There’s a conversation out in the colour trend world that colour is moving back to browns and warmer grey tones in the realm of mushroom or driftwood, and cocoas and caramels.
First, it’s important for you to understand that colour trends move slowly for people who are not in the industry. So that means brown is not coming back anytime soon. I haven’t specified anything remotely close to brown for any of my clients for years.
Photos by Maria Killam
I agree that finishes overall are warm. But I don’t think it’s a newsflash to say they are ‘getting warmer’.
If we’re going to say that, then it’s probably safe to say they have been ‘warm’ since the beginning of the grey trend, which started in the West Coast in 2009.
It’s not like the tile or designer fabric showrooms have been filled with tiles in battleship grey (blue grey) and now they’re not.
Tile stores have always been filled with earthy tiles and that has not changed. In fact it’s unfortunate for many an unsuspecting consumer that they still carry boatloads of earthy tile.
So stop saying “Warm and brown is coming back”, it’s been here all along and it’s still a professionals job to pick through it and find the timeless and classic tile.
And speaking of warm finishes, is cream, bad? (above)
There’s nothing wrong with being on the warmer end of the white spectrum, you can still achieve a fresh look and feel using cream.
In fact from now on, when I say white, I mean cream.
When I say cream, I mean true white.
When I say white, I mean off-white,
When I say off-white, I mean true white.
When I say blue-white I mean white.
I think you get the picture.
What this means is that, unless I say otherwise, when I’m talking about white, I am talking about the continuum of white from blue-white, to true white, to off-white to cream.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, then you might want to read my White is Complicated; A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook. I promise you won’t get bored and the world of whites will suddenly get simplified for you.
And for those of you who know exactly what I mean, your days of ‘experimenting with whites’ will be over.
You don’t need to have seen every single white in existence before you get some mastery over choosing or specifying white, or off-white or cream.
And I’m still reading this advice in magazines and on-line by colour experts everywhere:
“Paste a group of the colour chips you are considering on the wall and move them around during the day. The undertones will reveal themselves, then you can simply eliminate the ones that aren’t working”.
That this kind of advice is still being written in resources designed to help the consumer choose colour, makes me worry that I will be close to dead before my Understanding Undertones™ colour system becomes mainstream.
First, standard colour chips are not useful at all for testing. But even if you did have three or six or nine large colour samples lined up beside each other, you would simply be comparing each one over and over without the training that my True Colour Experts get in my 3 day event.
A trained and experienced colour expert can compare colour and tell you what you’re seeing, only then, is comparing colour the right way to choose. Slapping them up on a wall and even worse on top of your existing paint colour is NOT useful AT ALL.
Instead of being able to make an accurate decision, you’ll either be waiting for one of them to propose, or you might say:
“I like the one on the right, it’s warmer than the rest of them.”
It’s common to think that the ‘warm’ neutral is the right one but what if you were looking at a blue grey and a blue/green (more turquoise) grey? Because the greener one is warmer you might chose that one.
But the colours in the room were blue grey which means that the greener one would be wrong. In this case, the ‘warm’ choice would be the wrong one.
Or if you stick a bunch of paint chips up and you mix neutrals with colour (above), you will not see the undertone in the neutral because you will be visually comparing it with saturated colour that will overwhelm the neutral.
Then when you choose that neutral and paint your walls, you might end up with a yellow undertone when really you needed a green one. Can you tell me with absolute certainty, which undertone that neutral is (above)? Well neither can I.
Or you might be looking at a collection of 5 paint chips and be thinking. . .
“I like the one on the left, it’s the prettiest one”
What if you have 5 chips up on the wall but one (two in this case, above) is cleaner than the other? You choose the clean one because it looks the best.
Why does it look the best?
Because cleaner paint colours usually make the more muted, dirty colours look ugly.
But what if all the colours in the room related to the dirty colour which means you should have chosen the neutral instead of the prettier colour?
Then you’d have made the wrong decision, again.
Also, anytime you have neutral paint chips on a clean wall colour, they would all look bad and your decision to eliminate all five would have nothing to do with undertones, it would have to do with the fact that they all looked not as awesome because they were sitting on top of a clean colour.
Besides neutral undertones, clean and dirty is a huge distinction my students get when they finish the course. Recently a graduate sent me this email right after she attended my event:
“I went into a friend’s house last night who has a very colorful house…I mean walls painted green and cabinets painted grey and pinks and all kinds of colors. It was done a by a well known designer here in town and for the first time I saw it totally differently. I realized she used a pink/violet grey for the cabinets which looked horrible with the bright clean green walls because they were dirty (clean and dirty). I would never have been able to understand why I didn’t like it until I had your training. It was suddenly so clear and I was SOOOO grateful.”
Or you might have have 4 colour chips up and you might be thinking:
“I like the one in the middle because it’s lighter than the rest”
The consumer often makes colour decisions based on lighter or darker. Does this mean it’s the correct colour decision?
I was once in the home of a very sweet couple in their 70’s who were repainting their home. In fact, while the wife was going to travel overseas to visit her relatives, her husband was going to paint the house. So nice right?
We had chosen a very pale, creamy colour for the house. However, because I was choosing colours with my large colour samples , she was able to see that the colour that was slightly deeper really looked amazing with her new sofa (we had the fabric, the sofa was in the shop being manufactured). So at the last minute right before we finished the consultation, she said “Let’s paint the living room the deeper colour”.
Later that summer, when she had arrived home to her freshly painted house, she called me and said she loved the living room colour so much, she wished she had had the courage to go for it in the whole house.
So choosing a colour based on light and dark is not accurate either.
What I teach in my Specify Colour with Confidence™ courses is the future of understanding colour. What I teach is not a religion or a theory that only some people can grasp or understand. It is a proven system that anyone can learn unless they are colourblind.
In the future, if you don’t understand how neutral undertones work, you won’t be able to get a job in any field related to colour.
In the future, this training will be in design school.
But right now, understanding neutral undertones lives mostly inside of ‘what you don’t know that you don’t know’.
Designers can still get away with saying things like the following at home and garden shows in a city near you:
“Colour is hard. All you can do is test it and hope that you get it right”.
This was declared just a couple years ago on a main stage by a celebrity designer. The sad thing about this is that most people would hear that and think ‘Well if she said it, it must be true’.
So stop reading fluffy advice that is not helpful at all. Learn my system, and get your colours right from paint colours to hard finishes to fabrics.
All the resources to help you are here.
And if you want to catapult your career this year, find yourself at one of my events here.
I’m off to Montreal with my Sister Elizabeth! Can’t wait! Follow my adventures everywhere on Instagram.