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Understanding Undertones

How a Smart Colour Choice can Save you Money

By 01/09/2010February 10th, 201718 Comments

Yesterday I had lunch with a former student who is also a painter and has done some work for me (she is excellent). I asked her how involved she gets in helping clients with colour and she says many of them totally rely on her expertise.

She told me that one lesson she took away from my course that she uses all the time is when clients present her with 3 different shades of basically the same colour to paint in 3 separate rooms.

Why an outdoor photo? Cause that’s where I’d like to be right now and I can’t show you 3 rooms with 3 of the same beige anyway so enjoy!

She said many times people think they are really being creative or ‘brave’ with their choices, when really all they’ve done is select 3 different tones of the same colour in the same intensity.

So here’s the lesson.

If you have chosen 2 or 3 neutrals or colours that are basically the same, just pick one. You will save money because you’ll only need to buy one colour instead of three and that ‘same’ colour will look different in all 3 spaces anyway because the lighting, furniture and natural light exposure will vary in each room.

Image source for above 3 photos

The exception to this is if you have specifically chosen each colour to coordinate with the undertones of the furnishings in each room. Unless your entire house gets decorated at the same time—this is sometimes unavoidable.

We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous email consultation packages here.

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Related posts:

The Right Way to Create Flow using Colour

Does your home have Colour Flow? Take the Toss Cushion Test

Should you pay for a room to be re-painted if You chose the Colour?

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  • Carol Ann says:

    I love your blog…always great lessons!
    Todays presentation went well (just in case you wanted to know)
    Could not talk properly by the end…long to explain 4 rooms, said she loved and wanted it all even the vases and boxes for the coffee tables, will know for sure by Monday, 4 rooms for 30,000.00 not bad…will post when I get the time. x

  • Zelda says:

    ha ha , I live and work in kuwait ,it was a time when the entire country was Beiiiiiige , of white , egg shell …. and no way ! to get our of it ….. thanks god my clients were a bit more rock n roll if I may say :-0

  • Alina says:

    Oh my Lovely….The last photo all I could think was that is a bold choice for the wall! But WOW is works and has visual impact.

  • Tara Dillard says:

    My color, chosen by expert Susanne Hudson, is going on walls & ceilings throughout most of my home. As I type.

    Even within the same room it looks different depending upon where you are sitting, is there a window, is their moulding, types of furniture nearby & etc.

    Would not have been brave enough for this without an expert.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • DesignTies says:

    Reminds me of when I was trying to choose a red for the fireplace wall in the family room. I literally had about 50 red colour chips spread out on the coffee table. And in the end, I chose the red that I was going to choose in the first place, before I started picking up other paint chips.

    Talk about making things way too complicated!! Sometimes you just need to go with your first instinct 🙂


  • Dale says:

    I agree that for the most part, choosing the same neutral for multiple spaces looks more cohesive. I notice right away when I walk from one room to another and it's just a slightly different shade. It bugs me for some reason. Maybe it feels like whoever painted one room didn't bother with the spending the money or effort to paint the next. It especially bugs me if one is pink based and one is yellow based.

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    Another reason I love your blog. I read your great advice and tuck it away with the lovely dream that one day I will have the beautiful furnishings to match the perfect paint colour, with matching undertones of course, in every room in my house.

    (Still love the perfect pale yellow and blue in my living room . . . it's the rest of the house that I dream about.)

  • Ivy Lane says:

    great suggestions for my clients who are thinking of building new homes…builders charge quite a bit for anything after 2 colors…this is a great way to keep it simple but still have impact in a new build. As always…I learn something new everytime I visit! Thanks Maria!

  • Marlo says:

    This is really good information Maria.

    I should have figured this out after reading your post about "Effect of Natural Light Exposures on Colour" – but I didn't! I refer to that post every so often but didn't think about taking advantage of natural light to save money. Only a colour expert would think of that. 🙂

  • Brillante Home Decor says:

    So refreshing to read your blog and keep learning. Hope you are enjoying the sun outdoor (in our dreams)

  • This Photographer's Life says:

    What a great lesson! I never thought about that. You always write about the best topics!

  • Sara @ Russet Street Reno says:

    This is a really good piece of advice for those who pick similar neutrals, however I would be so bored with the same color in several rooms! I prefer completely different colors that all work together. But you are right that the same shade looks different in every room.

  • Cindy @ Chalk it Up! says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I am really enjoying it! Color is a passion of mine. I love learning more about it:)
    I will definitely be back to soak it all in!

  • Acanthus and Acorn says:

    Oh Maria, where were you when I was having the powder room paint angst with my clients!? On a personal note, I have had friends come over to inquire about my paint "choices"(one in particular I have used in different rooms)and then tried to replicate them in their own home. It never works for the reasons you so brilliantly stated here….the light and furniture will always dictate. Pick the best one for the space being considered. Great Lesson!

  • Karena says:

    Great tips Maria! The images are perfect and you are so right on. The lighting in a room makes such a difference

  • chanteusevca says:

    Maria, Thank you for that dreamy photo you posted instead of posting three shades of beige! We're having frigid weather (in the teens) here in Texas and we're all so shocked that any pictures of sun, sand and beach are greatly appreciated.

    Back to the subject matter, three various shades of the same colour would seem wild to some people like my husband who feels that every wall colour in our home should be the same beige. And he's probably never considered the lighting or undertones of furniture. But I'm happy to report he is now listening to me regarding what I have learned here on your blog. And we will be consulting your further when we are ready to de-beige our walls. YAY!

  • Kate says:

    This is fantastic and timely. I'm about to move in to my first owned house, and all the rooms need painting. I've got the colours all picked out but keep changing my mind about the teeny bathroom. Sky blue, no, grey blue, no, more aqua, aaah! Now I think it can be the same aqua colour as the living room and you're right – it will look totally different in that space. Such a relief.

    I've just found your blog and I'm finding it so helpful – my new house isn't going to be as tied together room by room as your houses, and I'm fine with that. But I'm picking up so many ideas that will lend a bit of that, and add depth to each room. Thanks for your wonderful combination of practical advice, inspiration, and articulation of all the abstract ways that colour and space affect us.

  • Cathryn says:

    I appreciate all the comments and the insight. A quick question—I consider navy a type of neutral. Has anyone had success painting walls in a room with alot of natural light (southern exposure) navy? My teenager would like this. His room has white crown molding & trim similar to cloud white at this time. Thanks for any experience you may share.

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