St. Francisville — Ellen Kennon thinks in colors.
So many paint colors that she started her own line of full-spectrum paints that are now sold to homeowners and designers all over the country.
It’s an amazing business that Kennon operates from a cabin in the woods where she lives outside St. Francisville.
“I never advertise. It just happened,” says the successful interior designer, whose paints have been featured in House Beautiful 10 times and twice in Architectural Digest.
Her interest in paints developed while working as a designer in New York City for three years in the 1980s. She learned about paint from Donald Kaufman, who started a full-spectrum paint line in New York.
“With regular paints, you create most colors with two or three pigments with one almost always black,” Kennon explains. “Full-spectrum paints combine a minimum of seven pigments, but black is not one of them.”
Kennon lived in New York for three years, but by 1989, she had had enough.
“I missed nature,” she says. “My dad had been sick. I thought for the amount of money I was spending in New York, I could have a house in the country.”
That year, she purchased a 7½-acre tract surrounded by two ravines and a creek and designed her house.
“My father gave me $50,000 and said, ‘I think you can build a house for that,’” she recalls.
The original house was 1,160 square feet with a small master bedroom, a large great room/kitchen combination, a 37-by-12-foot screened porch/dining room, a tiny guest bedroom with two built-in Dutch beds and a deep back deck. An iron staircase from the living room leads to a loft, where Kennon has her office.
Fifteen years ago, she added a large bedroom for her daughter, Alexandra, who recently graduated from college freeing up the large room for her mother.
Kennon’s exquisite paint colors star throughout the home.
The living room walls are buttercream with ashen green trim.
“I like to use green on woodwork in a country setting because it pulls your eye to the outside,” she says. “Green on woodwork is also easier to keep clean.”
The small rooms are painted with what she calls “saturated bright colors to turn small spaces like powder rooms, closets and cabinets into little jewel boxes.”
Kennon admits that she likes neutral colors better.
“My prettiest neutrals are more chameleon-like, no color colors,” she says. “I think those colors pull the furniture in a room together.”
Kennon has also developed a palette of strong colors for clients like New York artist Hunt Slonem, who “had to have some color.” Kennon selected the colors for rooms in the LSU Museum of Art’s massive exhibit “Hunt Slonem: Antebellum Pop!” on display through Aug. 5.
When clients call Kennon’s business, Ellen Kennon Full Spectrum Paints, for color advice, she first asks, “How do you want to feel in the space?”
Kennon works with clients by phone, email and through her website to come up with the colors and quantities.
Clients purchase their paints through Kennon, who sends her highly secret formulas to the nearest PPG paint store, where the paints are picked up.
When Kennon started her paint business in 2001, she thought she would eventually have to commute from St. Francisville to New York, where many of the designers who use her colors have their studios.
“Within days of the first mention of the paints in Architectural Digest, I was getting 50 phone calls a days,” she says. “I learned I could work from home, and once I started spending time here, I never wanted to leave.”