The best money-saving advice I give my clients every single day is dedicated around the correct way to introduce finishes from today into your dated, 20-30 year old (or more) space.
For example, recently I consulted with a client who had plans to rip out everything in the bathroom except the one-piece shower/tub. She sent me some images in advance of our consultation of some combination sink/vanity units she planned to purchase to replace her existing vanity.
Pretty right? Carrara top, built-in vanity = $700. A bargain. However, if you buy this unit and leave your tub/shower from the 70s/80s, people will walk into your bathroom and say “Oh, new vanity, old tub.”
My advice to the client was to buy a white vanity from IKEA and install a formica countertop instead. This advice more than covered the cost of my fee for the consultation by the way.
The following couple were not sure whether they wanted to paint their kitchen or take it out. They were also installing new carpets and hardwood floors. However the first thing we had to deal with was the colour of the family room. It had been painted yellow and my clients did not like how it made their new stone fireplace look dirty because of the pink beige undertone.
First we tried HC-92 Wheeling Neutral – the green beige just enhanced the pink beige stone even more. Notice how I immediately turned around two other boards so that we could be strictly focused on the colour of the stone fireplace.
Then I tried HC-28 Shelburne Buff since the fireplace appeared to have gold tones in it. Very bad as you can see, way too green-looking in comparison.
Then we tried CC-120 Stonehouse. It worked because the stone wasn’t screaming pink and neither is that colour but my client’s kitchen/family room was north facing so they felt it would be too dark.
In the end, CC-110 Muslin was the winner (above). It also reads grayer as well as has enough pink in it to tie in perfectly with the fireplace. You can see that it will dramatically improve the feel of the room.
Next we moved on to the kitchen. Here is their 70s kitchen installed in 1981.
The sunshine ceiling will be removed and we chose this laminate floor (you can see a piece of it on the left side) because it related to the colour of the cabinets. It also worked well with the 70s tongue-and-groove cedar ceiling in the living room and existing stone fireplace which they loved and it was staying (see photos below).
This floor was so great with everything in their house I asked how many colours they had actually discarded in advance of my arrival. They said, “A lot, we have been looking for weeks.”
You can see that if you installed espresso brown flooring into this existing kitchen, the floor would scream today and the kitchen would scream yesterday.
Next, we set about finding a formica countertop. Stone countertops installed in a dated kitchen like this would also be bad as that is not what we were doing in the 70s and 80s.
Installing stone countertops on an existing oak kitchen would also give you an “old and new” look. I immediately nixed all the blotchy “granite look-alikes” on the left; you already know how I feel about granite so obviously the same applies with the fakes.
These were the few we narrowed it down to after going through five rings of samples.
I was once called out to a house to approve laminate samples chosen by the designer in the kitchen store that in no way related to the tiles that had been selected for the bathrooms. Laminates are mostly bad and blotchy so if you look at them all and don’t see one that you like, this is the reason why. It’s why black is even a good choice (although you see everything on it) or even white. I mostly prefer solids or certainly something more like this one we chose (below).
See how it picks up the tones of the cabinet? My clients who were leaning more and more to a painted kitchen by the end of the consultation also asked for a white:
We chose CC-130 Ivory White because of all the earthy, butterscotch undertones in the house. Anything whiter in this house would have simply looked wrong.
My clients loved the fireplace and cedar ceiling so we made sure that the floor which would go through the entry and down the hall was a good match to their existing elements. Especially important as they are technically dated. My clients were renovating this house for them, not for future buyers so making sure everything tied together well was important.
The blue carpet was going to be replaced, so first I brought in the bigger samples I had. You can see that the more yellow-beige one on the left is way better than the one on the right which appeared slightly pink in their space. My clients felt it was still too light as they had two dogs, so we pulled out all the colours on the boards next.
The sample on the far left was the one we chose. Keep in mind carpet, just like paint colour gets lighter when it gets installed.
Here’s another look at Parfait, the carpet colour we chose.
We chose CC-400 Sundial for the walls which picked up the butterscotch tones of the fireplace. Those of you who have purchased my large samples, 1045 would have worked well too.
The butterscotch colour also looked great with the carpet and ended up actually being the complement to the blue-gray furniture in the living room. My client laughed when I said it was blue, she said she had never seen her sofa and loveseat as any colour other than gray.
At the end of our consultation she said, “I was so lost in trying to make all these decisions, I would have chosen a noisy countertop and most likely the wrong flooring. The paint colour was already wrong — thanks so much for helping us pull everything together!”
Recently I received this comment on one of my posts:
“I built a new house . Your site saved me a LOT of turmoil. Everything looks fabulous. Right down to my white kitchen. I can’t tell you how much grief the contractor, trim installer, tile installer, the cabinet maker and my spouse, gave me about that white kitchen! When it was all done, they were in awe. The architect wants to put it in an article they are doing on kitchens. I couldn’t have stuck to my guns without your words of wisdom. I wish you could see it. I owe you all the credit!”
If you stick to a clean and simple look, you will spend months and even years happily congratulating yourself on how great your house looks. And that is way more fun than spending an obscene amount of money on new finishes that in the end don’t work with your old dated elements, are way too busy or simply the wrong colour because you didn’t understand which undertone was which (just like in the first example with the fireplace).
Simple equals happy, period.
Download my eBook, It’s All in the Undertones. If you have a computer, you can download my book!
To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!
If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.