06 July 2011

Design notebook: color source

A few weeks ago I saw a friend’s status update on Facebook:

“Trying to find the correct paint color sucks.”

She might as well have said, “Gee, I wish SOMEONE with a large, near-obsessive collection of paint chips would spring into action and help me find the perfect color, perhaps with some very specific suggestions.” Because that’s exactly how I responded to it. And that someone is me!

My reply included the specific section of Olympic paints she should look at, but also the Benjamin Moore Affinity collection, and by the way she should also look at these recommendations, and when she actually said “We want something gray with taupe undertones” I was all “OKAY well then you need to look at Wheat Bread by Behr, it’s 720C-3 but you could also check Olympic’s Stonington (D14-3) or Ashen (D15-3)” And then I rummaged around online for a few more suggestions, until I realized how crazy I must seem. No. AM.

There is a specific reason I am paint-chip-obsessed. As I mentioned, we have repainted every room in our house in what I hope is a palette of buyer-friendly-but-not-boring semi-neutrals. And I use the word “palette” intentionally, because I tried to choose colors that all work together and give the house a cohesive feel. Before we repainted, we had a maroon master suite upstairs and a bright red bathroom downstairs. They weren’t adjacent rooms, but it always sort of bothered me that we had clashy colors throughout the house. Basically, I realized that I don't love any one color more than I love the whole house feeling coordinated.

The biggest hurdle for creating a cohesive palette was finding the perfect neutral. The neutral anchors the palette and is the shade from which all the other colors flow. If you have the right neutral and pick shades that all go with that neutral, then they share the same undertones and therefore coordinate perfectly. Hmm, I’ve gone back to crazy-speak, haven’t I? Well, you should have heard me saying those things when I was sitting on the living room floor surrounded by hundreds of paint chips and rambling on about how “this one would be perfect except the undertones are too yellow” and rending my garments over fifty shades of beige while Mr. P looked on, wondering what the heck happened to his wife. This is a serious improvement.

I ultimately pulled together the palette, but when I finished I still had those hundreds of paint chips. I didn’t want to just throw them away, because by that point... well, I had sort of fallen in love with them. You can look up colors on the computer, but monitors use additive color and pigment is subtractive color and it's just not the same. So instead I upped the crazy by organizing them in a binder. Yes, the same binder that has all my pretty magazine clippings!

All those many neutrals are organized by brand, shade, and paint chip number. Even colors I would likely never use, like the ones pictured below, got saved for one specific reason: if I don’t know what the other shades in that color family are, I will assume that I might want to use them. So basically I hoard chips to know exactly what’s out there.

I also grab the brochures and booklets with tiny swatches of all the paint chips when I have a chance. I don’t need the entire selection of reds but if I ever DO consider a red for something, I can check what’s available without a special trip to the store. And I keep the brochures that show color families working together for inspiration.

So what about that whole house color palette? Well, it gets a place of honor in the notebook:

The cover! If I liked the colors enough to have them on the cover of my precious design notebook, then I would like them throughout my house. I also stuck a sample of our kitchen laminate countertop on the cover too, as it’s another large “color item” and it was worth coordinating the paint hues with the laminate as well. (The cabinets and trim are basic white which is already represented).

Interested in knowing exactly which colors are in our home? I thought you might be! But only because I am a crazy person who overshares unsolicited paint color knowledge!

Almost all are Olympic because I have found they work well together, but for the actual paint I’m a Behr Ultra girl (that’s paint and primer in one). It’s not your low-VOC baby-friendly ecologically-sound paint but I like how it gets the job done, and my Home Depot paint people are champions of the color match. See how I accidentally dropped one of my chips in “Toasted Almond” paint and the paint is exactly the same as the chip?

In case you can’t read the tiny words on the chips, here’s what we have, clockwise from top left:

Ashwood (Behr 720D-4): Master bedroom, bathroom, and closet
Almond Paste (Olympic C13-2): Stripes over Toasted Almond in guest bathroom
Toasted Almond (Olympic D13-2): Living room, hallway, guest bedroom and bathroom
Dusty Trail (Olympic D13-3): Dining room, entryway
Weeping Willow (Olympic C11-3): Kitchen
Silver Threads (Olympic D64-2): Office

I’m pleased with how they all came out on the walls, too! If you’re setting out to paint your whole house, I heartily recommend pulling colors for all the rooms first. And if you too become a paint chip addict, now you know how to hide your obsession organized within a notebook!


Rachel Cupp said...

I love this post. Haha. And I am firmly convinced that paint chips contain crack because they are completely addictive!

In the end, we settled on Sherwin Williams Dovetail (SW7018) because we discovered that we wanted a darker gray than we originally thought.

Sarah said...

Rachel, glad you're reading and recognized the "friend" right away :) And thanks for the update! Gray is SO HARD. So happy you found one that works! It took a few tries to get it right in our bedroom. But maybe I should obsessively collect Sherwin William grays anyway, hmmm?

Miranda said...

Very impressive! I'm having massive difficulties picking out colors for the kitchen, so I can appreciate all your knowledge and organization!

Sarah said...

If you want suggestions JUST SAY THE WORD. :) Then again, the standard is to hang the chips up on the wall so you can see them in the room's light, so you could start your own crazypants collection too!