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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Art Deco Heaven at the Paramount Theater

Are you an Art Deco junkie like I am? If you're living or visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, you're never far from a Deco fix! My favorites are the movie theaters. In fact, if I can, I try to stay out of the multiplexes in favor of these gems. I'll give up state of the art sound for the architectural experience any day-even in a dark theater.

Photo from Library of Congress

I recently took a 2 hour tour of the Paramount Theater here in Oakland. Two hours may seem like a long tour, but for the obsessed, it means there is time to cover almost every detail AND time to pick the brain of the knowledgeable tour docents. (Sorry if some of my pictures don't do justice)

This was one of the last of the large Art Deco theaters to be built during the boom era of 1920's of Art Deco theater construction and one of the few on the West Coast from that era. It opened in 1931 to much fanfare before the Great Depression hit. Technically, the theater has some of the more streamlined elements of Art Moderne design with less emphasis on the conventional, geometrical design of pure Art Deco but it retains much of the floura/fauna popular with Deco. Architect Timothy Pflueger designed the Paramount as well as having a far reaching hand in much of the design in the Bay Area. He designed other nearby theaters such as the Fox Theater in Oakland and he even influenced the Bay Bridge design. His architecture also endures in some of the more fascinating buildings throughout San Francisco and surrounding cities. He wanted you to have the feeling of being in a redwood forest with waterfalls and stylized greenery when visiting the Paramount:

Going to the theater in the 1920's and 30's was a huge affair that often started out in the early days with a silent movie and Wurlitzer organ accompaniment. The Paramount also boasted a 16 piece orchestra!

Wurlitzer performance at the Oakland Paramount

Sometimes there was a vaudeville or acrobatic act, followed by Newsreel footage, a cartoon and finally a movie. The movie started to take over the live acts in time and sound came into the movies. After the 1930's, the great theater era slowly passed. TV became popular heading into the 1950's and the Paramount fell into disrepair. It closed in 1970. Others like its sister theaters, the Paramount and Fox Theaters of San Francisco, were simply demolished to make way for office space, condos and parking lots.

Theater Ceiling:

Painstaking work was done during it's restoration in the early 70's..... and again recently, to see that every detail was restored to it's original glory. My father tells me that he took me to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at the Paramount not long after it re-opened in the early 1970's but I'm saddened that I was too young to have any memory of this!

I love Art Deco colors and enjoy the often unusual combinations. Art Deco colors usually are described as being rich and cool. Even the warmer earth tones are cooled and muted down. You often see navy blues, mustards, tans, black, gray, orange-reds, sea greens and lots of metal, etched frosted glass and mirror. The pastel colors you see in Miami and other areas are a regional variation and associated with tropical Art Deco. Pflueger brought in a wealth of skilled artisans to work on his buildings including Diego Rivera. Although Rivera did not work on the Paramount, it is thought that his work was the inspiration the much of the color palette seen throughout the theater.

The main woman's powder room with hand painted designs was one of my favorites:

Even the men's restrooms were given the grand treatment:

Floor detail of Men's Lobby:

A fascinating detail of Art Deco design is the ever present Egyptian accents. This was due to the obsession with Egypt in the 1920's after the discovery of King Tut's tomb.

New carpet was recently replaced using the original 1930 pattern. Its original copyrighted pattern had expired so they were able to use it.....unlike the slightly different version from the 1970's whose now defunct carpet manufacturer still holds the copyright.

This mural had to be painstakingly recreated due to extensive water damage. This was the women's smoking room. Women still did not often smoke in public in the 1930's so they escaped to this darkly lit room to light up!

My son's friend peeks through one of the fanciest portholes ever imagined to view the lobby level:

It's nothing short of breathtaking to walk into the lobby and into another world and era. Amid the sad tales of demolished or closed Deco gems, a success story was the recently remodeled and reopened Pflueger designed Alameda Theater (where I see most of my movies since the Paramount is mainly now a concert venue)......but more on that in a future Deco post! If you wish to tour the Paramount, you can on the first and third Saturdays each month.

Let me know if I can make your space come to life with color.....color to reflect your style!
510-381-3688 or ColorMarie.com

Monday, May 3, 2010

When Even Your Best Guess Requires a Do-Over!

It's a well known fact in the color community that we color professionals either experiment excessively with our own homes or ignore them until we can't bear to look at them anymore. I have until recently, fallen into the latter category. It's also a fact that even we can misjudge a color. When our family moved to Montclair Village almost a decade ago, I had the entire interior repainted. While I had some education in interior design, I was a stay-at-home mom at the time. I had not yet stumbled upon the incomparable training of the International Association of Color Consultants (IACC-NA) nor had I any interest in going back to work. I quickly picked out colors for each room and ended up without any major disasters despite the fact that I did not know how to test colors and was in a hurry-well, I was 7 months pregnant with a toddler under foot! It took awhile to find the perfect glossy red for my dining room but other than that, I was very motivated. I was eager to cover up a house of wall paper; wild jungle paper, flocked paper, wall paper with waterfall pictures and dingy, dingy paint everywhere else. At first the painter was dismayed and angry about all the colors I picked out and couldn't figure out why I wanted each room a distinct color. After he finished, he saw the end results of my strange choices and asked me to do color consulting for him! With baby number 2 on the way, I politely declined. Guess it must have planted a seed in my head for future days! The jungle wallpaper entry and hallway was painted a warm white at the time because it was my answer to flowing things in regard to the other rooms meeting up with it. I also thought it would make the heavy wood presence throughout the entry and hallway calm down a bit.
Fast forward nearly a decade. One son is now in middle school and the other is more than halfway through elementary school. I was about to host a school fundraiser recently and looked in dismay at my now blotchy, dirty white entry and hallway. Although people are frequently over to our home, this dinner set me on edge as many of these folks had not been in my house........ yet they know I'm a colorist-yikes, what poor advertising! I set about testing and imagining new colors. I settled on gold-green Henderson Buff (HC-15) from Benjamin Moore. I loved how it modernized the overwhelming oranegish oak paneling. I was also intrigued by Bainbridge Blue (749) and took a leap of faith on this deep blue for a bold accent. My trusty painter Carlos showed up and within a few hours my hallway was transformed! Carlos and I agree it looked lovely! Then as night falls, I am shocked as my hallway slowly turns bright greenish! This didn't show on my test boards. While I realized this color has a lot of green, I underestimated how that will amplify in a small, dark room where it will reflect off itself. Aha! I've heard of this happening but now I'm seeing it! Also, my husband mentions that he had changed out all the bulbs in that area of the house to compact fluorescent bulbs. So we are basically adding a layer of blue to the yellow which equals more green. Even my kids express surprise at the color shift!
While I distractedly attended my Photoshop class that night, my dear, patient husband went out and picked up a few different packages of incandescent bulbs. Don't get me wrong, we are quite environmental-but the compact bulbs will have to take up residence in other rooms for now. While the Henderson Buff definitely looked less green under new lighting, it still looks like a stronger color than I had anticipated, even the next day in natural light. I still love it, just not on ALL the walls. More testing and planning.....I decided to redo two walls in Revere Pewter to cut down on the strength (much grayer than pictured here).
Carlos patiently returned and finished applying the new paint within an hour. It immediately made a huge difference! I still get the strong colors I want without the intensity. I am reminded that picking and testing colors is taking an educated guess, no guarantees. Glad this guess ended up a win. Next to go is the taupe in the adjoining living room, stay tuned!