Paint Colors

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Color |

Many homeowners fall victim to what I have dubbed “Pretty Color Syndrome.”  They see a paint chip with a color on it that they think is “pretty,” and they think it belongs on their walls.  They forget that it may not work with the rest of the room.

I recognize that what I am about to say may be hard to accept, but please keep an open mind about this:  PAINT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PRETTY!  The job of a good paint color is to connect all of the elements in the room and make them seem like they all belong together.

Paint is only ONE ingredient in the recipe for a beautiful room.  Remember, in cooking, there are things you add to the pot that may not taste so great by themselves, but when incorporated into the entire dish, the end result is DELICIOUS!  It’s important to not lose sight of the big picture, or in this case, the finished dish.

I’m mixing my metaphors here (jumping from cooking to theater) but paint usually isn’t the “star of the show” in a room.  It takes a “supporting role” in the presentation that is your home.

This may seem counterintuitive, but the paint color should be selected LAST (or as close to “last” as you can get).  Here’s why:

Due to the technology that goes into creating paint, the number of colors it can be made in is INFINITE.  Everything else in your room comes in a FINITE number of options (color, finish, etc.)  It’s much easier (and more accurate) to match or coordinate a paint color to other furnishings in the room, than to paint first, and then try to purchase furnishings that go with the paint.

You may have an idea of what color you want the walls to be, but WHICH VERSION OF THAT COLOR you end up with will depend on the other furnishings.  Anyone who has ever seen a paint color fan deck knows that there are dozens and dozens of choices for each color, INCLUDING whites, beiges, and blacks.  You may think you want your Dining Room walls to be red, but WHICH red?  One with a blue undertone?  One that’s more orange?  Very dark?  Greyed down?  You can’t know this until you have the other pieces that will go in the room.  If the red in your chair fabric has an orange undertone (think Tomato Red) but you painted the walls with a red that has a bluer undertone (think, well, Blood!) you will be disappointed with the outcome.

Say you’ve ordered an upholstered sofa for a room, and you want to pick a color out of that pattern to put on your walls.  Unless you already have the sofa in your house, IN THE ROOM in which it will live, please be careful!  All fabrics come in different DYE LOTS, and the sample hanging in the furniture store may not accurately represent the colors in the piece that will end up on your sofa.  Other than having the finished sofa in your house, the only way to ensure accuracy is to get what’s known as a Cutting For Approval (CFA).  This is a small piece of fabric (usually about the size of an index card, but could be larger if the pattern is large) that is cut from the EXACT BOLT OF FABRIC that will be used to upholster your sofa.  Interior Designers can get these from their fabric sources, but typical retailers cannot (or WILL not).

It is also important to select the paint color for a particular room IN THAT ROOM.  The lighting in any room changes, depending on which side of the house it’s on, whether the day is sunny or overcast, from dawn to dusk, etc.  Please don’t select the paint color for your Living Room in your Kitchen.  Select it in the Living Room.  If you work with me, you will get large paper samples of the colors we are considering.  Hang them up on the walls and live with them for a week or so.  See what they look like in the morning and in the evening.  See what they look like on all the walls in the room.  Light hits each wall differently, depending on the source of the light and the wall.  Look at ANY corner in any room in your home.  Notice that each wall looks different than the one adjacent to it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an inside corner or an outside corner:  The walls will look different because the light hits them differently.  (INSERT EITHER OR BOTH OF THE PHOTOS I SENT HERE)

Here’s an example:  At one time, I had my entire house carpeted in the same color.  I wanted to match the color on the walls of my Family Room and my Master Bedroom to the carpet.  However, the Master Bedroom faces East, and the Family Room faces West.  I had to select two different versions of the same color to “match” the carpeting, because the carpet looked different in morning light (East) than it did in afternoon light (West).  Yet all the carpet came from the same roll.  See what I mean?

The contents of the room will help determine the paint color for that room.  Sometimes there are elements in a space that are in conflict with each other, and you have no way to fix the problem.  A good example of this is a Foyer with a wood floor that shares a wall with a carpeted Living Room.  Let’s say the wood floor has a yellow undertone, and the carpet is in the Taupe family (think “dark beige with pink and gray undertones”).  If you select a “neutral” color that highlights the undertones in the wood, it will look wrong with the undertones in the carpet.  One way around this is to go to a color family that is not tan/taupe/beige/”neutral.”  This may be a situation where a REAL COLOR (like a variation of, say, Green) is called for.  (Yes, I know tan, taupe and beige are “colors,” but in this case, I’m referring to colors, as in “colors of the rainbow.”  There is no beige in the rainbow!)

Bottom line is, selecting paint colors is tricky business, best left to a professional.  Call me!  I’m really good at this!