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A Thing Or Two About Paint Color Selection

I stumbled upon this collaboration between Guggenheim & Fine Paints of Europe yesterday while reading my beloved Sunday addition of the San Francisco Chronicle - yes, I still read an actual paper and I will continue as long as they print one, it reminded me that I might have a thing or two to share about paint color selection.

Just to clarify my credentials, there was a time when the title on my business card read - Color Consultant and I actually got paid (still do sometimes) to help people choose paint colors. While I have a long list of happy clients, I still don't know any real "magic". Perhaps I "see" color a little differently but mostly I learned a few tricks along the way to make the process faster and a lot more fun.

  • Check "designer" paint collections FIRST. This is the fastest route to exceptional colors, bar none. Think about it. Great designers with great taste have spent hours and hours coming up with color collections. Why start from scratch when you can take advantage of their expertise? A few of my favorites include: Restoration Hardware, Martha Stewart,  Ralph LaurenPottery Barn and of course the collection above is worth investigating - although it will be the most expensive option.
  • Think about building a complete color palette from the START. You can choose the most amazing wall color the world has ever seen but it will not amount to much if it doesn't coordinate with the rest of the room. I always make a color board with samples of existing colors/fabrics (rugs, major furniture, window treatments) plus samples for colors that will be added (accent wall colors, pillows, accessories). Unless you like crazy, don't go crazy throwing a bunch of different colors on the board. A harmonious palette will usually consist of no more than 3-5 colors total. Choose your dominant color and then decide how you'd like to accent/layer - tone-on-tone, analogous or complementary? Again, pay attention to what the "experts" are doing and then plug your selections into this nifty online tool.
  • Give some thought to LRV - or light reflective value. Each paint company prints a number from 0%-100% on the back of their samples and/or fan deck . This is a measurement of lightness/darkness of the color - colors that are 80% and higher are light pastels, 50% are mid-tone and below 40% are typically very dark and saturated. Knowing this number helps you rule out colors faster and it is also very helpful when selecting colors for adjoining rooms. Choosing different colors that are within a 10-20% range of one another will give you the most "pulled-together" results.
  • ALWAYS put up large paint samples in the actual room and make sure you like it morning, noon and night before proceeding - natural light or the lack of it changes paint colors tremendously.

That's pretty much it. Now you're armed and dangerous and ready to color consult. Or not - you can always give me a shout.