Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Choosing the Perfect Paint Color

(From Country Home, March '08)

(Photos from Southern Accents: Photo by John O'Hagan; Stylist: Buffy Hargett)
Someone requested that I do a post on choosing paint colors, so I went out there to do some research, so we could all be a little more informed on things. I don't have a color wheel, but I think I need to get one. Remember these? They do help somewhat in envisioning paint colors and how they work with each other. I don't conciously look at a color wheel when I'm choosing paints, but I guess those rules factor in when we put a room together. I'm not very scientific about how I do things, it would seem!

Anyway, choosing paint colors can be very, very frustrating, as most of you probably already know. Who hasn't looked at those pretty paint chips, picked one out, got a gallon of paint mixed up, only to take it home and put it on the walls and have it look NOTHING like you envisioned? Oh, I have! Many times! I've gotten better with this process over the years, so I thought it would be something worth discussing with all of you too. We all want the perfect paint colors in our homes.

All info below comes from the Behr paint site. They have some very useful information on their website on colors.

The Primaries. All colors are made up of three primaries—red, blue and yellow.

The Secondaries. When you combine the primaries, you get the three secondary colors: Orange, green and purple.

The Tertiaries. Then, when you combine each secondary with its neighboring primary, you get the six tertiary colors — and the familiar 12-spoke color wheel.

Rule One: Family is Always Welcome. Most colors look great with shades from the same family as themselves—reds go with other reds, greens with greens. These are the popular monochromatic schemes, all drawn from a single color.

Rule Two: Next Door Neighbors are Friends. You can also use colors from next door on the color wheel—in the case of red, that’s orange and violet. These are called analogous schemes.

Rule Three: Opposites Attract. Every color has a natural complement on the opposite side of the color wheel— that’s why red and green look so good together. These are complementary color schemes. Warm colors have cool complements while cool colors have warm complements.

Warm or Cool. Every color has a temperature. It's either warm—from the red/yellow side of the spectrum, or cool—from the blue/violet side. Light or Dark. It may be the lightest of lights, or the darkest of darks. Bright or Quiet. Lastly, it has an intensity, or chroma. High intensity colors are pure, bright and brilliant. Low intensity colors are quiet and subdued.

So, what makes an exciting color scheme? There are so many choices out there and it is really so subjective. What excites one person, would bore another to tears. I absolutely love red, green, and golden/tans for a main color. I have been drawn to those colors in one hue or another for many years now and that's what I feel comfortable with. Now, those colors do change over the years. For instance:

Remember in the 80's when seafoam green was all the rage?? Oh, yeah...I had that in all it's glory. Then, the pastels gave way to deeper, richer, jewel-toned colors and we all went with Hunter green. Remember Hunter green? My old house went through all of those shades, until I ended up with the yellow/green I have now, which is called Olive 4 from Laura Ashley. So, are we back to the 70's now? Luckily, it's nothing like the 70's used to be. Our colors have evolved to more earthy, grayed-down tones that are much more livable than they were back then. Avocado - NO! Warm Olive/Pear/Lime - YES!

So, how do we pick the perfect paint color you ask? That is a tough one. I tend to look at lots of pics that are out there from others who have painted. I have gotten much better about having an idea of what a color is going to look like on the wall when I look at the paint chip, but it's still not down to a science. Color chips have a lot of undertones in them that you don't always see immediately. What helps me the most is that I have color fandecks from 2 of the major brands and spreading those out and looking at the color strips next to each other will really help you be able to see those undertones immediately. The tans will move from a pinky/peach undertone all the way to green and beyond. When you start looking at these strips side by side, you can really start to see it. And undertones will have a big impact on what color you will end up with on the wall and how it will reflect back into your room. So get familiar with undertones. Place entire color strips side by side and you'll see how the undertones work.

And, as they talked about above, you have to decide if you are a warm or cool person. Me? I'm definitely a warm person, in that I love warmer colors and that's the colors I want to surround myself with. And many times, choosing colors can just be downright frustrating trying to get it right. Believe me, I've been through SO many test quarts myself! That's one of my first recommendations. Go get test quarts and try them out in your house, in your light before you ever commit to a color. Lighting can also wreak havoc on a paint color. What is perfect in someone else's home may not work like you envisioned in your own home. That's why it's so important to try it out first before you commit to those 3 gallons of paint!

Splotch, splotch, splotch!
Flow in a home is also very important to achieve. I try to use 3 main colors and then bring in another color or two for accents. My main color throughout our house is gold and it's used mostly all over the house in one form or another. Then, I bring the other 2 or 3 colors (green and red) in as accents in accessories, as well as wall colors in other rooms. And blue came in the mix for my hubby, but it looks good with the other colors too. Black is also another grounding force that is used all over and helps to bring all the colors together in a home. I have loved using black in touches here and there, it just works.

The main wall color throughout is a soft golden/tan & everything else plays off that:
  • Golds with brick reds and soft, earthy colors in the livingroom
  • Gold with deep blue in our masterbedroom and bath
  • Gold with olive green and reds in the kitchen
  • Gold with black and brick red in the diningroom
  • The 2 guestrooms have some gold with greens, blacks, tans, and garnet
  • And hubby's office only has deep blue for the most part.
But, all of these colors work together and looking at the color wheel, I think they work because they are either opposites or complementary. I'm definitely not a total expert on all things color, but I know what has worked for me over the years in having colors flow throughout.

Here are some colors that I have either seen in person in a showhouse or someone's home or have seen pictures of, either on the internet boards or heard good things about elsewhere. So, if you are looking at a certain paint color, this would be a good starting point for picking up chips and trying out those test quarts. I've got mostly Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore paint strips, so that's what I'll talk about the most:
Sherwin Williams - Entire strips of Whole Wheat (SW 6121) or Blonde (SW 6128) I have both of these strips in my house. Most of the main areas of my house are painted with the Whole Wheat strip, I've used 3 colors on it and one color on the Blonde strip. The Blonde strip has a bit more yellow and the Whole Wheat strip more brown.
Bronzed Beige - 2151-50
Golden Straw - 2152-50 (more yellowy)

Benjamin Moore - I love the BM Historical colors, so you can't go wrong with most of them. Here's a few tried and true:
Pittsfield Buff - HC-24
Shelburne Buff - HC-28
Dunmore Cream - HC-29
Powell Buff - HC-35
Decatur Buff - HC-38
Deer Path - 1047 (ver similar to Decatur Buff) - both beautiful colors
Lenox Tan - HC-44
Shaker Beige - HC-45
Bleeker Beige- HC-80
Northampton Putty - HC-89
Windham Cream - HC-6 (more yellow)
There's a color by Duron called Tobacco Road that has been around for a few years now. Some of my friends have this color in their homes & it has been used extensively all over the country. I keep seeing it popping up again and again. It is a great color too! It is very similar to my Whole Wheat color strip.
SW -
Clary Sage - SW6178 (sage)
Hearts of Palm - SW6415 (more pear/lime)
Sassy Green - SW6416 (more pear/lime)
BM -
Baby Turtle - 515 (more of a brown/green)
Providence Olive - HC-98 (grayed down green)
Georgian Green - HC-116 (sort of pear/sage)
Olive Branch - 2143-30 (sage)

My kitchen green is Olive 4 by Laura Ashley, which I absolutely love.

Soft Aqua Blues/Greens
SW -
Sea Salt - SW6204 (*saw these 2 in a showhouse & they were beautiful)
Oyster Bay - SW6206*
Rainwashed - SW6211
Quietude - SW6212
I've got one small bathroom that I've painted soft blue twice & I'm still not happy with it, so I'll be changing it out one of these days, probably soon. I think I'll try one of these.
BM -
Hollingsworth Green - HC-141
Wythe Blue - HC-143
Palladian Blue - HC-144
Wedgewood Gray - HC-146
Woodlawn Blue - HC-147
Beach Glass - 1564
Iced Marble - 1578


My red in the diningroom is Kilz Vesuvian Garnet & is a brick red. There are many great reds out there, but I don't have a whole long list of them. I know many have used Ralph Lauren reds successfully.
These 2 I know are nice reds, more of a true red.
Luxurious Red from SW is pretty - SW6314
Raspberry Truffle - BM 2080-10

Has any of this helped you to understand color better? This is by no means a total encompassing list of all great colors. There are SO many colors out there, but this may give you some ideas if you are looking for a new paint color! I hope so. It can be a very frustrating, but fun subject. Feel free to throw out your favorite colors too. There's nothing like a new paint color to change and liven up a space. It's my number one suggestion for changing a room without a lot of cost. So, if you're contemplating changing colors, do it! It's only paint!

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26 friends stopped by:

DebraK from ~the Bunnies Bungalow~ said...

Thanks Rhoda, A timely post for sure....I'm getting ready to repaint my main bath. I painted it blue & it's just not working for me...LOL.
I have decided I don't like it because it's blue & I'm a green person! I'm going to try a very soft green/blue this time. I have all my accessories & am all ready to redecorate....just need the right paint color. Today I'm making the decision on paint so THANK YOU for the suggestions!
Hugs, DebraK

PS, I'm sending you an email.

The Nester said...

Wow,I bet you are tired after writing all that! I love how you explain about undertones--that really can make or brake a color and I think most people have a hard time with that!


PAT said...

Great ideas Rhoda!

I want to do a blue room, not sure the shade, yet. Not sure the room, but I'm thinking the studio could use a little TLC, so that might be a good place to try blue.


April said...

LOVE IT!! RO!! very good!

Tara said...

Wow, Rhoda...when someone asks you a question you give us your all! I just let my girls pick out their own paint colors for their bedrooms (which I am going to eventually post when they are done) and you know what? They picked out colors I never would have and they look great! Hmm--kids knew better than me! I am actually thinking of redoing our livingroom and will keep a tab on this post so i can use it when the time comes! Super post!

The Feathered Nest said...

Picking paint is a frustrating experience since not all the paint lines carry sample pots and you really can't go by those paint chips! One of my neighbors has painted EVERY room in her house a different color. Not something I would do or recommend but she really loves it!

Your recipe binder came out really cute! I like the green binder with the papers!


Anonymous said...

Rhoda amazing ideas - thanks so much!
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Terry's Croppin Tales said...

Hi Rhoda,
Funny that you should talk about paint today. I have enjoyed reading your blog for sometime now and love your decorating ideas.

We are painting our dining room, hallway and living room as we speak!

My question for you is where did you find Ralph Lauren Turret Stairs Satin? I have some end tables that are in need of a new color and I love your results.

Thanks again for the inspiration!

Central Point, OR

joan said...

Hi Rhoda,

That was very interesting and I learned a few things. I always take so much time picking out paint. Thanks for all the great tips.

Ruth Welter said...

Hi Rhoda, just wanted to let you know that you won the giveaway on my blog for the framed tile. Please send me an e-mail so that I can get your shipping information. Congratulations.

Classic Charm said...

What a great post. Funny I have a lot of these colors in my home.
My kitchen is SW Blonde, Living/Dining rooms are BM Lenox Tan, Foyer and staircase and landing is SW Whole Wheat. My bedroom in our last home was Shelbourne Buff. I guess we have similar taste. Ha!

Sher's Creative Expressions said...

Rhoda, do you want to know my little secret to picking out paint colors? I take about 8 of those little sample chips (same color). Tape them together on the backside and then tape them on the wall I am considering painting that color. I will have have a nice "chunk" size of paint to see. I will have many different choices when I begin and check the wall at different times during the day and night to get the light right. Then when I paint the walls, I'm not surprised!!

I believe this little tip came from Lynette Jennings. Remember her? I believe Lynette was from Canada. I used to watch her show way before HGTV and DIY cable networks hit the airwaves/cablewaves.



Francie of The Scented Cottage said...

LOL...that's what I always say "it's only paint". I have several color chips taped to my walls right now.

Since my wood work isn't painted (I am sooo waffling over that) I look at those chips for days (weeks, months LOL).

FrenchGardenHouse said...

Wow, girl, that was such an informative post! Picking a color is what scares most people. I have friends who need an "advisor" (moi) and then after looking at a million colors and we pick one, we are so tired we must "do" lunch!:)
xo Lidy

Sandi McBride said...

You know I never think about a color wheel either...If I see a color I like that I think would look good on a wall, I just take it to my local Lowe's and have them match it...sometimes they work it out, sometimes I just stuck with a hideous colour! Great info for us all, good thing you are retired and have time to do all this research for us, darling Rhoda...thanking you from my heart!

paperjunk-lc said...

The Nester had a great post about her favorite paint. All very interesting.

Bonnie said...

Great explanation of the color wheel, Rhoda! We use that in watercolor also. Your home is gorgeous!


Jen r. said...

Great post... I love the historical colors and have Powell buff in my LR and Lenox tan in my girls' room...You are right, you just can't go wrong...It is funny how colors all come back around though in some form.
Jen R

The French Nest said...

Great ideas, Rhoda! Love the picture you posted at the beginning of your post...the colours are so classic and tasteful.


Donna said...

Oh so many wonderful facts and ideas! I am definitely a warm person. I can remember when orange and brown were the big colors!
Thanks for sharing all the info!

Terri and Bob said...

Rhoda, wow, what great information! You are the master of color! My paint mixer just passed away on Friday of last week.. he was a genius at it.

Thanks for the information!

Judy said...

Loved your post on paint colors. I'm pretty good at picking out paint colors and always go with what I love. I think there is a school of thought to look at your wardrobe to see what colors you should use. My wardrobe consists of white, black, khaki and denim. BUT my house is golds, reds and chocolates. I also love certain greens. I always have black for accents.
Glad ya'll did have any bad weather in B'Ham on Sunday....Shane and his family waited here at home before going home.
Leaving on Friday for Savannah/Charleston so I'll talk to ya when I return.
Hugs - Judy

Rosemary said...

Good post Rhoda!
It will be so helpful for people.
That's what I always say, it's only paint, and if you don't like it you can paint over it.

Jen said...

Isn't paint wonderful? It is so much better than wallpaper without a doubt. Your information is timely as we have been working on our house quite a bit of late. The latest project is a chocolate and red master bed and bath. You home and its color scheme is just beautiful! I hope that you have had a fabulous week.

Anonymous said...

please,please show more pictures. Some of us are just more visual. I would love to see more pictures of rooms with colors.

Jaybird said...

Great post!! I always need all the help I can get :^)
The color that I need to know about is that living room that you posted at the beginning of your blog entry...maybe Country Home...I have the red dining room, but would love the khaki color for the kitchen and LR. Would you have any idea about what it is??? Essentially I need a green based khaki like that!
Sincere thanks for any info!