Ellen Kennon might not have had a key, but that didn’t keep her from peering through the bars of New York’s Gramercy Park. The private green space was around the corner from her concrete apartment, but it might as well have been a million miles away. Working as a high profile designer for a litany of who’s who, she didn’t realize her longing for greenery signaled a deeper unfulfilled need that her magnificent success would never fill.
Whenever work became a little overwhelming, Kennon would flee to the embrace of the park’s cool metal fence against her warm face. The weaving trees would ease her mind as nature’s breeze lifted her spirit. She didn’t realize then that Mother Earth was quietly calling her name, and she most certainly didn’t know a twist of fate was about to bring her a life-changing epiphany.
“I went away to a friend’s parents’ farm for the weekend,” begins Kennon, captivating one with her soft spirit. “With the rolling hills and trees, something inside me started to click. As I got ready to get on the bus to go back to the city, I picked up a newspaper. On the front page there were reports of steam heat pipes bursting through the streets right near my home. I took that as a sign. I needed to get back to nature.”
Kennon left the concrete jungle in 1989 for a quieter lifestyle in her home state of Louisiana. Leaving behind a thriving fast-paced career, she started her own line of Full Spectrum Paints as well as the quaint Shadetree Inn on a dreamy acreage. Since then, she has been sharing her vision and philosophy about colour with clients from around the world.
This designer’s ability to envision shades not on the ordinary color palette has garnered a faithful following. Full Spectrum Paints have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Southern Accents Magazine, and HGTV websites just to name a few. Her paints are created from several colors rather than the standard two or three. This gives them an amazing chameleon-like quality that transforms in different lights and spaces. Kennon says everyone has an untapped gift.
“I was lucky to have realized quickly that color was my greatest talent,” purrs Kennon with her warm, comforting voice. “Within a year I went from pouring little jars in my laundry room to having to hire several local ladies. Once I was featured in Architectural Digest, we started getting 50 phone calls a day! It’s been wonderful.”
Kennon believes that all color has an energy. She believes creating any space is about recreating a feeling from nature. She says her calling is about helping people design spaces that they feel comfortable in.
“I have an obligation to create spaces that are life-enhancing rather than something that just looks good in magazines. For instance, if you are trying to recreate sunlight in a room, it would make sense for that space to become healing. This work is much bigger than me. I am just the vehicle.”
Just like any designer, Kennon has her own favorites ways to use light and color. She uses many sky blues in bedrooms and on ceilings but tends to avoid dark blue because it can be depressing. Yellow is also a favorite because it stimulates communication, intellect and creativity. From her paint line, customers just love Buttercream, Edgewood Green, Gustavian Grey and Mushroom for their mist-like qualities.
Kennon is inspired solely by nature saying we are meant to live as one with Mother Earth rather than in self-contained environments. She never uses white to frame windows because she wants the eye to carry toward the view rather than be drawn back into the space. Kennon says creating your own perfect area isn’t as difficult as most people imagine.
“Picture your favorite place in nature and try to recreate it. Do what feels best to you. It’s as simple as that. Paint is the cheapest way to enhance any space.”
It’s good advice from someone with over 25 years of successful experience, but even with all the glory, Kennon is more grounded than ever. Her attitude is one of grateful acceptance. Her voice resonates with insight and compassion, never with arrogance or grandeur. Perhaps her greatest joy is finally having her own personal Gramercy Park.
“I say thank you all day long. Everywhere I look I see trees and no other people. I am so lucky. Everyone is on a spiritual search. Mine started when I left New York and Gramercy Park. It’s been a serendipitous magic carpet ride ever since.”