Color is an exact science, but its nature and our perception of it change with time, place, and juxtaposition. “When you talk about historical colors, you see them through the lens of the community you live in,” says interior designer Tim Gosling. “When you look at Charlton Heston’s version of Ben HurIt’s hysterical, because it’s a story about the Romans in Jerusalem in the first century, but all the colors [now feel] Incredibly sixties. Color is baked in every age it becomes fashionable.”
Gosling started his career working with a furniture maker David Linley And now we create interiors for luxury yachts and London hotels such as The Goring and The Berkeley. He’s been on a period of time recently, sitting on the floor of one of the 57 rooms in the Normandy chateau he bought with fiancé Steve Holmes three years ago, mixing new paint colors on his walls.
Dating back to 1820, the palace was remodeled by the designer of the Ritz in Paris, Georges Farsi, in 1910 and the Safari family moved in a year later. Its vast halls were occupied by the Nazis during World War II, and later by General Eisenhower. The house ended up in the hands of wealthy Americans from Hawaii, who finally abandoned it 20 years ago, defeated by the impossibility of heating it to a livable temperature.
Currently, Gosling’s 82-year-old mother is working on scaffolding to help gild the gates and tend to the exterior details outside the main entrance, while the roofs, walkways and epic garden have been restored little by little. Elaborate Madame de Pompadour wallpaper by Schumacher is hung inside and a wide draped tapestry telling the story of the gods’ triumph by Zardi & Zardi is woven for the dining room.
Driving the entire project is the color palette that Gosling created for the house, which attempts to recreate shades with historical meaning. Twelve of these are now sold by British paint company Graphenstone as The Restoration Château Collection.
All colors are based on the clothes of a woman depicted in a 17th century painting by an unknown artist that Gosling purchased for the Grand Palais Salon. “There’s a lot of lace on her clothes, with spots of aubusson reds and French blues,” says Gosling, who talks about how dyes developed in different ways on different sides of the English Channel.
He says geography has a lot to do with how you perceive color — the light that inspired Titian in Veneto is very different from that of Texas, for example. But more than anything else, it is chemistry that determines how color is displayed and therefore perceived.
“The colors that came on the market from the 17th to the 19th century were related to technical innovation,” he says. The Royal Society hosted lectures on the science and composition of paint, “where Mr. Turner—not the artist—invented Turner Yellow, which would not oxidize, and which [architect] Use John Swan.
Gosling was particularly fascinated with vegetables that came from Paris and Versailles between the 1880s and 1880s. When Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele developed a new vibrant green in 1775, it became all the rage. Its striking tone came from a unique chemical structure – heated sodium carbonate and the addition of copper sulfate, but the magic ingredient was arsenic.
Napoleon’s love of poisonous green may have contributed to his death. Interestingly, Turner’s Yellow is thought to be a version of an earlier Scheele concoction, mixing chlorine and oxygen.
You can describe Gosling’s new range of paints as “Regency,” a word closely associated with his work thus far. But apart from the popularity of a variety of bright colors at the end of the Georgian era, the term is amorphous—many of the dyes popular in 1811 have been around for years. It has suddenly become fashionable to use them frequently.
“Quite often terms like ‘regency’ are used, but they don’t make sense,” says a color historian. Patrick Bateauthor color anatomy. I am worried about the word ‘restore’. [too] Because it usually just means “rejuvenate”.
While Gosling’s drawing of Graphenstone’s name uses the term “restoration,” the project is, in fact, a playful and personal interpretation of historical ideas. Despite their attempt at originality, the paints are quite new. Graphenstone’s biggest marketing strategy is to use graphene – a material made up of a hexagonal layer of carbon atoms – which studies show is capable of absorbing carbon dioxide. Graphenstone claims that a 15-liter container of biosphere paint can absorb up to 5.5 kg of CO2 while it is treated on the finished surface.
Advances in paint production were necessary but problematic. “The industry went through painful changes between 2000 and 2010, when oil-based emulsions were replaced by acrylic emulsions,” says Patty. Finishing qualities have suffered as a result of the regulations, but Patty says that many in the industry are currently making a concerted effort to improve their products.
It makes faithful repainting near impossible. “In the past, I’ve tried recreating historical paints with pigments that no longer exist, but even something like the pH of water varies today, so you can’t do that,” says Patty. “And why? You will end up with something flawed and toxic.”
The goal, as Gosling sees it, is to achieve something significantly better than what was there before, at a time when goals continue to move in terms of acceptable production methods. After all, even if a historical color could be faithfully replicated, trying to recreate the effect of how that color was first received is futile.
“It is impossible to imagine what it was like in the 19th century when I walked into a room painted the new bright yellow,” he says. In 2009, researchers at Oregon State University created a new blue color called YInMn Blue. “It’s a deep, dark color that’s almost glowing. Now, I can’t imagine what it would be like if I walked into a room painted that color, because no one has done it yet.”
Gosling says the process of mixing and testing colors at the Palace was a long one, but then thought was given to how widely a particular color was used in the space, then what to call it. “We had to figure out what might work for an entire room, and what you might use just for the door,” he says.
One of the new colors, the Aquitania Ocean Dawn – which Gosling describes as “a green with lots of blue” – is named after the Cunard ocean liner that first sailed from Liverpool to New York in 1914.
The staircase of the Grand Palais – one of the features the Nazis were unable to strip when they passed through (they looted all the heating appliances) – is the same design, made by the same hands and factory, as the first-class staircase on the inlay.
Much of the fun of your new paint set comes from how each color works with one another. A deep green, Madame Pompadour’s taffeta creates a dynamic bloom alongside the lighter Aquitania. “I’ve thought a lot about how the colors would complement each other in the rug’s weave,” Gosling says, and tried to create colors that blend in in a similar way.
Much of the color palette was tested at Gosling’s home in Clapham, southwest London, which he uses as a sort of lab, repainting over and over to experiment with subtle nuances of tone. It can reveal color vision at the site.
For example, when I first saw the color Inner Shell Pink on a color swatch card for its new paint, I found it pretty but unremarkable. However, when placed against the wall panel behind Gosling’s four-poster bed, framed by contrasting panels of another new color, Eucalyptus Haze, and with a pastel Le Brun portrait hung in the middle, the result is like having an insatiable candy to the teeth and looking through the windows of Ladurée .
“One of the most amazing things about this project is that we have all the documentation about the building,” Gosling says, as he unfolds plans with interior walls detailed in pale pink, then takes out a box full of receipts and orders for historical fixtures and fittings.
Also, all the furniture was hidden away in storage [at the start of the war]. The family had put everything in a barn, untouched for decades. We’re talking about things that are designed to match all the plasterwork and marble fireplaces.”
Belle Époque treasures that Gosling discovered included original crystal chandeliers, solid rosewood pieces, and a Three Graces clock. While the concept of “color restoration” may be fanciful, restoring furniture is systematic, and it’s something Gosling is subtle about.
In London’s Gosling Library – which is home to a scale model of both the palace and the cruise ship Aquitania – there are pieces from the palace he is restoring, including the candelabra he is boiling clean, and the dazzling elements of those crystal chandeliers. There are also piles of photographs detailing the Savary family’s life at home, as well as disturbing images of the mansion’s occupation during the early 1940s.
“We’ve found the most amazing stuff,” Gosling says. “We found Nazi papers stuffed into the heating vents – passes you need to be able to go out to buy food.” When special forces shoot Pierre Savary, Gosling discovers that his wife Lucien managed to escape with their children and did not return until after the war. D-Day is dropped off a half hour drive away.
“Everything looks like Downton Abbeybut from real life.” “We became friends with the kids of the kids who ran away, Maud and Brigitte. It was great having them at home and telling us what they remember.”
The palace has witnessed 200 eventful years. What will the next 200 look like? Currently, Gosling and Holmes have over 25,000 followers on Tweet embed An Instagram account after his new ride watches 57 rooms slowly take shape, taking on the grandeur and glow they once would have.
Of course, there will come a day when the project will be completed – and there will be plenty of room to live in. Looking at the original blueprints, Gosling points out distractions in the original design: “There were 11 servants living here, and the pool room is directly opposite their bedrooms,” he says. “There is also a bedroom for Charles de Gaulle because he was a friend of the family.”
So how will Gosling and Holmes ultimately use a much more important weekend home than London? “Oh, we couldn’t think of that,” Gosling says. “There’s a lot to do first!”