capturing the mood

September 4th 2014 Comments: 5 Topics: ,

Recently in the September 2014 House Beautiful magazine article “Dark and Light,” Susan Ferrier, Partner in McAlpine Booth Ferrier, was quoted as saying, “…we’re always less about decorating, more about capturing a mood.”
Our challenge as Architects and Interior Designers is to communicate that mood – the design vision – to our clients as well as to the contractors and craftsmen who see the design through, bringing it to reality.

Color and texture, what we refer to as “finish,” is central to this design vision, whether it is for the exterior of a house, the color of a room, or the surface of a cabinet door. We have found that a poetic description can communicate the vision and help capture the mood.

– Sometimes a chosen paint for a room has less to do with the actual color (e.g. Bleeker Beige or Dragon’s Breath) and more to do with a feeling or emotion. We wanted this room to wrap around you like a cashmere blanket.


– Common materials, ones that we all know, can also describe desired colors or textures. The wood siding is painted a charcoal-brown that matches pine tree bark.


And this house literally is sided with bark shingles so that it sits silently and peacefully in the woods of North Carolina.

Hobbs 2-26-14 006

A stucco house emulates the color and texture of a brown paper grocery bag.


– There are times when the mood is more elusive, so we rely on more evocative phrases. Bobby McAlpine is famous for coming up with these, and two of my favorite are:
The stucco exterior is to look like “candlelight.”


The plaster wall should look like “the belly of a Siamese cat.”


– Sometimes we want an element of sparkle in the midst of other materials. This metal handrail is meant to shimmer.


– Sometimes we have to fight the “brand new” feeling of freshly painted walls and trim, so we want a finish to feel old and timeless. This ceiling was called out to be flat and dull, like chalk.


Fortunately, we continually work with talented painters, finishers and craftsmen who take our challenge and execute it. They take our nebulous descriptions…..

– It needs more movement
– I’m not seeing enough depth
– That stain needs to be happier
– That stone sample is too talkative

….. and they help us create magic – colors and textures that intrigue and excite, that are subtle and elegant, that can calm the soul….
That create and capture the mood.

John Sease


  1. Kris Kendrick says:

    Love this, John! In my industry, I get interesting descriptors of the ‘wants’ as well – though they are not nearly as elegant…

  2. I am going to remember “talkative” next time a client brings me one of those crazy granite samples! Wonderful discourse as always!!

  3. “The belly of a Siamese cat”? How does he come up with this stuff? LOL
    You guys are the best. Great writing John.

  4. David Alls says:

    Any chance you might share the formula for the brown paper bag color? Or perhaps a color consult?


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