Palette Pleaser

January 2007

When artist Ellen Beller started working on her 3,200-square- foot home in Cherry Creek she was afraid she might go overboard with too much color, or end up displaying more of her extensive art collection than would be tasteful. She turned to Denver designer Dennis Leczinski for guidance. “I wanted him to rein me in,” she says.


Leczinski and Beller created a set of solutions for the challenges facing a homeowner who owns and loves art: how to display the pieces effectively, how to craft the home to be a work of art in its own right, and how to fill the house with furniture that reinforces the collection yet makes for a comfortable, livable home.


Leczinski knew that show-casing the art would require upgrading the built-ins and lighting from the basic package that builders typically provide. Lighting on art has to be carefully considered for intensity and color, so he specified recessed can fixtures with adjustable lenses, so when Beller changed her art she could change her lighting to fit. And for Beller’s large collection of glass and ceramic pieces, Leczinski designed built-ins in the living room with painted wood dividers and glass shelves. Halogen lighting provides tone-perfect colors in the pieces, many of which were made by Beller.


Light and display cases go a long way, but ultimately every designer faces a basic question when it comes to enhancing the art experience: Should the background color be white, which is what most museums do, or should it be a richly saturated tone that may bring a piece to life? “It’s the difference between humming and singing,” says Leczinski. White hums along noncommittally; colors stretch for the high notes. Beller and Leczinski found a middle ground—most of the walls are a middle gray, allowing any number of pieces to be changed out at will. But for one wall in each area Leczinski pulled out the Ralph Lauren color chart. Beller chose a Victor Vasarelly with a wide palette of colors and regions of red to dominate the living room wall, so Leczinski picked out the red and matched it with wall paint. For a large wall adjacent to the dining room table, Beller had selected a Barb Santucci rich with neutral grays and a lively recipe of grocery tones: tomato, cumin, and curry. Leczinski found an eggplant hue that brings out both the peppers and purples. And so on for the yellow in the master bedroom and the orange coloring the master bath. “Ellen lives for color,” says Leczinski, “and good design reflects the owner’s personality, never the designer’s.”