Interior design book on colors asks, 'Why not?'

Judging by its title — "The Way We Live With Color" — this sourcebook of decorating ideas seems to promise a generic romp through interiors spiced with reds, yellows and blues.

But color is far more complex than a rainbow of primaries. and so is this outstanding collection packed with 300 photos that, writes author Stafford Cliff, explores colors' "most powerful, most affective and perhaps most mysterious influence."

While mood-setting blues, vibrant reds and cool citrus hues are organized into sections, the overall palette of this 256-page work is steeped in the unifying elegance of earth tones and monochromatic background schemes.

"The Way We Live With Color" is the fifth entry in author Cliff and the late French photographer Gilles de Chabaneix's series of "The Way We Live" books, which has taken this authoritative design team into cottages and castles around the world in its quest for great style that springs from the personal rather than the professional.

Page after page of casual, real-life settings inspire a spirit of "why not" — a dramatic red armchair angled curiously near the foot of a stair, sapphire rafters set against the emerald of a peaked ceiling, a lineup of mismatched, blue-painted antique side chairs framed like functional art against paler blue wall panels.

And finally, writes Cliff, "Don't forget the contribution that people themselves make to a room: their clothes, their books, their toys. A successful color scheme is one that makes people feel comfortable." If there is an implied message it is simply: Be yourself.

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