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Phillip Thomas: Designing with Green

It’s a good time to go green, and we’re not just talking about energy efficiency. On St. Patrick’s Day, it seems like the whole world is embracing the color. But, the truth is, green has been everywhere in 2017, especially when it comes to interiors. Pantone’s Color of the Year, Greenery, was just the start. From emerald to sage to olive, green is transforming many of our most chic residential spaces today.

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Photo by Michelle Williams

We tapped renowned interior designer Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of his eponymous New York-based firm, to learn more about why cool green is so hot this year. You only have to gaze at the curved, lacquered green, 1940s Maison Jansen desk he used in “Lady Lair,” his widely praised Kips Bay Decorator Show House room, to see how the hue can bring interest and inspiration to an entire room.

Previews Inside Out When it comes to color, what’s your motto?

Phillip Thomas One should not fear color. Instead, one should embrace it. Color has incredible way of transforming a space and the individual experiencing the space. Color comes in many forms. There is the conventional spectrum of saturated colors. Nevertheless, even neutral colors can be colorful; there are so many subtle differences between neutral shades creating multiple colors even within a neutral interior.

Previews Inside Out What’s your general feeling about the color green?

Phillip Thomas Every time I am asked about the color green, I always think back to my college days studying Spanish literature where the color green was often used to symbolize life. I have carried this attitude toward green with me in to my designs. Green can have a transformative effect.

BLOG_23_Bedroom_2_Phillip Thomas_Photo Credit_Michael Mundy

Previews Inside Out Can green be luxurious?

Phillip Thomas As with all colors, there are so many varieties of green in the world. Just look out your window and mother nature can illustrate this. Within these varieties, there are many shades of green that I consider luxurious from more neutral “olive” green tones to vibrant “emerald” green tones.

Previews Inside Out What are some of your favorite shades and tones of green to work with, and why?

Phillip Thomas With a fundamentally brown undertone to it, Sage Green can be a wonderful way of introducing a touch of color to an otherwise neutral interior. It has a wonderful depth and elegance while not overwhelming of dominating a space. I am currently designing a library for a client overlooking New York’s Central Park with a sage green satin lacquered library. While providing color to the space, the green does not compete with the green palette of the Park beyond.

Olive Green is a color that I enjoy using. It can have yellow undertones in it which helps to reflect light and create glow. I am in the process of completing a library on New York City’s Park Avenue. With no view and a north facing exposure, I turned to olive green to ignite the space. The room is lacquered in a mirror finish, high gloss French beca-lacquer which gives the room a tremendous glow and depth. This green will be the backdrop for a chic palettes of blacks, chocolate brown, golds, oranges and greens. I can’t wait to finish this space.

Emerald Green is a magical color. It has a vibrance to it which can energize the imagination and provide a dramatic backdrop for an interior. I just finished a golf simulator room for a client here in New York. The emerald green turf that we installed in the space has become the color to unify the entire interior of the apartment. It is spectacular!

Previews Inside Out Which shades just don’t work for you, no matter what?

Phillip Thomas In my work as an interior designer, I feel strongly that there are no shades or colors that do not work. You cannot think of a specific color within a vacuum but instead one must think of it within the context of the space that you are designing. Color has relationships with other colors around them. These surrounding colors can affect ones attitude toward other colors.

Previews Inside Out When do you find it most appropriate to add green into a space? Is it a feeling you’re wanting to achieve?

Phillip Thomas I like to think of my interiors as a reflection of my clients and their personalities. As we start our design journey, I always like to see what colors they are attracted towards and which they are less inclined toward. If they are drawn toward a specific color, such as green, I try to incorporate that color in their interiors.

Previews Inside Out Do you take a different approach to green for different spaces? Like, for a kitchen, you might do a deeper or richer green, but for a bedroom, you might do a muted green?

Phillip Thomas There are no rules to how one uses color in an interior. It is truly on a case by case basis. This applies to green. Some interior design projects tend to be more muted using neutral shades of color while others tend toward being more vibrant with saturated, colorful tones. On one project, I may choose to use a more subtle green for a kitchen, while on another project, I may choose something more lively for a kitchen. Anything goes!

Previews Inside Out Is green making a comeback? A few years ago, Pantone declared Emerald as the color of the year. This year, they went with a zesty yellow-green shade called “Greenery.” 

Phillip Thomas After so many years on neutral, monochromatic interiors, I think color in general is making a comeback. One definitely sees that green is taking a pivotal position within this color resurgence.

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Previews Inside Out That daring wall you painting green in the living room…it looks pretty close to “Greenery.” How did you find your inspiration for that? You are brave!

Phillip Thomas I love that Living Room! The inspiration for that color was completely client driven. When we started the project, the husband joked with me that the concept for their home was quite simple: “wasp and gin and tonic”. To that end, the color of the walls was inspired by the color of the rind of a lime.

Previews Inside Out In general, what are your clients’ feelings about green? Are they afraid of it?

Phillip Thomas As with all colors, people have strong reactions toward specific colors. They either love them or hate them. This applies to green. Once they have an aversion to a color, it is very hard to convince them otherwise. Nevertheless, there are so many colors in the rainbow to choose from so I have no trouble finding a color that they love.

04_Living Room_PTINC_Photo Credit_ Peter Murdock

Previews Inside Out What is the most important thing to remember about infusing a space with green?

Phillip Thomas The most important rule to remember is that there are no rules. Do what you feel comfortable with and what brings you joy. You interior will only benefit from this.

Previews Inside Out What’s the one myth about green you wish to dispel right now?

Phillip Thomas I have heard on many occasions that people don’t like to use green in their interiors because it makes them look “sick”. I always laugh when I hear this. There are many shades of green in the world. The task is to find the one(s) that ignite a positive feeling in the individual inhabiting a space.

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Phillip Thomas: Designing with Green

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