Years ago when I was just starting out as a brand new colour designer (back before I knew anything), I was standing in front of a totally white building, wondering which colour would make it look the best.
I vividly remember this moment because this is what I was thinking:
“I can’t wait until all the possible colours/colour combinations just flash inside my head like a movie.”
Photo: Igor Bakotic
Twenty years and over 20,000 consultations later, that’s exactly how fast I am. And that’s exactly what happens in my head when I’m looking at any project.
During breaks at my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops, I consult with students, and usually in 5 minutes or often less, I know exactly what colour their exterior or the room in question should be painted. Or what colour the countertop and backsplash should be. Or what colour the floor tile should be.
Back when I was new, I had a conversation with a very wise and experienced colour designer who specialized in commercial exteriors. He flew all around the US because this was his niche.
He said no matter how quickly his team completed the clients colour scheme, he ALWAYS told his clients that it would take two weeks to complete their project.
Sometimes they would call the office, sure that the ONLY project he was working on was THEIRS.
He confided that people equated time with a better and more thorough colour specification. In fact, he advised me NEVER to take on last minute work for this very reason.
Image via Rakuten
In other words, the consumer seems to feel that a colourist should be paid for the TIME that it takes to complete a creative project.
And I’m here to tell you that is totally backwards.
Expertise is not the same as punching the clock. The faster and more experienced I am, the more expensive my time is.
Would you rather pay for a brand new designer to stumble around in the dark (in their head) for hours, days or weeks as they rack their brain, second guessing themselves, coming up with colour palettes for your house? Or do you want the colourist that has all the best possibilities already in their head and can tell you in 5 minutes flat what to do?
My favourite response is still this one, I mentioned here many years ago:
A designer friend charged $2,000 for a complete kitchen design. When a client asked how long it took, her response was “17 years and as long as it takes me”.
Recently we received this question from a reader:
I’ve been back and forth about purchasing an exterior paint consult because of a tight budget but I do want to get it right. . . so, what are the terms of the consult as far as, if I don’t like the selections that are recommended?
I have a specific color family that I want to use but I don’t understand undertones and it needs to work with the pavers in front and the roof, and give me the “feel” that I’m looking for. How much “back and forth” is incorporated into the consult?
If you’ve ever considered buying one of my eDesign consultations and wondered this very same thing, let me help clear this up right now:
The world is not your oyster when it comes to interior design or exterior colours.
Once you make one selection (for example granite or stone) and in the above example, she has pavers we need to work with, as well as the roof, you don’t have an endless number of options.
Therefore, all the ‘back and forth’ that you think might be necessary, is NOT necessary. Far from it.
Because based on your fixed elements, there might be one or two options that will be the very best (if you’re lucky you have 3 options but often that’s not the case). Every other choice after that will definitely not be as perfect as the first or second one.
I once had a designer in one of my events who, at the end of the third day, had this to say about my course:
“I choose exterior colour for subdivisions. Often I am working with bad exterior choices because the developer/builder got them on sale. I thought that if I came to your course, I would learn how to make most of those ugly finishes look pretty. What I’ve learned is that I maybe have one or two pretty combinations and ALL THE REST are UGLY.”
Photo by Maria Killam
Any of you who are required by your HOA to choose a combination of stone AND brick for the exterior of your home already know this to be true.
The home buyers who were first, got the choice of the best and prettiest combinations and you are left with the ‘not so pretty’ combinations because your house has to look different from theirs.
This leads me to the point of this post:
I recently received this email in response after one of my eDesign clients had received their colour specifications:
“I wonder if Maria ever truly laid eyes on my project. From the looks of her instagram stories she was out and about traveling, dining out, and hosting her color conference. It seems a bit odd that she had the time to sit down with my project.”
I really appreciated receiving this email because I’m quite sure there are other people who might have wondered the same thing.
I love my readers. Even when I sometimes choke on an email (above), that’s when I have the best opportunity to learn how to be even more clear on the copy on my shop page AND in my blog posts!
So first, what you don’t know, is that by breakfast (this is the part that doesn’t show up on my stories, and you should follow me my stories are fun :), I have already put in many hours of work which includes Skyping back and forth with my eDesign team (who are both ahead of me in my time zone). This is because I’m an early riser and because I can work anywhere my laptop is. And also, because I LOVE what I do.
I work exactly like this when I’m on vacation too. Like I will on my upcoming trip to Paris, Amsterdam and Finland coming up next month where I’ll be gone for 5 weeks. I don’t stop working. In fact it’s because I have my laptop with me that I am able to go away for that kind of vacation. And I do have a goal to go on a vacation without my laptop, but I’m not quite there yet.
And second, and this is the most important, there is not a single eDesign presentation that goes out without my input and approval.
This is MY REPUTATION on the line and there is NO WAY that I would send out designs that did not have my 100% approval.
My team works on the intake and presentation. THAT is what takes all the time.
Am I cutting and pasting images and writing the copy that goes into each presentation?
No, I am not.
But every colour comes from me.
And as you’ve just discovered, more time does not equal a more magical colour scheme.
And when you are good at something, you make it look so easy that people don’t think you’ve put in any effort.
Are there some projects that need more time from my entire team? Are there projects that I touch 3 or 4 times? Yes of course, however, as you’ll learn if you attended one of my workshops, there are a lot of projects where we are specifying the same colours over and over again so they are completed way faster.
What does that mean?
It means right now, the trend has moved to black and white so there are lots of presentations where we are specifying the same colours or whites OVER and OVER and OVER again. Because they work. Because they really are the best options. Because they are perfectly beautiful.
That’s why my System for Specifying colour (below) works so well. Because you only need the best and most useful colours in each undertone. And the list of most useful colours is very small indeed. You’ll find the list in my How to Choose Paint Colours ebook here.
And, if you’ve ever spent some time looking at a fan deck, you’ll see a lot of never-used and useless colours in them. Those are not the colours you’ll find in my system.
If we’re talking about exterior brick for example (I personally think brick looks best painted white or cream NOT a colour) there are probably 4 really good choices of white to cream. That’s it. And do you think we give them out to more than one person? You bet!
Read on, this next piece of my clients email fits into this perfectly:
“I could have spent 5 minutes on Pinterest with the exact same outcome for free.”
Yes of course you could have done that. But the difference between you and me is that you don’t know WHY that exact colour combination is the right choice for YOUR home.
Your intuition can’t tell you where the ‘You are here’, arrow is.
Image via Claire Jefford
If you had the “why” to be certain you had the RIGHT answer, you wouldn’t have hired me.
If you’ve ever consulted with me and I sent you a colour combination that simply validated what you were already thinking (in other words it was virtually the same), you might have thought “Well I could have done that myself!”, but here’s the difference:
I can tell you WHY my colour choice is the right one.
Armed with the answer to the question WHY the colour I’m specifying is the right one for YOUR home, you can confidently hire a painter and spend thousands and thousands of dollars painting the exterior or interior of your home.
That’s the reason why most of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops are full or almost full (below).
Because designers come to my courses so they can get much faster, not to mention MUCH MORE ACCURATE, than they already are, at nailing the colour. Their intuition is often right (that’s how you know you should be a creative), but what you don’t have and what you need to learn is how to EXPLAIN why.
And here’s the worst part about not being able to explain WHY your colour specifications are right:
If you don’t know WHY your intuition is right, you lack conviction, and your client can take the entire project off the rails with their objections to your colour suggestions.
By the way, this last statement is not intended to offend anyone. If as the client, your ideas were always right, you wouldn’t have needed to hire a designer in the first place.
This is why the faster you learn to be ‘bossy but in a charming way‘ the more accurate you’ll be and the more money you’ll make or save.
One of the reasons homeowners/colour enthusiasts come to my courses is so they can stop making very expensive mistakes on their OWN home.
I have one client who I have worked with many times to help fix colour mistakes she has made on her home. Most recently I helped her with her brand new kitchen that ended up completely wrong. So wrong, that in order to fix it she would have to remove her brand new tile or leave the tile, and paint her cabinets, change the countertops and backsplash in order to make it work.
Had she simply hired me in advance of making the wrong choices or attended my workshop to learn how to do it herself, she would be WAY AHEAD and have saved thousands and thousands of dollars rather than ending up with a kitchen that bothers her every single day.
I consulted with another couple who had received three exterior colour combinations from their designer.
They were horrible. Which is why they hired me to help them.
I threw out all three of them and started again. See how bossy that was? This is exactly how you want to be with your clients. Experienced designers who have been in the business many years can relate to this.
Anyway, when they finally realized that their stone choice was the most important, the husband said “Neither our architect, our builder or our designer told us that we had to choose the stone first’.
Because they had no idea.
Which was obvious looking at the colour schemes this couple had received.
And in all fairness, colour theory training helps no one choose colour in the real world which is all you get in design school right?
Sometimes a reader or upset customer will send a message that is pure gold to me. I get a lesson on providing better ways to give service, I learn to share and teach with more insight and how to understand that if things are not spelled out, people will just make up things up! It helps me be more clear on my choices and why I make them – and most importantly if I make any mistakes that I own them and make it right.
My fall dates are up! I will be in Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, Denver and Orlando. Register here.
PS. We’re hiring! I’m looking for a Colour Designer and a Social Media Manager, go here to apply.