In Praise of Happy Color—Lilly Pulitzer

 original Lilly Pulitzer shop in Palm Beach

Benjamin Moore colors: Margarita 2026-20; Tawny Day Lilly 2012-10;  Jack Frost 729; Richmond Green 553

Where it all began: Lilly Pulitzer in the original Lilly Pulitzer shop in Palm Beach, circa 1961. And what it has inspired: This sitting room, furnished in vintage tropical with a fanciful flock of patterns and colors, has character and joy to spare. “Lilly Pulitzer made using a mix of bright colors acceptable and, as a result of her influence, chic,” says Stefani de Laville, whose Palm Beach firm, Coco House & Company, designed this home’s interiors. Walls in Margarita, accented with Tawny Day Lilly in high gloss; cove ceiling in Jack Frost, trimmed in Richmond Green in high gloss.
Images: lillypulitzer.com and courtesy of cocohouseandcompany.com

Color can make you happy. If anyone doubts that they should take a look at the creations of Lilly Pultitzer, the socialite and fashion designer who died earlier this month. Lilly Pulitzer had a colorful life…in every meaning of the term. Who doesn’t know the wacky palette of bold and juicy hues she concocted quite incidentally for her little line of sleeveless shifts more than 50 years ago? Founded on the notion that life’s a party (and clothing stains should be camouflaged), everything about the “Lilly look”—which includes an exuberant mix of tropical prints, jungle characters and hallucination-making florals—was designed to be the sartorial embodiment of fun. Which got us thinking about the influence her iconic collection of spirited colors and daffy patterns has had on interior design. (And we’re not talking about her namesake brand expanding into Housewares.) “Style isn’t just about what you wear, it’s about how you live,” a rather prescient Lilly is quoted as saying decades ago. With that in mind, a little tribute to a woman who was as crazy for color as we are … and maybe some pointers on how to find “color happiness.”

Lilly Pulitzer Aqua pink shift and aqua sofa

Benjamin Moore color: Chantilly Lace 2121-70

Contrast is the divining principle of the Lilly palette. “Her colors are all very pure, and her background color is the crispest white,” says interior designer Meg Braff whose living room pays visual homage to the Lilly Pulitzer color-rich sensibility of cool. On the walls, the crisp, clean white of Chantilly Lace.
Images: Pinterest and courtesy of megbraffinteriors.com.

Keni Valenti and Lilly Pulitzer  Exhibit

Benjamin Moore color: Tropics CSP-640

“Lilly Pulitzer was the Emilio Pucci of America,” says Keni Valenti, referring to the legendary Italian couturier whose mid-Century fashions were synonymous with kaleidoscopic colors and geometric prints. Valenti, fashion designer-turned-fashion historian/collector/curator, is shown with (and in!) pieces from his personal collection of vintage Lilly Pulitzer men’s wear. Valenti recently opened a Lilly Pulitzer Retrospective, which runs through July 8, 2013, at his eponymous gallery in Miami (for information: kenivalenti.com). “Fashion is art, after all,” says Valenti, who had everything in his gallery painted turquoise because “great color as a backdrop can lift your mood faster than Prozac.” On the walls, In the Tropics.
Images: courtesy of kenivalenti.com

Lilly Pulitzer Resort wear and pink and green rooms inspiration

Benjamin Moore colors: Courtyard Green 546; Razzle Dazzle 1348

Pink and green is the most ubiquitous pairing of the Lilly palette. Translated to interiors, pinks and greens are no longer mere accent colors. Here, white and black play the (back-up) role of neutrals, allowing the daring duo to play to the room. “In fashion, Lilly made pink the new black, and in interior design, pink is the new beige,” says Orlando Fernandez of Coco House & Co. Bedroom walls in Courtyard Green. Dining room walls in Razzle Dazzle.
Images: lillypulitzer.com, garnethill.com and hgtv.com via Pinterest

Lilly Pulitzer jacket and hot pink and yellow room
Benjamin Moore color: Spring Azalea 2077-40

“Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.”—Lilly Pulitzer

Case in point! The color scheme of yellow and hot pink, another classic vintage Lilly, instantly summons a bright and sunny feeling. Topped with several coats of high-gloss Spring Azalea, a Ladies Desk is fabulously transformed.
Images: courtesy of kenivalenti.com and Pinterest

Lilly Pulitzer dress with lime chair and tangerine chair

Benjamin Moore color: Apple Lime Cocktail 420

“Palm Beach Revival” is what Christine Bell calls the color palette used in her furnishings shop, which specializes in reinterpreting mid Century pieces. But it could just as easily be called, “Ode to Lilly.” The colors—lemon-splashed brights against glossy pure whites—“are both retro and fresh, and always cheerful,” says Bell, who, fittingly, designs the chairs for the Lilly Pulitzer stores, and whose own shop’s signature style, above, is lacquered in Benjamin Moore’s Apple Lime Cocktail.
Images: etsy.com and courtesy of cbellfurnishing.com (2)

Lilly Pulitzer dress and yellow and blue inspired rooms

Benjamin Moore colors: Banana Yellow 2022-40; Viking Yellow 321

“It’s always summer somewhere.”—Lilly Pulitzer

Like their namesake, The Lillys, as the early sleeveless shifts were known, treated summer as a year-round season. Similarly, rooms outfitted in a palette of sun-washed hues are evocative of such light, bright, care-free days. Walls behind blue settee in Banana Yellow. Living room walls in Viking Yellow.
Images: backinstyle.com and countryliving.com (2)

Lilly Pulitzer dress and blue green inspired room

Benjamin Moore color: Citrus Green 2032-40

An extravagant comingling of patterns and prints is Lilly to a tee. What looks garish and tacky in an old golfer’s wardrobe appears eclectic and playful through the post-Lilly Pulitzer lens. This Meg Braff-designed bedroom, with its jumble of prints and lively shades, looks as inviting as it does smart and stylish. “The inspiration I take from Lilly is her sense of sophistication infused with happiness and wrapped in ease,” says Braff. Using a strong color as backdrop highlights everything it surrounds. On the walls, Citrus Green.
Images: Pinterest and courtesy of megbraffinteriors.com

Lilly Pulitzer dress and Jonathan Adler book cover

“Being happy never goes out of style.”—Lilly Pulitzer

“Ninety-five percent chic + five percent happy = the decorative nirvana that is happy chic.”—Jonathan Adler

Fortunately for our sake, the mantle has been passed!
Images: backinstyle.com and amazon.com

So what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts about Lilly Pullitzer and her colorful style.

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7 thoughts on “In Praise of Happy Color—Lilly Pulitzer

  1. This is fabulous! Love the article on Keni Valenti, and your well written post just sums it all up.
    The colors are really bright & beautiful ~ Lilly was a true icon in this world…We will all miss her, but we will celebrate her colorful life with these amazing colors from Benjamin Moore! Thanks

    • Thanks for the kind words, Debbie. Glad you liked our little tribute to Lilly. She truly had an amazing impact! So glad, too, that you enjoy the colorful world of Benjamin Moore!

  2. You really show how the Lilly mantle has been passed on–and her widespread influence in interiors. So glad her brand was revived–it is really “happy” pattern and color!

    • Thanks so much for commenting! So appreciate your support and sentiments here. Lilly was definitely someone very special….

  3. Leah – Your blog has inspired me to start dreaming up my very own Lilly-esque room. Of course, I will also beeline down to Keni Valenti’s place to soak in the vibe whilst surrounded by turquoise. :))) Road Trip!!

    • Thanks, Jane! And make sure you’re wearing one of your “Lillys” while dreaming up your new color scheme…for the full “inspiration” effect! I actually want to start repainting my furniture! I need new dining chairs, but now I’m thinking about painting each in a different Lilly shade….Thanks again for commenting. Enjoy the visit to Keni’s gallery—should be a hop,skip for you!

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