The world of colour specifying seems to fall in to two camps. Designers who specify their exact same go-to colour for every single project and designers who take pride in NEVER doing so.
The other day I was having a conversation with a designer friend about choosing colours for a project she was working on.
“OMG you’re brilliant, I already knew that, but seriously. These paint books are fabulous. Read the white one, delving into colours next.”
Then we had a little back and forth exchange about her project. She was working on choosing finishes and fabrics to freshen up a house with dated Tuscan elements.
We spend a lot of time helping clients with the transition from the Tuscan trend to something more current in our eDesign department.
Anyway, since she was going back and forth about which neutral to choose for her clients home, I asked her to tell me which were the last three neutrals she had specified for other clients.
She replied “I don’t have go-to colours”.
That statement is the reason for this post.
On Facebook threads for designers only, I have seen many designers who often state that they never specify the same colour twice.
So first, there’s nothing wrong with that, if that works for you, that’s great. But let me tell you why you might be working too hard to be ‘original’.
To be clear, this conversation is about NEUTRALS, not COLOURS.
You would choose a colour for your house or for a client generally if you are considering a dining room, powder room, bedroom or even a closet, for example (below).
Or you might be someone who prefers COLOURS over NEUTRALS for every room in your home. And if that was the case, I would be the first to help you choose them.
However, most people choose some kind of neutral for the main areas of their home.
Let me explain:
If you look at my Understanding Undertones colour wheel below, you’ll see that there are 9 important neutrals undertones in the world:
If you had a room with the neutrals in these throws and pillows, for example, what undertones do you see here?
I’ll wait, while you figure it out. . .
So blue grey and violet grey right?
If both of these were the neutral undertones in your living room, for example and you needed to choose the correct neutral, you would basically have two options. . . blue grey or violet grey.
Right now, because the Tuscan trend left our homes with dark gold beige and orange tones on the walls, most people are choosing the opposite (very pale) for their new colours.
Therefore, if we were to match the two undertones in your living room, we would come up with a pale blue grey (BM Horizon) or a Violet Grey (Abalone) – Both can be found in my curated collection of large colour samples here.
I also threw in a taupe for comparison (below).
I added the taupe colour paint dot so you could notice that the grey with a purple undertone is the obvious choice. Taupe can also have a purple undertone, but it leans more towards beige, so you can see it’s not quite right here.
Related post: What Everyone Should Know About Taupe
You can go lighter or darker, but after you’ve nailed the undertone, how many colours do you have left?
So let me be even clearer, if you go back to the colour wheel, we’ve already eliminated seven other undertones and we’re left with blue grey or violet grey.
Since most people are looking for ‘light and fresh’, after you’ve chosen the correct undertone, you have two choices left in either category.
Light or lighter.
In this example below, we have a blue sofa with purple and chartreuse accents.
The walls appear to be a violet grey but the purple in the cushions is much more vibrant making blue a much better choice if we were to repaint the walls. The violet grey doesn’t relate to anything in this room.
So here’s the thing. You don’t need to assess your originality as a designer based on whether you can pull out a custom paint colour unique to each client.
Paint is only a backdrop for decorating.
You can create a vastly different look and feel each time with the very same versatile greige on the walls. My advice is, don’t over think it. Put your energy into choosing fabulous fabrics instead.
The truth is, to make sure our clients get what they are looking for, the same greiges and pale neutrals are called on again and again to save the day.
Just like in the Tuscan trend when everyone wanted more dramatic walls, golds and browns, well there aren’t that many perfect shades of either colour which makes being ‘different’ over and over, much harder.
And that’s where the 80/20 rule applies.
Over to you, let’s hear about your favourite colours, or neutrals!
Get my curated collection of large paint samples here.
Transform the way you see and choose colour for everything including paint colours, hard and soft finishes in a Specify Colour with Confidence workshop this Fall. I’ll be in Vancouver, Dallas and Charlston. Vancouver will be the first to sell out so don’t delay.
Look You Need to Know how to Have this Conversation (For Designers Only)