The Coco Chanel Guide to Uncopyrighting (That's What I'm Doing) | Maria Killam{via Pinterest}

So deeply has the Chanel aesthetic been impressed upon us that we no longer see it—like the air we breathe, it is everywhere but invisible.


Have you read Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History? It’s the story of how the #1 luxury brand in the world was created. Coco Chanel was a self-made multimillionaire before she turned 40, and she was the founder of what is still the highest-earning privately owned luxury-goods manufacturer in the world.

‘Every day millions of women awake and costume themselves as some version of Coco Chanel, choosing from a vast array of simple and reproducible items that created the streamlined look designed and worn first by Chanel, then by her vast army of customers: skirt suits in neutral colours, trousers, cardigan sweaters, jersey knits, T-shirts, flat shoes, the little black dress, and about a hundred other items we consider wardrobe staples.’

Here’s the biggest lesson I learned from her:

While all the other luxury couturiers of her day went to great lengths to make it hard for others to copy their designs, Chanel didn’t care a whit if someone copied her.

Instead, she encouraged and applauded it.

She wanted everyone to wear her designs, even if they couldn’t afford to buy them from her, so that she would become the most well-known fashion designer in the world.

And it worked. Chanel is and has been such a household name for so long that we’ve all absorbed the brand as a given in our everyday lives. Collectively, we own reals and replicas, and all our versions retain the allure of the brand. The aspirational mystique of those intertwined Cs means that, while we love our fake quilted handbags, we would never turn down the opportunity to own an original.


We all have ideas. We all have gifts and expertise to share with the world, and many of us have spent years developing our talents. Some of us make a living sharing these talents, some try to, and others keep our skills as a hobby. As a group, we’re often told about the importance of protecting our talents, of copyrighting our best stuff, of not giving too much away lest we water down our value.

But all that self-protection can get lonely. In this ever-changing blogosphere, one thing that has remained is the importance of relationships, but relationships are hard to cultivate if we’re all caught up in protecting ourselves from supposedly inevitable copyright infringement. It got me thinking about my own business, which has evolved over the years and is ready to evolve even more.

As many of you know, I have a system of understanding colour that should be taught in design schools. It should be taught to everyone who wants to decorate professionally, and to anyone who wants to decorate just their own living room. It should be used everywhere we use colour, and especially for permanent, fixed finishes and fabrics that are costly to replace. I’ve spent 15 years developing my system, and I’ve spent countless hours teaching it directly to design professionals and enthusiasts around the world.

I’m passionate about this because I know how deflating it can be to make the wrong choice during a renovation or decorating project. If you buy a skirt in the wrong colour, it’s not going to break the bank, but tile, countertop, and carpet are significantly more expensive (and prominent) investments. Not many of us can afford to rip out our mistakes and start again, so we’re stuck living with the disappointment of a bad choice for years, or even decades.

My method has saved thousands of homeowners and professionals from themselves. It teaches everyone how to walk confidently into a store, see the undertone in any sample, and understand why that undertone either does or doesn’t fit into their overall decorating scheme. Believe me, being able to tell if a carpet swatch is green-beige, yellow-beige, or pink-beige is the difference between being delighted with your home, and being miserable and resentful.

The Coco Chanel Guide to Uncopyrighting (That's What I'm Doing) | Maria Killam

A bottle of Chanel #5 is sold every 3 seconds somewhere in the world {via pinterest}


My system has always been available for sale on this website, and always under a copyright agreement. My students and readers have agreed to my terms and kept my material to themselves, but as of today, I’m tipping my hat to Chanel (and Leo Babauta) and releasing all my content — blog posts, photos, e-books, and courses — into the public domain. I waive my copyright on everything I’ve ever produced. If you want to share my work you do not need my permission, and you can just ignore the copyright statement in my e-books until I get around to updating the file.

Effectively immediately, I am not only allowing, but encouraging, the sharing and broad dissemination of my content. I want as many people as possible to know how to choose colour and make their homes beautiful, and I want that knowledge to be so impressed upon us all that it’s “like the air we breathe, […] invisible, but everywhere.”

Just to be clear, uncopyright does not mean free.

Of course I’d like it if you continue to buy my eBooks and on-demand training and credit would be appreciated if you choose to redistribute my stuff. The web store will remain open, and you can pop over there any time. If you’ve already bought something from me, accept my sincerest thanks.


Everyone says you should never choose a niche that’s too small, or it will take too long to get your message out. My Understanding Undertones system might qualify as “too small” to some, but when your niche finds you, you have only two choices: ignore it because it’s challenging, or work really hard to get your ideas out there into the world. I chose (and choose) the latter. But why work really hard on a blog like this, only to release all copyright claim to it eight years later?

It’s simple: I would rather millions read my work and discover my Understanding Undertones system for free, than keep it secret for only a paying few. As a decorator in a very visual industry, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had been unable to post other professionals’ beautiful work in my own posts, and I want you to have those same benefits, no permission required. And don’t worry, I have always credited and will continue to credit anyone whose work appears on this blog. I am grateful for the sharing and camaraderie of the blogosphere, and I look forward to even more of it without worrying about being copied.


I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to show up in this space on a regular basis, sharing what I know about colour and interacting with all of you.

It really fits that I’m always preaching timeless and classic in this blog because that’s also the look of Chanel.

Thank you for supporting me and my work. I am grateful.