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Tropics in the Napa Valley

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

My friend, Meryll, and I circled the displays at the Napa Valley Orchid Society a dozen times. Each lap delivered a new discovery. Intricate shapes, vibrant colors, and sweet fragrances painted vivid images of Paul Gauguin’s Tahiti.

Napa Valley, with its beautiful vistas, terrain, climate, and outdoor lifestyle is its own paradise. Meryll’s ranch house is surrounded by vineyards, and while she was not interested in swapping grape vines for sugar canes, she did want a tropical design makeover. What would this entail?

Over lunch, I gave her my ideas. Meryll was already a fan of bamboo floors, so this would be an easy start. We’d then paint the walls white in the public spaces - hallway, living, dining, and family rooms. That’s right, white! It’s used in tropical regions to reflect the heat. There’s nothing wrong with white walls if they are painted with intention. Meryll was on board. She could visualize white gauze draperies flowing in the breeze from her opened French doors. She loved the contrast of a seating arrangement in white linen against walnut stained bamboo floors.

Natural textures like sisal rugs, woven cane tables, and grass window shades would be key. (Wood blinds or plantation shutters are great alternatives.) It’s easy to go overboard with a themed design. Good design shows restraint. For instance, if we had a cane coffee table, the end table should be different – like a metal rain drum. Color would come from artwork, pillows, and orchids. In design, the word “restraint” is good and the word “match” is not. But in this case, matching the pillows to the orchids would achieve a successfully tight design. I’m not a big fan of fans but dropping a well-placed palm-fronded one from the ceiling would be a nice touch.

Would I really suggest all these white walls without something up my sleeve? Of course not. My ace-in-the-hole is inspired by the orchid show’s “Dracula Vampira”, a single white bloom with deep purple and chartreuse stripes. Coincidentally, this purple and green color scheme is widespread in the Napa Valley!

Since Meryll is an art collector, I’d convert her long hallway into a gallery, keeping the side walls white, but painting the end wall soft chartreuse and the ceiling dark purple. Trust me! With strategically placed spotlights aimed at her collection, the dark ceiling would turn into a starry night sky.

Tip: The right hue of white is crucial. While purple works with several whites, chartreuse does not. My Dracula Vampira-inspired design is best represented by Pratt & Lambert “Silver Lining”, “Soft String”, and “Black Magic”.

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