Before there was Millennial Pink or Digital Lavender, there was Messel Green

One of England’s most respected multi-hyphenated designers of the 20th century, Messel’s work has ranged from production design for film and Broadway (his set design for house of flowers won a Tony) to interior design. Of the latter, his most famous creation was the lavishly ornate Regency-inspired one Oliver Messel Suites at the Dorchester Hotel in London, once advertised as “Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite place in London.” When Messel moved into a house overlooking the west coast of Barbados in 1966 with his partner Vagn Riis-Hansen – a Scandinavian silver fox known as “The Great Dane”, he delivered all the madness that one can expect.

Oliver Messel

Photo: George Hoyningen-Huene

Messel loved incorporating white on white and adding pops of color, like the sage hue seen on the ironwork, metal awnings, and shutters of his remodeled homes. This hue became a trademark, known as “Messel Green,” and nowhere are those touches better felt than at his home in Barbados, Maddox House.

Messel’s designs were often symmetrical and grand, and the designer was one of the first to embrace the concept of indoor-outdoor living. His porches became famous before Messel himself, although many considered them impractical due to the island’s stormy weather.

Maddox House reflected Messel’s love of the tropics, as well as his penchant for drama and eye for detail. The property included columns, intricate lattices, and Baroque furniture.

The shutters and paneling in Leamington, a house extended by Messel, are finished in Messel Green.

Keith Miller, who has documented Barbadian architecture and design, has noted that Messel particularly enjoyed hosting the Snowdons at Maddox House, where large picture windows framed stunning sea views and soaring arches soared over open plan living spaces, “as much a part of the house as the garden”. Hidden by bayan windows with “bell shaped shades” and venetian blinds, two coral stone staircases led from the terrace down to the grounds and rear of the house.

Southfield Green HC-129 by Benjamin Moore is a contemporary shade with roots in Messel Green.

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Messel never had formal architectural training but became best known as an architect and interior designer in the West Indies. architect once said Barbara Hill his work, “he had the ability to turn ordinary homes into wonderlands.” The jet set winterer in Barbados saw his redesign of Maddox House and challenged him to work on their properties, including Leamington House and the Pavilion of the Heinz family fustic house, the largest private estate on the island. Here the big iron gates are still painted in Messel Green.

Over time, particular care has been taken to maintain Messel’s original design concepts, adopting the most recently published images from Mike toys to the Architecture and Design in Barbados (2001). But it’s not just on the island of Barbados that Messel’s influence – and distinctive color – lingers. There is a very familiar looking sage leaf hue in Coloros and WGSN 2022 Trend Forecasting Innovations in the Future of Color project. And to keep Amanda Lindroth’s secret”Furniture looks fresh‘ on the patio furniture, tables and (of course) shutters of their Nassau home is Southfield Green by Benjamin Moore – again inspired by Messel.

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