My May House Beautiful is here. "The Big Advice Issue". Though I've paged through it only briefly, I've seen enough to know that it delivers what it promises. All the inspiration we've come to expect plus nuts and bolts, real-world decorating advice backed up by examples and reasoning. The stand-out tip for me so far? This from the editor's page: "Pick your paint colors last." Woo hoo for me! Validation from none other than Stephen Drucker! (Why, oh why, is he leaving HB?! I'm so sad about that. Happy for him though. Read more about it.)
Let me tell you a story... A few years ago I attended a series of classes at a local college, refresher courses if you will, as I prepared to re-enter this field. One of them was a basic overview of interior design principles and techniques that I used as an opportunity to pick up the tools and get the juices flowing again. For one assignment, our instructor divided us into groups of three. Each team was given a program—the objectives and goals of a specific space and client—and was asked to use the resources in the classroom to design a concept board.
My partners insisted that we select paint colors first. I said "Let's choose upholstery first", "Let's look at flooring" and things like that. Repeatedly. They ignored me and, I sensed, considered me quite annoying. They successfully overruled me, chose a couple of paint colors, and we set about searching for fabrics, carpet, tile and wood finishes. A process which took far longer than it should have and here's why:
We live in a world of limitless paint color choices. Every conceivable hue, tint, shade and tone is out there somewhere. And if you haven't the time to search for just what you think you want, custom color mixing is as close as your nearest home-improvement store. There will, however be only one sofa that you fall madly in love with. One hand-scraped, reclaimed hardwood that you must have as your kitchen floor. One, and only one area rug that makes your antique dining set sing.
Most new homeowners will rush to paint all the rooms before moving in. "Toasty Taupe in the living room!". "Cloudless Sky in the bedroom!". It seems to make sense. Painting while the rooms are empty. But choosing paint colors without first knowing what you'll put into those rooms could be a big mistake. Adding other elements after paint could cause a clash of undertones. Now the paint looks too pink, too yellow, too gray. What seemed like the perfect fresh green for your living room walls might look dirty or dull after you bring in your new sofa. Even if you don't plan to buy a whole room full of new furnishings right away, know what you will buy when you can buy and base your paint choices on that. Or base your paint color on an element in the room you know won't change: your heirloom chair or a cherished piece of art.
It takes some planning and thinking ahead, but in the end, it will always be easier to find a paint color that complements your new chairs and carpeting than it will be to find an upholstery fabric you love that goes with a hastily chosen paint color. One more tip about paint from House Beautiful via Stephen Drucker: "Never, ever paint an entire room until you've lived with big sample boards of three possible paint colors for 24 hours". Or, as in the above photo, samples painted directly onto your walls. However you go about it, give yourself time to see the paint colors you're considering at all hours of the day. In both natural and artificial light.
To read a step-by-step guide for choosing paint colors, click on the photo above. The solid, basic advice is easy to follow. If you still don't trust your own judgement, hiring a professional who's done this countless times before will be worth the cost—in both time and money. For a fun way to explore your favorite color combinations, click the image below. Seriously. Click on that cabbage. And to see how one amazing artist interprets the color schemes she sees in everyday objects and nature, click here to visit Kris. Her love of color is contagious.
Color is fun! Choosing color can be too. But, whenever possible, do it last to get it right. Oh, and my classmates who chose wall color first? They also dismissed my suggestion to paint our imaginary room's ceiling a soft, complementary color. Never heard of such a thing, they said. I hope they've learned more about choosing and using paint colors by now. (Or have chosen different careers.)