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How to Pick the Right Paint ColorsPosted on 03/10/2011 by
If you’re the designated color-picker with no designer friends to help, let me prepare you for a job of subtle nuance requiring patience and inquiry.
The colors of your home include not only paint, but floors, countertops and furnishings. In the case of a new home and/or with a willingness to switch out furnishings to match new color schemes, the selection of paint colors can be your starting point with other elements made to match. In all other instances, each of these finishes must be used when considering your palette. Furthermore, your paint color package has two distinct components: walls, which can be comprised of an assortment of colors, and trim, which is usually a shade of white.
Shades of white
For contrast, for mood and because it’s very standard and safe – these are but a few of the reasons we choose white for trim. And, depending on how adventurous you intend to get with wall color, it’s possible and advisable to settle on a single shade to use throughout the house. The large paint brands offer in excess of 100 shades of white, so get ready to split hairs. And, while white comes in every shade, it helps to separate them into three groups – white-white, cream-white and cool-white. Narrowing the whites into these three groups thankfully reduces your options by half. No orange-whites, no violet-whites… you get the idea.
White-whites go with anything. This is the chalk white or cloud white you often hear mentioned. So, if you want middle of the road, this is it – as white as white can be. The cream-whites veer toward yellow/green. They are warm and are particularly nice for a traditional home with wide casings, tall base molding and paneled doors. The cool whites veer toward gray/blue and generally look nice in contemporary design. But there are no hard-and-fast rules. Whether you’re doing the entire house or just a single room, pick wall colors and select your white last.
Using my Sherwin Williams new “Concepts in Color” color fan deck, I would consider SW 7566 (Westhighland White) a white-white, SW 7563 (Restful White) a cream-white, and SW 7626 (Zurich White) a cool white.
Color and Light
Natural light keeps all options open. Without it, dark-valued colors are best avoided. Picture Sherwin Williams Coral Bells (SW 6593) in a dining room with one small north facing window – the result is cave-like. Additionally, this color will need more artificial light at night. An exception might be a powder room where drama is the primary goal. Otherwise, in a dark room, keep your color values medium to bright. The bright, naturally lit room, however, can wear many masks!
Colorful Rooms, Colorful Trends
The difference between a good color and a great color is almost, but not quite, imperceptible. And, while you would think one big fan deck from a major paint company would be enough, the right color can come from anywhere. The big companies offer strength in numbers – Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Behr, Pratt & Lambert, Glidden, Dutch Boy. Their color wheels are thick and comprehensive. But I often find the best colors from the smaller designer series – Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn. Here you will often find the most current color trends packaged with few other distractions.
There are considerable resources devoted to determining the next year’s color trends for décor and fashion. Several paint and fabric manufacturers, color specialists and designers pronounce a color or group of colors most forward-looking in the style world for any given year. Organizations such as the Paint Quality Institute, Pantone, and Color Marketing Group participate in this circular process of examining the newest in design, considering them as trends, announcing the trends, having the trends utilized in new products and design projects where yet again new different looks are introduced, thus starting the process anew.
A new color for 2011s is Benjamin Moore’s “Vintage Wine.” Not surprisingly, you will see this “burgundy” by other names gracing the covers of the latest fashion and interior publications in what can appear to be a conspiracy. On the sunny side of the street, paint company Dulux proclaims light and airy “Citrus Yellow” as their 2011 color. Trends are constantly evolving and these companies take their cues from many of the same resources.
Given so many choices, the best starting point may be an online color tool--particularly when you’re doing an entire house. There are several good ones, but StylishHome’s Color Palette Maker allows you to finely tune an initial color and create custom palettes in sets of five. And the primary color generates 22 related and complementary colors from which to fine tune, all based on well-defined, science-based color theories and algorithms. It is “drag and drop” and simple to use. I put together this palette of wall colors in about 5 minutes, which offers a good starting point as you begin your search through the decks.
Here I’ve tried to illustrate how to keep with a consistent intensity, which can create a nice flow through the home.
The order of things
Most of us have furnishings, finished floors and art for which we need to choose a matching or complementary color. So, start by choosing a family of colors that can “go” with the key pieces. Once you’ve narrowed it down to some favorites, most paint manufacturers offer small sample cans or large sheets of color for testing. Do not skip this step. Preferably, paint a number of samples in a number of different locations throughout the room. Look at them at all times of the day and in the evening with lights on. It is surprising how different they will look as these variables are altered. Don’t lose heart. It may take several tries, but it beats repainting the room!
Finally, paint it right. So often I see paint jobs where the previous color ever so slightly shows through. Prime unless the new color is very close to the existing one. Then, two full coats of a high quality paint. Play it safe with the ceiling using a flat paint in a shade matching your white trim.
A Point About Period
Period houses such as Victorian, Queen Anne, Spanish Colonial, Colonial, Tuscan and the like were known for more vivid color schemes. Many of the paint companies have put together specific palettes for these architectural styles that can provide a great start to the color selection process.
Paint colors can make an enormous difference in how we perceive and enjoy our home and surroundings. Choose well, paint carefully.
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