When looking at colors, try to look for nuances in the color that might add a little interest.  Grey colors can be tinted brown, blue or green if you look closely.  All colors have varying tints in the background, so have a critical eye.  Whites can be especially tricky with shades of yellow, blue or pink.

The colors you pick should reflect your lifestyle.  The are an extension of your personality.   They should create a backdrop for the type of interior and furnishings that you are most comfortable with.   By picking the right color you can cool the room or add warmth, make a bold statement, increase or decrease the perceived size of the room, or add depth.   When you’re done, you’ll be amazed how something so simple can make such a dramatic difference in your home.