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Do you choose Finishes based on Light vs. Dark?

By 09/01/2010February 3rd, 202019 Comments

I can’t tell you the number of times I have had people say things like this: “Well I picked that flooring because it was the lightest one, I didn’t want my place to look dark”, or I chose that tile because I didn’t want my bathroom to look dark.

Well that is, until the chocolate brown trend came in really big—then for a few years it seemed like brown seemed to be the automatic choice for tiles, flooring, paint, countertops and cabinets—too much! Now all those brown kitchens are being painted white. The pendulum always has to swing in the opposite direction at some point.

When choosing colours for clients, they usually react the fastest to light vs. dark colour choices.This is natural. If design is not what you do and you don’t have a context for what you are seeing, how do you judge it otherwise? The problem with choosing finishes this way is that the whole picture is not necessarily being considered. Choosing anything one piece at a time and using light vs. dark as a guide is probably not going to give you the bathroom or kitchen of your dreams.

A big part of a consultation with a professional (especially exterior) is comparing one colour to another, in addition to creating a colour scheme that has the correct balance of light vs. dark. That’s how you know you have the right colour, because now you have seen them in context. On your own it’s pretty much eeny, meeny, miny, moe, and that’s when it becomes hard to sleep at night!

Related posts:

Is Quartz sexier than Granite?
Slate or Porcelain Tile in the Bathroom
Is Travertine Pink or Yellow?
How to know if the Tile you have Selected has the Right Undertones

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me. Become a True Colour Expert

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  • Mary @ RoomPolish says:

    you know what I love about your blog? Every time I stop by, I really LEARN something. So thank you! Keep coloring away…love it all!

  • Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home says:

    So true about choosing things separately. It doesn't usually work. it's great to put together two or three choices on finishes with the color choices to make sure everything 'goes'. Thanks for the good advice!

  • Cristin @ Simplified Bee says:

    Couldn't agree with you more! Great post.


  • Elizabeth Brown says:

    I have found taking black and white photos is a great visual tool in assessing values and creating balance especially in exterior work.

  • Splendid Sass says:

    It really is difficult to get the right light-dark balance in a room. I learn so much from just reading your posts. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kim@Chattafabulous says:

    Have you been talking to my mom? She always evaluates design elements in her rooms on whether or not she feels they are "too dark". It kinda makes me nuts!

  • says:

    Excellent post and point. Light and dark is much easier to determine for people than one color to another. I think that is why so many neutrals are used improperly.

  • Donna says:

    That is so funny that you posted on this particular topic! Tim picked out two tiles samples to bring home and show me for the laundry room which by default ends up being the main entrance to our home.

    Both were a medium shade of brown. Frankly, I've got mostly blue and white things in that room, including the artwork. With a white floor, appliances and utility closet..the shades of brown seemed out of place. But they were beautiful tiles. I remember thinking, "I wonder what Maria would lean towards?" For some reason, shades of brown seem 'safe'. But why that is, I don't know. :o)

    I didn't pay close attention as I have a granddaughter staying overnight. The new grandson has had some breathing difficulties so I'm keeping Lena to make it easier for my son and wife to keep an eye on the new baby.

  • samia says:

    Hey Maria.. how are you doing.. great to be on your blog again… beeen really busy…. working hard on y blog… here is an article that i wrote to discover personal style for beginer designers…

    I hope that you enjoy it..

  • pve design says:

    I cannot wait to show you my kitchen, my new light/dark kitchen in about 9 months….You are so right, there has to be a balance.

  • Peggy and Fritz says:

    I'm definetely a chocolate brown floor person unless it's white floors or vintage wide planks from back East in a rustic wash. I don't like the oak look. For cabinets – I prefer all white in kitchens hands down. However, a lot of it depends on the space and architecture. Sometimes a certain color just doesn't feel right despite what my taste is. But it's a good question.

  • camdesign says:

    this is why you need a designer…we look at the room or home as a sample board with everything worked out together…even if you are not purchasing everything that day, you have a worksheet to purchase from…great post as always Maria…

  • Mona Thompson says:

    Once again, right on!

  • Renae says:

    I love great contrast! Love love love dark floors with white cabinets, dishes, accents, etc.

  • Kelly says:

    I love what that designer did in the bathroom with the fish picture in the middle! OMG! That is just so cool.

  • Laurie says:

    It is an argument I have with my sister. She hates white, or she thinks she hates white and will never choose anything in white. She is defiantly a dark girl. I try to tell her she needs some lighter color to help balance. Someday she will learn.

  • Kathysue says:

    Very well stated and you are so right!! Bravo, you are full of wonderful information and your readers are so lucky to learn from you, Kathysue

  • Dovecote Decor says:

    I have had pickled floors, in the kitchen, during the 80's and it drove me nuts. It showed everything. Then I had a combination, pickled, dark stained floor in a diamond pattern with pink windroses. It worked better…but the best was dark,dark, stained wood floors in the kitchen with white cabinets. I do like the stained bathroom cabinets balanced out nicely, with heavy white surfaces, and the blue and white paint and trim.
    Always learning good thinks here,

  • Dane says:

    Funny you mention picking exterior colors. I have trouble there and always question myself. I don't understand why…but I'm sure you can tell me!


    p.s. so excited to go to Atlanta for True Colour Expert training in May!

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