Wednesday, February 4, 2009

35: Paint Color

Many people are paralyzed by paint colors, and I suspect that white (and its many shades) is the most popular paint color for this reason. I decided to be bold—but not crazy. Winters in the Catskills can be long and gray, and I wanted the house to be happy and uplifting. I wanted some variety in the colors, but I didn't want the house to feel like a rainbow. So, I kept to one palette for the public rooms (living room, dining room, kitchen, bathrooms, stairway and landing) and another for each of the two bedrooms.

Color choices are really endless, but I turned to something that I've recommended before: my collection of photos of rooms that I like and pages from magazines that I've liked enough to tear out and save. Even if you haven't been saving things like this for years, it's worth a few visits to a newsstand, buy as many magazines as you can afford, and get to business tearing out images of things you like. You don't even have to limit yourself to images of rooms. Inspiration comes from everywhere: gardens, fabric, cars, plates, book covers, you name it.

I know that if you'll spend a little time collecting examples of things that you like, when you start sorting and looking through the cache, answers to things you like, like color, will become clear. It might look like a tornado blew through the room in the beginning. But the answers will be there.

Then visit paint stores and start matching paint chips to the images. You may not even need to take the images with you. I know that after the tearing and collecting exercise you'll have a very solid idea of what you're looking for—maybe not the exact shade, but the sea of colors won't look so confusing.

I collected paint chips, strips, whatever you want to call from several manufacturers. While they're free, keep your focus on just a few palettes. (I did and I do recommend picking up just one or two other colors outside of your palette that catch your attention. They can be helpful in re-confirming your earlier palette choice.) If your project or house is large, you may want to divide and conquer, say first floor one visit, second floor the next? But the idea is to gather a nice range of shades within the palette you're looking for. Take them home. Sort them out. Then start looking at them in different lights: daylight, twilight, lamp light. You'll be surprised how some colors and paints will shift in the different lights. In my opinion this is a good thing. These are colors will have a life on the walls. It's often subtle. When I say shift, I mean the hue of the color might go from warm to cool or yellow-ish to blue-ish in different lighting conditions It's all very subtle, but magical when you get the colors right on the walls.

I chose Sherwin-Williams paint. You'll also need to ask about your choice's lines of paints. Some are eco. Some are more wipeable than others. And then there are the finishes, which I'll get to later. In the beginning, I recommend "living" with the edit of your color chips. Look at them in the morning when you wake up, on a good day, when you're in a bad mood. Let the palette that you've narrowed sink into your imagination. Trust me, you'll find yourself changing your mind over the differences in subtle shades, but your subconscious will help get close to the final colors. There's one more step that I highly reommend before buying gallons of paint. I'll share that with you next.


A-M said...

What wonderful advice. I am a fellow paralyzed reader who has .. yes opted for the easy white. There is still time though.. I don't yet have internal walls. Your post has inspired me! A-M xx

Juli said...

Thanks for the tips. I think magazine photos are a good place to look for inspiration. Little vignettes in home decor catalogs are another source. They often put together schemes you might not think of to combine yourself, yet they look inviting.

Sometimes I also like to browse fabric stores. Seeing large bolts of saturated color can help one tune into colors that evoke a pleasant response. Remember it's much easier to match paint to fabric or rugs, than the other way around.


Newell Turner said...

Juli, You're so right about mail order catalogs. They've been doing a fantastic job selling products in the beautiful rooms that they design for their catalogs. I have to admit that I have some of their tears in my files.