What colour should I paint this room?

Please don’t ask us. Asking your painter to help you choose a colour is like asking the sales rep at a car dealership to choose the colour of your new car. Neither one of us is qualified to give you an answer and I don’t want the responsibility of choosing something and then the possibility of you not liking it.

I did it once. The experience was traumatic enough to scare me off doing it again. That being said, I am around colours a lot obviously so I have gained a bit of knowledge of the fundamentals so I’ll pass those along in a moment.

In the meantime, if you don’t know what colour to paint, hire someone. I’ve touched on this subject before; like everything else, you get what you pay for. An interior designer/decorator will charge you upwards of $100.00 per hour or more for consulting. They are generally worth the money because they will help you integrate other elements you already have in your home. (I hired someone to help me out and their good advice meant that I didn’t have to paint my table and chairs.) The next choice is a colourist, not a designer per se, but someone with training in colour theory. These people charge less and may have a background in art, graphic design or other field where design and colour are important.  Also a really good choice for getting professional help if all you want is help with colours.

Next in line is getting advice at a good paint store. I always recommend Benjamin Moore for two reasons. The stores are franchised so you know the person behind the counter is the owner. They get extensive training and have a vested interest in making sure you get the right product and are happy with the colour you’ve chosen.

Also, lots of Benjamin Moore stores in the Toronto area at least have a Designer Saturday where a professional is on hand to help you choose colours and it’s a free service! Take a few pictures of the space and bring along a throw cushion or something from the room you want to match or compliment and you’ll get some good advice.  They’d like you to buy their paint too but there’s no obligation.  If you get on with the designer you may want to hire them to come by your house for a consultation.  This is a fabulous program and I always suggest it to clients.

Other name brand paint stores also do well recommending colours because they hire people who are interested in design and decorating.  I’m thinking of my local Sherwin Williams dealer.  Same goes for Dulux.

Stay away from big box stores and hardware stores that sell paint! The only qualifications some staff have is they’ve learned to operate the paint mixing machine.  I’m not knocking these stores or the products they carry, just their relative ability to provide you with good advice.

OK, now I will give you some of the knowledge I’ve picked up over the years.  Grey is the new beige.  Yes, gone are those pink-beige tones from the 90’s.  Today’s neutrals are various shades of grey.  Not G-r-e-y, like HMS Halifax battleship grey, I’m talking about the new GRAY.  These colours are a bit more subtle and are what we call complex colours.  The definition of a complex colour is anything that requires two or more words to describe it.  So, for example you get grays described as a brown-gray, a blueish-gray, a warm, red-gray.  See where I’m going with this?

Complex colours are always a good choice because they change under different lighting and as such you tend to like them longer.  Or, to put it another way, you don’t get tired of them.

The next bit about choosing colours is understanding how one colour actually will change the appearance of a colour next to it.  There’s a name for that theory but I can’t remember what it’s called.  You need to be aware of it though.  It works like this.  If you choose a cool colour, like a grey that has blue or green in it, it’s considered a cool colour.  If you put it up against a warm colour, say something like an off-white with a bit of red or yellow in it, the two colours actually enhance each other;  the cool grey looks colder next to the warm colour and the warm colour looks even warmer next to the cool one.  It’s a really neat effect and something you can play with for a dramatic effect.

I know of one example where clients chose a cool grey for their home and then a warm off-white for the trim.  It looked dramatic and worked well together.  You can always buy sample pots of paint and try it out yourself or just play with the colour swatches in the store.

The other bit of advice I’d like to impart is that I never paint anything white or black. I refuse.  The main reason is that when you’re in a paint store you’ll see that they have dozens, literally dozens of whites and off-whites and the same number of blacks.  Live a little.  Choose a warm, red-black, or a blue black.  It will look black but in bright sunlight you’ll notice the added interest in the complexity of the colour.

I offer the same advice for whites.  They look like white on the wall or for trim, but going to an off-white is easier on the eyes.  When customers say they want me to paint it white, I understand that sometimes it’s said because they don’t want to make a mistake, but white paint, (we call it Brilliant White in the industry) has additives in it like titanium dioxide to make it super white, almost blue.

You don’t want to suffer snow-blindness on your way to the bathroom do you?