Delicious Autumn

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“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”  — George Eliot

By Ellen Gilbert 

Reader advisory:  This article will not provide the last word in what to wear, cook, or how to decorate your house this fall.  It. turns out that there are many, many opinions about what is au courant for every aspect of our lives (all year round, actually).  This may be a disappointment for those needing guidance, but free spirits may consider this conclusion a boon.

Blues and Spicy Mustard

“Fall colors” are traditionally associated with the reds, oranges, and yellows of changing leaves, pumpkins, and crisp apples.

But maybe not.

“The desire for tranquility, strength, and optimism have inspired a Fall 2016 color palette that is led by the Blue family,” declares Pantone’s’ Color Institute, which is “devoted to the study [of] how color influences human thought processes, emotions and physical reactions.”  A research and information center that “shares its expertise with professionals in a variety of industries including fashion, commercial/industrial, contract and interior design, graphic arts, advertising, film and education,” the Pantone institute “has considerable name recognition, and is used as a resource by the world’s most influential media.”

Along with “anchoring earth tones,” Pantone suggests you try “exuberant pops of vibrant colors also appear throughout the collections. Transcending gender, these unexpectedly vivacious colors in our Fall 2016 palette act as playful but structured departures from your more typical fall shades.”  Leatrice Eiseman, the Institute’s Executive Director, points out that for this fall, “Spicy Mustard Yellows suggest a touch of the exotic.”

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The Power of White

New York-based interior designer Jill Jurgensen’s focus is on creating homes that look good in any season.  In her private practice and her job as a consultant to Janovic/Benjamin Moore, she’s more enthusiastic about “gentle whites” in every season.

Indeed, Benjamin Moore has declared white the color of the year, but not just any white; there are over 250 whites in the current catalogue.  “White has always been a hugely important color in architecture,” says a Moore video tribute to white.  “It is able to exhibit the shadows; the darks, the lights; to help us appreciate the forum of the shape itself.

“White doesn’t go in and out of style,” the video suggests. “It can be elevated to a design tool.   Once you start to see the nuances of the color, the look is very elegant, very refined, and very deliberate,“ the video continues.

“White is transcendent, timeless, its versatility unrivaled,” says Benjamin Moore Creative Director Ellen O’Neill.  “From weathered wainscoting to crisp canvas shades, porcelain tile to picket fences, white is everywhere in every form.”

Jurgensen agrees with the philosophy that one should “never underestimate the power of pristine.  White can be art gallery modern, country house classic or spring flower romantic.”

The video ends with a touch of poetry, hailing white as “the silent hero.”

“Shades of the Dead”

FashionTrendsetter.com’s take on this autumn’s color preferences has a decidedly intentional edge. “Our main inspiration has driven from one of the symbols of Halloween; the jack-o’-lanterns –representing the souls of the dead.” This “online fashion and color forecasting, trend reporting and news e-zine” is keen on “warm hues of pumpkin orange,” as well as reds and yellows accompanied by “the color codes of other inspirational items such as candy apples, caramel corn, novelty candy – shaped like skulls and bats.”  The chills continue: “the dark side of the night has the signature hues on our palettes with purples, browns and deep sunset hues.”

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What to Wear

The “Fashion Snoops” at ConnectFashion.com identify six key palettes for the coming months. “Terrain, saturated earth colors make the most influential mark, notably due to the comeback of brown tones.  Frontier neutrals are notably darker than before,” they say, while Impulse offers a vibrant palette of brights” and mystery offers jewel tones, with burgundy and cyan at the forefront.”  It is good to be reassured that  “nostalgia mid-tones are decidedly more vibrant.”

 In case you were wondering about the Fashion Snoops’ use of the word “terrain,” there’s an effort at clarification:  “as the name implies, terrain yields a complete palette of saturated earth tones,” with brown making a “major comeback,” along with and warmer tones like cognac and coppertone.  Keep in mind that “both camel and toffee are key to the Terrain palette, positioned as influential outerwear colors,” and that “marigold yellow and red rust add a spice component.”  Oh, and one last thing: “greens are also leveraged, from an olive base to light pea.”

 If all this is too confusing, it’s reassuring to know that Stylecaster.com has declared “the biggest trend” observed during Fashion Week in New York City recently “appeared to be not really paying attention to the season at all. Blame it on the exceptionally warm weather most of the U.S. faced this winter, but nearly every designer presented fall collections that felt springlike in nature—slinky slip dresses, billowy off-the-shoulder tops, florals, and strapless tops.”

Apple Days

Those longing for more traditional autumnal hues and experiences will be reassured by the continued existence of places like Princeton’s venerable Terhune Orchards.  While seasonal fruit is available all year-round, fall is a bonanza for Terhune and other local farm stands where bright orange pumpkins, many-colored gourds, and an amazing variety of apples are in abundance.  Keep in mind that September is the best month for Gala, JonaMac, Jonathan, McIntosh, Liberty, and Red and Golden Delicious varieties.  Stayman Winesap, Braeburn, Cameo, Sun Crisp, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady apples are in their prime in October.

Installation view of "Making Design." Photo: Matt Flynn © 2014 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Installation view of “Making Design.” Photo: Matt Flynn © 2014 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Interactive

For a hands-on experience with colors in any season, the Immersion Room at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in Manhattan offers what it touts as “a unique experience.”  Using a “Pen,” viewers can “select wallpapers from the Museum’s permanent collection and see them projected on the walls from floor to ceiling,” making for “a vibrant, impactful, immersive experience.” Visitors “can even play designer by creating your own designs, or just stand back and watch as the wallpapers unfold across the room.”

More than “just entertainment,” the Immersion Room provides “the first opportunity to discover Cooper Hewitt’s wallcoverings as they were intended to be viewed,” we’re told.  Wallpaper highlights include a damask-style sidewall design called “City Park” (2007) that contains “strikingly” modern imagery, including a fire hydrant, parking meter, pigeons and rats; a 1928 sidewall design called “Sahara” that depicts mounds of desert sand interspersed with camel caravans; a fuzzy flocked op art sidewall called “Razzamatazz,” as well as sidewall design entitled “Hunt Trophy and Floral Arabesque” (ca. 1785), acquired by founding Cooper Hewitt collectors Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt.

 If a trip into Manhattan isn’t on your schedule, the Cooper Hewitt also has an interactive, color-based online site that enables viewers to find representative colors of many objects in their collections.  Old artifacts collide with new technology as museum curators explain how the colors included on this website were by “robotic eye machines” that scoured each image in “small chunks” to create color averages. These were then “harvested and ‘snapped.’”  A click on the color “Indian red,” for example, yields Dyer’s RecordBook (USA), from the Museum’s Textiles Collection made of cardboard, paper and wood by the Old Pacific Print Works in 1870; there are 207 images of
this object.

The folks at Benjamin Moore will be glad to learn that the Cooper Hewitt has 1,149 objects that overlap with the color “white.”  These include a Panton Stacking Side Chair, designed in 1960 and manufactured by the Herman Miller Furniture Company and Vitra AG.in 1972 using injection molded thermoplastic.

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Children’s Books

For basic, color-full Fall facts, there’s nothing like children’s books with simple names like Colors of Fall, in which authors like Laura Purdie Salas report that a jack-o’lantern isn’t just an orange pumpkin with a face carved into it, but that “in ancient Ireland, people used to carve turnips, beets and potatoes.”  It was Irish settlers in the United States who found out “that pumpkins worked even better.”  In a starred review, Kirkus described Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn as “one of the most comprehensive books about autumn available for kids.” Goldstone, we are told, enjoys two autumns a year: the first in May, in Buenos Aires and the second in October, in New York City.  Not exactly Eliot’s “successive autumns,” but still a pretty good deal.