By Allie Milus

Growing up in northern New Jersey meant summer vacations “down the Shore” or on the beaches of Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod. It meant saltwater, jellyfish, crabs, riptides, undertows, crushing waves, a surplus of seaweed, and a surplus of people. It was never quite my thing. I was never really comfortable there. My nickname was “Chicken of the Sea.” That pretty much says it all. 

Fast forward a few decades to a family of my own, a relocation to Michigan, and a new vacation destination: Lake Michigan. My life was about to change, full stop! 

I could not have been more in awe of the incredible jewel-toned rocks that adorned the shoreline. When you get a little closer and look along the water’s edge, it’s a jaw-dropping “rock show” extraordinaire — an endless inventory of glorious sculptured color inspiration. These gorgeous rocks are the gems of Lake Michigan. These jewels in the sand are the real deal — “Michigan-made” of the highest quality, organically manufactured by Mother Nature herself. 

We got to share a beach with these beauties each summer. The inventory and the selections were endless, the colors mesmerizing and energizing. When I surveyed the incredible rocks of all shapes and sizes, I felt like I was shopping at a high-end jewelry store. If I was Wilma Flintstone, it actually would be jewelry shopping! I felt like saying “Hey Betty, let’s go, we got some shopping to yabba-dabba-DO — but don’t tell Fred!”


The Rocks Are Calling, and I Must Go

Now I can’t stop myself from perusing this pieces of nature’s art every time I visit Lake Michigan. It’s the thrill of the hunt! Not knowing what I will discover fills me with anticipation. At first, I tried clearing my mind of any preconceived favorite colors. By doing this, I thought I could get out of my own way and let serendipity do its thing. The problem was that every color I saw became my favorite color! They spoke to me all over the place. They made my heart beat faster, and butterflies flutter in my stomach. 

I decided to heed their call and start collecting. My goals were simple: 1) to be inspired by these incredible nuggets of nature, 2) to have the discipline to be selective about what I took home, and 3) to not herniate a disc in my back in pursuit of bending, lifting, and hauling my new treasures.

Rock Hunting for the Whole Family

Now, going on a rock hunt is something all of us enjoy doing on our vacations. It gave us a new fun activity at the beach. It’s a healthy and creative way to spend quality time with everyone. And at the end of the day, we dump our buckets to see everyone’s stash — a hard day’s work of hunting, exploring, connecting — and then comes the rock trading. “I’ll give you two Petoskey stones if you give me that earthy turquoise rock plus the vibrant magenta one!”


A Natural Color Matching App

Eventually, all of this got me thinking. Not only are colors the first thing you notice on the beach, but they’re also the first thing you notice when you enter a room. Many people have a hard time visualizing a color that they love in nature as a potential paint color — or perhaps they never even consider that as an option.

That’s the purpose of the color matching apps, right? To help you visualize any color in your photos as a potential paint sample and create a new color palette (they’re not 100% accurate, but close enough to get you started in the right direction).


I realized that any color outside can be a color inside — and a color that you can “see” on your walls before you even lift a paint brush. And what would make a better natural paint chip than a rock? You can create a color palette for an entire house from all of the color variations in just one rock.

The next time you need to choose a paint color or color palette, try to experiment with rocks and other natural objects. Mother Nature’s color palette is the ultimate ColorDeck. Go outside and be inspired — it’s everywhere. 

When using rocks as color inspiration, keep in mind that you get two color palettes/saturation levels with every rock — the dry version and the wet version. When rocks are dry, their colors are less-saturated and more neutral. These are essentially the “pastel” versions. But when rocks are wet, they display deeper and more robust hues and a vibrant saturation level.

Rocks in Your Home

You don’t have to leave all of your color inspirations behind! These beautiful rocks can also make great accessories for your coffee table, bookcase, office, or anywhere in your home. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a rock base for succulents
  • Display rocks of a similar color in a clear container
  • Use a bigger rock to stand alone as a paperweight or just a fun memento. Bonus if you can find one with a unique pattern, or even a fossil!

Each rock can be its own story. Tell people how you found it—or if it found you!

Reflection on the Rocks


We’ve been going to Lake Michigan for about 14 years now and I have not stopped talking about those rocks, the color connections, and my enthusiasm for the thrill of the hunt that we look forward to each year. My two little granddaughters are already eager rock-hunters-in-training!

My childhood East Coast beach vacations pale in comparison to Lake Michigan’s colorful bounty. I definitely found my “beach match” here in Michigan. I’m not “Chicken of the Sea” anymore.


Allie Fileti Milus is an award-winning professional real estate stager, certified Color Consultant, and the owner/founder of BLOOM That ROOM. Whether staging to sell or ‘stayging’ to stay, Allie has the honor of helping clients add value to their property. She moonlights as a lifelong daydreamer extraordinaire and a think-outside-the-box-er. Allie cherishes those moments where she gets to experience what’s really important in life through the perspective and wonderment of her two beautiful little granddaughters.