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 more deep-seated unfulfilled need that her great success would never fill.
Ellen Kennon: Finding the Key to Her Secret Garden
Whenever work became a little overwhelming, Kennon would flee to the embrace of the park's cool metal fence against her 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 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 color with clients from around the world.
Color Profile: Ellen Kennon Of Full Spectrum Paints
This designer's ability to envision shades, not on the ordinary color palette has garnered a faithful following for Full Spectrum Paints. The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, Southern Accents, and HGTV are a few of the many media outlets who have given the product a shoutout.
What makes Full Spectrum Paints different. Ellen's paint formulas include many pigments rather than the standard two or three. By eliminating black and blending many pure pigments, her paints an amazing chameleon-like quality that transforms appearance under different types of light.
Kennon says everyone has an untapped gift.
"I was lucky to have quickly realized 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 to work with me. Once Architectural Digest featured my line, we started getting 50 phone calls a day! It's been wonderful."
Kennon knows that all color has energy. She believes creating any space is about using that energy to recreate a feeling from nature. She says her calling is to help people design spaces where they will feel comfortable.
"I must create spaces that are life-enhancing rather than something that simply 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 a 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 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 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 for 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."
Feature Image Credit: Full Spectrum Paints