Choosing paint colors for any project can be stressful. People tend to select a color while at a paint store or even at a furniture store.
Stop doing that!
Sometimes you see a great color in someone else's house and want to use it in your own space expecting the same result.
Stop doing that!
People often forget that colors will look completely different in the same room depending on the wall, light and time of day.
Stop doing that!
Lastly, most of my customers expect to begin a project by selecting the wall colors.
Stop doing that!
I love choosing paint color. When I first started in this business 18 years ago I was cautious, as most people generally are, forgetting that a gallon of paint does not cost that much in the scheme of the project.
I have a profound respect for those who paint as a profession. I will admit that I thought I could paint, and remember telling my painter friend, Bob Moore, that I went to art school, as if that made me qualified.
The good ones do far more than apply paint to a wall in a neat way. (I also thought I could wallpaper before I met Joel Whitcomb of Wrentham and Dan Burns of Foxboro, but that's for another column.)
So not everyone can afford to hire a professional, but if you can it will contribute to the success of the project - especially if you are using a dark color and getting that ceiling edge right is important to you.
When to Select the Color
I cannot tell you how many times I am brought into a decorating project to select paint colors as the first step in the process. That is not the correct way to do it.
If you are renovating and the contractor tells you that the painter is coming in the morning and you need to have all of the wall colors done that day, I hope that you have given thought to what pieces will be in the room - whether it is furniture, bedding or window treatments. If you have nothing chosen then you are going to regret it when you bring the color chips used into a store and nothing goes with them.
It is always best to have a plan. Keep in mind the items that you plan to use - that sofa you inherited, for example - or go shopping for something that you love first, and do not be afraid to ask for a small sample of the fabric.
When choosing colors for the main living spaces, I tend to stay on the safe side. This allows for the colors to be up for a long time and will work with many different types of furniture. For instance, I painted my family room Manchester tan (Benjamin Moore HC-81) in 1997. That color has taken me from black leather sofas through my sage green phase to my current pallet of straw and lavender. (HC stands for Historical Color, and this collection is a great place to start.)
Professional designers and decorators approach color selection like this:
Step 1 - Look at the space and how colors flow from room to room.
Step 2 - Plan everything out on paper. Begin with something the client loves, be it a carpet, piece of furniture or window covering.
Step 3 - Assemble items that work together, keeping in mind the amount of color each piece brings and proportion of color in the room.
Step 4 - Choose wall color.
Step 5 - Accessorize.
Rule number one! You must be standing in the space to select the paint color.
Before selecting a wall color, be sure to have the trim color in your hand. You must use a color that has a small hint of that trim tone in it so they work together. For example, if your trim is a golden oak color then selecting a cool color like a steel gray or blue can spell trouble.
Afraid to use a bold color on all four walls? Consider using it on one wall. Just be sure that the wall is the correct one. In a bedroom, the wall behind the bed should be the focal wall. In a living room, choose the wall carefully.
Have you ever walked into a space and the wall color appears to have a pulse? The colors glow even when the lights are off. Again just a change from one paint chip to the next one on the chart can change that.
Yellows are notorious for that. Yellows go with so many different colors and accessories and look great with navy, red or even purple. So if you are interested in a yellow wall look toward some of the colors that may have cream in their name, like Philadelphia Cream HC-30 or Windham Cream HC-6. But trust me, they are not really cream.
There is a strong influence of gray now. The new grays are warmer but still work well with the beiges. They are even being used together. Benjamin Moore recently introduced a new palette of color called the Williamsburg Collection, and if gray is a color you are considering, be sure to check out these warm grays - CW-45 York Gray and CW-50 Tyler Gray. You do not have to be an antiques collector to like these colors. (CW stands for Colonial Williamsburg.) I just used both of these in a home in Dover and the colors look great. They are neutral but also look stunning on their own.
Color Trends for the Future
For those who are not familiar with the Boston Design Center, it is a marketplace on the Boston waterfront that is eight floors of furniture, fabric, tile, lighting, kitchens and baths - a design professional's Disney World. You can find everything from garage doors to patio furniture.
In preparation for this article I went and took a look at the many beautiful displays of furniture, fabrics and accessories. What I saw were a lot of blues, which is interesting because they have been showing teals for a few seasons. Grays and yellows are also a trend that appears to be lingering. I saw a lot of bold colors. In the Kravet showroom window, for example, I found hot pink, gray and black.
I asked my Carole Fabrics representative, Cathy Wilkerson, to lend her perspective to this article. She works for a company that sells fabrics for the trade, and predicts what you will buy next year. In addition, she teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. Cathy focused in on three categories: brights, neutrals and metallics.
Big bold colors are being infused on big bold patterns, especially in prints. Bold blues, reds and greens on clean white backgrounds were seen at the European home furnishing fairs this past spring.
Neutrals are still growing and are ever important. Softer tones of whites, creams and taupes are growing. Platinum grays are at an all time high and dominating the neutral market. On the rise is a very soft icy shade of aqua. Another growing trend on the neutral front is combining warm neutrals with cool neutrals to create a serene, clean look.
Metallics are taking their cue from apparel and are showing up in our home furnishings as a soft and glazed look, especially over linen. Antique brass and platinum are the metallic looks on the upswing.
Metallics will make a great subject for my next column. Cathy is correct that brass is making a comeback and all I see are polished metals. The very high end kitchens are showing polished nickel cabinet hardware and if you flip through the pages of Veranda or Architectural Digest, there is not a brushed nickel light fixture or cabinet pull to be found.
One important thing to remember with selecting color for use in your home is that it only matters that you love it and that it makes you happy to be home. Not every design choice will last 16 years (like my FR paint color), but after all, it is only paint.