Pink slips-closely followed by the high-heeled flip-flop and the chandelier earring-are definitely this summer’s hottest accessory. However, as unemployment rages through the upper echelons of Manhattan, a new hideous parallel trend is threatening to screw up everyone’s summer, whether you’re jobless or not. I’m talking about the Attack of the Giant Moochers-those former occasional weekend guests who have, in the absence of job prospects, now elected to “make a summer of it” chez toi . What’s a Hamptons hostess to do without seeming Grinchy and uncaring?
Donald Kaufman to the rescue.
Mr. Kaufman and his lady-partner, Taffy Dahl, are New York’s reigning color consultants du jour . Their 25-year-old company, Donald Kaufman Color, has serviced everyone from Philip Johnson to Diana Vreeland. They are the Siegfried and Roy of haute couture hues.
I first encountered Mr. Kaufman in 1985, when we were both working on Costumes of Royal India , a Met Costume Institute exhibit overseen by the aforementioned Mrs. Vreeland (who famously got a pink slip from Condé Nast).
Mr. Kaufman and Ms. Dahl were in charge of painting the exhibition walls in saffrons, pistachios and shocking pinks, while I was assigned the task of festooning gold-painted mannequins with bejeweled saris. “We have never made such intense wall colors, either before or since,” recalled Donald, now an affable 67, when I spoke to him by phone last week (Taffy was unavailable for a three-way). The Jaipur-evoking colors that Mrs. Vreeland wanted were not then standard-issue: The paintin’ pair was obliged to concoct special dyes which were then relentlessly spray/lacquered onto the endless walls. After forty million resprays, Mrs. Vreeland was finally ecstatic-until it came time for the next exhibit. “They tried painting over the Indian colors,” recalled Mr. Kaufman of the costly and nightmarish debacle, “but the dyes kept bleeding through, like magic marker. Eventually she gave up and sheet-rocked over them.”
Pink is the navy blue of India-unless it’s been covered in sheet-rock.
But back to those lingering guests. What color should one paint one’s guest room in order to discourage unemployed, fridge-emptying weekend visitors from overstaying their welcomes? Mr. Kaufman replied without hesitation: “A color combo works best, especially if those colors are the same hue.
“For example,” he continued, rallying to his topic with the air of a man who regularly uses his encyclopedic knowledge of color to hex undesirables, “put a bright green next to a very dull green-the same color, but a totally different intensity. The bright green will always look garish and the other color will always look depressingly dull. They are not happy together, and it is impossible to coexist with them.”
In quasi-sympathetic mode, I then asked Mr. Kaufman which colors might act as an anti-depressant for a mopey, recently fired individual repainting his/her city boudoir. “Colors should be seen akin to light,” he said. “Natural light is critical to our well-being. Colors that evoke light, like yellow, are mood-enhancing.” From his own collection of couture paints, Mr. Kaufman specifically recommends DKC47, a warm, subtle yellow. (Kaufman paints, $54.45 per gallon and up, are available through the Color Factory, Englewood, N.J., 201-568-2226-and are far superior to the pink-slipped Martha Stewart’s $75-per-gallon, famously chicken-egg-inspired hues.)
A consultation with the Kaufman/Dahls (212-594-2608) can set you back $5,000 and up, but you’ll get your money’s worth: They seemingly have a color remedy for every malaise. Insomnia? Dark, cool colors can lower your heart rate and induce sleep. For this purpose, Mr. Kaufman recommends Kaufman DKC 15, a paper-bag-like color, or DKC 66, a black/eggplant.
Not getting shagged often enough? “Choose colors that make you look good with or without your clothes,” he advised. “No blues-warm colors are more flattering to every skin tone.” Mr. Kaufman’s erotic pick? The guru was reluctant to recommend a specific chip (paint-talk for “swatch”). “People have spent years choosing colors for their wardrobe that enhance their appearance. Those colors are the best guide when making selections for indoor or outdoor sports.” Cheeky!
More Vreelandiana: For the Indian exhibit gift shop, D.V. abandoned her maharaja moment and opted for a flat Cell Block H gray: “The gray of Quakers …. ”
Re pink slips: Being fired can be liberating and glamorous. If you get the chop, don’t try to spin it. Flaunt it!