Gay style maven David Bromstad shares some of his secrets to adding a splash of color to your life
It seems hard to believe, but at this time last spring, David Bromstad was just an artist-slash-decorator-slash-all-around Mr. Fix-It, earning his living in Miami by painting, designing and building whatever jobs happened to come his way his own “one-man show,” he says.
What a difference a year makes.
Last fall, Bromstad wound up the winner of HGTV’s “Design Star” reality series, and received its top prize: His own style show on the network. Last month, the show, “Color Splash,” debuted to good enough ratings that it has already been renewed for a second season. In the process, he’s not only become one of the nation’s most high-profile design mavens but also one of the most appealing sex symbols on TV so much so, he’s still getting used to having people recognize him on the street.
“I like it though,” he says from his new digs in San Francisco, where “Color Splash” films. “It means they’re watching.”
What they’re watching is Bromstad charm his way through some monstrous decorating disasters, turning dreary rooms into those that pulsate with a sense of style, fun and most of all color. And while the show’s theme and title wasn’t his idea, it’s one he quickly embraced.
“HGTV came to me with a concept and I loved it,” he says. “I like challenges so I was really up for it, though it has been a lot more difficult that I expected.”
It wasn’t hard to get on board about color. As a painter, Bromstad has always has a passion for reds, yellows, blues and greens, and as he demonstrated on “Design Star,” was never worried about being bold. But the process of shooting a series has put him to the test.
“TV is different it’s interesting, it’s quick,” he says. “But I’m an instinctual artist. I love the process. It’s a lot of work but we have so much fun doing it, it doesn’t feel like work.”
It’s especially fun because Bromstad gets to apply all his tricks of the trade to bring color out of the darkness.
Most people, he says, make two big mistakes with color. “One is, they don’t use it because they’re afraid of it. They look at these thousands of paint colors and swatches and they get overloaded.” So instead of doing something different, they stick with boring off-the-shelf whites and grays.
Paradoxically, the second big mistake people is “at the other side of the spectrum,” he laughs: They use so much color in a room.
“They pick the wrong shade or hue. They overdo it. It’s crazy and not fun too much like a trailer. These people are not afraid of color and they should be,” he says.
So what is the solution when you’re aiming at a moving target? The trick is to evaluate each room individually.
“From doing a show like this, I see that color is related to this room, to this space, to this couple,” Bromstad says. “Color combinations that work here would look a lot different in a room with more light.”
So while some color ideas aren’t necessarily going to work for everyone, there are some general rules you can use to brighten your day.
First, choose a theme.
“There are easy ways to make your house flow even with every room a different color, as long as you carry a general theme, tone or accent throughout,” he says. For instance, if the walls in one room are robin’s egg blue, add a little blue glass in another room, a blue pillow in yet another. The effect won’t be forced, but will unify each space.
Second, use accent pieces to experiment with color. Rather than soak a room in primary and secondary hues, try neutral bases and add small, bright items or artwork to make the room pop. A deep orange pillow against an off-white sofa makes more of a statement than orange fabric as far as the eye can see.
Third, use lighting to your advantage.
“I love lighting,” Bromstad says. “Usually when I’m doing an episode, I bring so much lighting that the camera crew can’t believe it. I love to bring in lighting so when all the cameras are gone, the rooms look how they should be. That’s why I love the three-way bulb. I think it’s an amazing way to bring in life and your color looks different as well.”
Bromstad says not to fear energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, either.
“Fluorescents used to be kind of cold and dim but now there are so many kinds that you can make it work in any room,” he says. “There are so many different light bulbs, so [go with] whatever your pleasure is.” The idea is to achieve a balance between color and your lighting.
And what if you’ve already made a color faux pas? How do you fix a big mistakes?
“With a lot of money,” Bromstad jokes. “On the show, if someone has bought buy an orange sofa, I try to work with it and bring in more neutrals.” Neutral accents can soften deco-disasters.
Finally, Bromstad says don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Take cues from those who have already put a lot of thought into their designs.
“I believe in looking through magazines to be inspired,” he says. “Find something that you love a pillow, duvet covers, pieces of art, or an entire room where you love the colors and take off on that. It’s a really simple, easy way to decorate tastefully. Edit yourself and get advice.”
And, of course, watch “Color Splash.”
Original episodes of “Color Splash” air Mondays on HGTV.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2007.