Pablo Picasso’s Decorating Secrets

What can you learn about decorating from Pablo Picasso?  Does that sound like a bit of a stretch?

Well, we might look to John Saladino’s design work for a clue.

Pablo Picasso was a brilliant modern-day artist — John Saladino is a modern master of interior design.

For me, there are 2 places where Saladino intersects with Picasso. 
Geometric shapes and the use of a restrained palette. 

1. Let’s look at geometrics first.

Picasso was trying to reduce the form of things into geometric parts and came up with a whole new art form called “cubism”.

  Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907

Picasso saw the human form as a series of planes, shapes and angles.  Geometry in motion The whole idea was to see the world from more than one perspective.

Picasso’s Standing Nude

Like Picasso, Saladino says he looks at a space and thinks in terms of geometry.  He says:

“I like to imply rather than be explicit, whether it’s minimalist or period style: simple geometric shapes-nothing overly excessive- and restraint with the palette and furniture.  That’s hopefully what makes a house timeless, classical.”

A couple of examples of Saladino’s geometry:
Squares and Rectangles

Triangles, circles and squares

2.  Now let’s look at the second thing these two artists have in common – Use of a restrained or refined palette. 

Picasso in his earliest cubist works used a restrained color palette that included soft greys, blue, ochre and yellow, colors from nature. 

This restricted palette allowed two things to happen:

He could keep the emphasis on shape rather than color… and, the restricted palette brings unity to the painting, that is, it feels all of one piece.

Picasso’s Woman playing mandolin

Saladino, similarly, is well known for his restrained and nuanced color palette.  As his background colors, he likes to use monochrome tones and colors that change depending on the light. 

He generally uses brighter pops of color as accents only, and even then, with restraint.  Here are two examples…

                         Soft muted colors (like Picasso?)   

Lots of restraint here

Can you see the striking similarities between Picasso and Saladino in geometric forms and soft, restricted palettes?
I tried to use these principles in my own living and dining room. I thought about geometrics in picking my sofas, chairs, side tables, paintings, lamps etc.   I kept the palette simple and restrained with soft muted ochres and light blue tones. Here’s the result…

Rectangles, squares and triangles in the lampshades

Triangular table between two ‘squarish’ chairs

Restricted color palette 

Saladino said that if you think geometrically and restrain your palette, your rooms will look as good 20 years from now as they look today.  My rooms are 12 years old and I’d be happy to have them for a few more.

It seems that you really can’t go wrong if you use the Picasso-Saladino formula.

Go ahead, be fearless. Give it a try.

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  1. Great post. Connecting Saladino and Picasso was inspired.

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