Despite my best efforts, the psychology of “paint first” stubbornly persists out there.
And I get it, you need a canvas to make a pretty picture right? And it does make sense to do the messy work of painting the walls BEFORE you put in all your nice things.
But painting and choosing the right colour are two different processes.
What it really takes to get the perfect paint colour
When I consult with a client in their home, I might immediately pull out my colour boards to verify the undertones in their finishes, but if we are refreshing a room, I don’t start with paint.
FIRST, we choose some decor.
THEN the best paint colours are easy.
The blue sofa and/or rug in this pretty room below was definitely chosen before the wall colour for this room. Could these walls have been white? Sure, but it would not look nearly as bespoke.
It would be much harder to choose that blue wall colour out of many and THEN the perfect sofa and area rug to match it. Paint is where you have LOTS of options. Making even a few decorating selections will immediately help you focus in on the right paint colour.
Why white walls are not the best backdrop for every room
Sometimes a paint colour does act simply as a versatile canvas.
If you’re building new, or have no plan in place it sure does make sense to go with something versatile and airy.
This is the basic idea behind the white trend, to create a BRIGHT canvas for your room, because bright and light has become a sort of sought after commodity. Purity and simplicity I guess.
A big issue is that such a bright backdrop will bring all your darker pieces into sharp contrast. So now you have a composition and balance problem. Unless you furnish the room with lots more white so your furniture doesn’t recede like black holes into your super bright walls. That’s what it takes.
And white walls often make less than white upholstery look dingy and dirty. Plus white is often too stark to work with the finishes in the average home.
Moving past the obsession with white, like most homeowners, you may have bossy finishes that need the right neutral paint colour. The green beige wall colour below picks up the fireplace surround perfectly and provides some pretty contrast with the trim.
When your paint choices are narrowed by bossy elements, you still need to figure out the accent colours and decor that will work best. Decorating a room with an existing neutral palette has its own challenges.
And if you are lucky and have no bossy elements to answer to, if you have a fairly blank slate, how are you supposed to land on this colour vs that?
By choosing some decor to guide you in advance, that’s how.
This watery blue green was chosen to relate to the decor in this room below.
Decor First, Paint Last
Time and again I get asked to choose a paint colour for a room without a stitch of decor. “Oh, I’ll choose the sofa (or area rug or dining set, etc.) once you pick my paint colour.” In these cases my hands are somewhat tied. Sure you will get a pretty, fresh and versatile paint colour, but it still might not end up being as perfect as is COULD BE if the upholstery and decor had been chosen.
I created my Get Me Started decorating package to help you decorate your room. You get combinations for the colours and look of the main pieces like your sofa, accent chairs, area rug, pillows, lamps, tables and some accessories PLUS the perfect paint colour to pull it all together (which I choose LAST by the way). It is a popular package and it gives you a plan to execute on your own that will end up looking like you hired a designer.
But I get that for many of you, a full decorating package is a bit out of reach, so with my latest revision of my eDesign offerings, I created the COMBINATION ADD ON.
Let’s call it the Combo.
Make it a Combo!
When decorating or refreshing a room, I find the best way to start is with a pillow or area rug. You need a pattern with two or three colours in it, like this pillow below, and from there, you can spin your entire decorating palette.
So let me do that for you! The Combination Add On provides TWO designer mood boards for you to choose from, Each will have an area rug and two coordinating pillows. Simply click and order (the sofas are shown here for context). Plus, in addition to up to 3 perfect wall colour options, I will include paint colours to reference for 2 or 3 coordinating accent colours in BM or SW to guide you when you go shopping for more decor.
This way, you can not only be sure that your paint colour options are as perfect and custom as possible, you ALSO get a big head start on decorating!
And once you have that, It’s like a compass for where to go with your colour and decorating. And that makes it so much easier to get excited about the plan and your new paint colour.
You can simply relax and have fun repeating the colour combination in your furnishings and accessories. You can even create flow with connecting spaces by repeating the same accent colours.
In your presentation, I will list the colours and give you tips on how the they are best used. The stronger colours for example, are typically best for accents and accessories such as chairs, lamps and case goods. And they make wonderful dramatic wall colours for small rooms like powder rooms or dining rooms.
The paler colours are good choices for the walls in larger common areas and adjacent rooms.
Why starting is the hardest part
I created the combo because I see so many of you paralyzed by decorating. It’s not that you don’t care about creating a beautiful room, it’s just that you don’t know where to begin right?
And this is why the world is full of unrealized, safe and boring beige and grey living rooms.
With this palette below, instead of painting your room a plain pale neutral, you could instead wrap your walls in a barely there lavender grey that works perfectly with the decor. Voila! You are on your way to creating a pulled together look!
And if you have an earthy room that you want to update to create a fresher feel, use the combo. I will work with the existing neutral undertones to help you create the most current possible look. This palette above would work well to freshen a space with lots of pink beige travertine for example.
Or let’s say you went ahead and purchased a charcoal sofa. I can help you bring in some colour like in this combination below.
Or if you want to work with your existing brown sofa but you want a fresher look, this is often more challenging than facing a blank slate, and I can help you with that too.
By the way, typically, you would use the combo for your great room to set the palette and tone. However, if it’s your bedroom you’re working on, it can be modified to include an area rug and toss pillows for your bed, or a duvet or coverlet with coordinating rug or pillows. Basically, two coordinating elements and an accent colour palette to get you on your way to creating your bedroom oasis.
The combination add on can be purchased with any of the the paint colour consultations. Just click the combination under “customize your package” to add it to your cart! If you’ve been following me for a long time you’ll know that I want you to have a space that fills you with happiness when you walk in the door!
I can’t wait to help you transform your room!
I would love to hear what you think of this idea. Have you checked out my new customizable options for our eDesign consultations? Each consultation package has some custom add ons to make it just the right fit for what you need.
Don’t see what you need? I would love to hear your ideas on what kind of custom options you would like to see.
PS. I just finished my first Specify Colour with Confidence workshop in Vancouver and here is my fabulous tribe (below). Two people approached me and said the course was everything I advertise on my blog and more! Hooray, that’s the best testimonial!
There are 5 spaces left in Chicago coming up in three weeks! Then in November I’ll be in Boston and Orlando! Register here.