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Before and After

Pssst. . . it’s a Secret [for colour lovers only]

By 04/23/2009February 5th, 202327 Comments

I’m back from the Colour Marketing Group convention in Seattle this past weekend, and here are the highlights:

The fundamental message from the weekend? Colour sells and the right colour sells better.  Your customer will investigate the product further if they like the colour—you lose them if the colour isn’t right.  If you have 2 identical products/houses side by side the only thing that differentiates them is the look and the feel and that is created using colour!

This presentation of 10 boards was made my Ken Charbonneau who worked for Benjamin Moore for many years and was responsible for putting together their Historical Collection which came out in 1976 and is now a fixture in their colour line.  He is currently with Wilsonart International (which is one of the reasons why he’s included laminates on his boards).

Ken said that laminates are the ‘great pretenders’.  And the biggest customers of laminates?  The gaming industry.  The hotel lobby and counter will be marble and then you walk around the corner and it’s laminate everywhere else.  It’s a great example of first impressions being everything.  It’s why if you can’t afford to install crown molding everywhere in your house, install them in the main rooms downstairs and you create the impression that the whole house has been done.

These boards are an example of colour direction that includes browns and grays.

The second day was the most interesting to me as it was colour forecasting day. 

Because I’m a residential designer I was in ‘Consumer Colours Current’  and here’s what happens.  Everyone comes with 8 colours.  One for each colour in the colour wheel including brown and gray or white.  We choose a colour that we think is currently ‘established’ and one that is ‘new’.  The most fascinating part of this exercise is how much similarity there was with the colour that people chose. 

That’s when you know you are on the right track. 

You have all these people in the ‘colour industry’ choosing colours (with thousands to choose from), they go up on the board and so many of them are the same.  The above board is what we narrowed it down to and then named them on the spot which is a very important step in colour forecasting because it starts creating the story which is what sells.

6 years ago when the brown and powder blue trend started coming in, I tried to find that combination in fabric everywhere because I was starting to specify them in residential design and it was impossible.  The fabric houses simply hadn’t made those combinations yet, it was that new. 

One of my current clients wanted a gray/green sofa when we were selecting colours for the furniture in her new apartment.  I steered her away from a gray/green colour to more of a fresh green knowing that it would be much easier to find something fabulous in the newer green rather than the older one. 

That’s the power of understanding and knowing colour trends.

Anytime I have been hired to work on a project with colours that are dated, it’s much harder to find ‘fabulous’ fabrics that the client madly loves because the selection is so limited.  

Obviously we can’t all re-do our living room every 5 years so this happens a lot, however if you are starting with an empty room, it’s much easier to find art and accessories to complete your space if you work with more ‘current’ colour schemes.

This room (below) was decorated by a designer approximately 10 years ago.  A year ago, I was hired to select new drapery fabric and rods, toss cushions and carpeting (the current fabric belonged in a kitchen) you can see that the toss cushions were made to repeat the ‘fresh lemon yellow’ in the current drapery (so wrong with the ‘dirty, mature red’ which was the burgandy) in the room.

In addition to that, she had never found an area rug because it was difficult to find a square one so she had lived without one all these years until I came along.


Instead of trying to find a square area rug I simply chose some textured carpeting and had it bound in a herringbone, navy fabric from Ralph Lauren which certainly helped to define the space and tie in all the furniture. 

I also recommended that we switch out the ‘bun’ feet on her furniture (which were too country looking) to match her more traditional coffee tables.   The other issue was the existing accessories on her mantle that were too small in addition to lacking balance and scale in this larger space. 

An accessory shopping trip for new lighting and accessories did the trick.



The challenge with the drapery fabric was finding something that was light enough to work with her current wall colour (re-painting because it was an open space would have dictated that the entry, halls and dining room would have to be done as well and that wasn’t in the budget) I ended up choosing a textured, raw silk which read two-toned in the end, gold  enough to work with the furniture but also light enough to complement the wall colour.


An experienced designer knows which elements to work with and what to ignore in order to make a space work.  In the beginning of my design career I was asked to find two chairs to go with an existing, cold blue gray, leather sofa from the 70’s.  At the time I didn’t take the job because I had no idea which chairs I could find that would work with that sofa!

Now I know that the answer to that design dilemma would have been to advise my client that anything ‘new’ would scream TODAY and their sofa (even though it still looked new because it was sitting in their living room and rarely used) would scream YESTERDAY!  

Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and buy new because you can’t save something THAT dated and make it work especially if you are adding new pieces.

Related posts:
Hiring a Designer: Luxury or Necessity
Staging: Two Day Transformation
Bachelor Pad (Media Room Before & After)

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  • Joyce says:

    sounds not only like a great trip but very imformative. I like what you did with the room in the last photo. I am going to whisper this, I like the colors of the wall and we use to have something similiar and if I tell my husband…. lol… Enjoy!

  • High-Heeled Foot in the door says:

    Wow so interesting. I love getting all this information. It’s great for someone starting out. I’m constantly joting down notes to myself from your blog posts. Glad you had a good trip.

  • Joe says:

    Great tips. I’m liking the ‘before and after’ shots.

  • Michelle says:

    So true…old is just old!! Like the way I feel 🙁 today.

    Sounds like a great conference Maria…thanks for sharing!

  • DesignTies says:

    You’re a big tease, Maria… we have to wait 4 months for the new colours??!!! No fair!! 😉

    Love what you did with this room… it really updates it!

    Looking forward to hearing more about your conference…

  • Bayou Contessa says:

    It’s so interesting to see the concept of color forecasting play itself out. What a lucky person you are to be included in this group!!!

  • Imogen Lamport says:

    This is so fascinating – I would so love to have been there! One day I will.

  • VictoriaArt says:

    Loved your presentation about the color boards, especially the trend forecast. I “fight” similar situations and not always succeed.
    Many clients do not want to part with their color ideals. Many are too new! So we have to compromise. See my latest project on my blog, it is a perfect exemple. Many (color)and other selections had been made before I started to work for them and it was very difficult to find a more modern look.
    Thank you for all your insights!
    Wish I was there!

  • Lauren says:

    it sounds like it was amazing!! LOVe the changes you mae in the room you featured- SUch a big (beautiful!!) difference with smal changes!!! love to see your work.

  • Christine says:

    I love hearing about the conference. The before and after was dramatic, even though none of the furniture changed. Great job.

  • Kelee Katillac says:

    Hi Maria!!

    Glad you are back!! Very helpful and informative post!

    Also please send me your mailing address so we can send you a thank-you! I appreciate you and your kind oost!

  • Haven and Home says:

    Sounds like a great experience. This is very interesting to me and I don’t know how I am going to wait 4 months! Well done with the rug in the last room.

  • GeopologyDesigns says:

    Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see the new colors. The after photo of the last room was great.

  • Brillante Home Decor says:

    The room after id rejuvenated, fresh and stylish. A professional designer was needed and luckily they found you.
    Impatiently waiting for the new colours!

  • DesignTies says:

    Fun stuff!! My favourite colour boards are the ones with blues and purples — I’m always drawn to those colours. If you want to sell me something, make it purple!! 😉

    Couldn’t you just give us a small hint about the colour forecast?? Then you wouldn’t have to kill us, maybe just give us a purple nurple 😉

    The living room makeover you did is great. Shows that you don’t have to make a lot of changes or spend a lot of money to make a room a lot better 🙂

    Looking forward to reading more about the conference 🙂


  • vicki archer says:

    How wonderful to be making the trends rather than following. Such an interesting post and glad you enjoyed the conference, xv.

  • Laura Trevey says:

    Great post with so much information!! Love all the COLOR..

  • chanteusevca says:

    Maria, Those are wonderful shots of those color boards. Wish I could pick a favorite color. It’s impossible.

    It’s also quite amazing how you completely transformed that room with ieads I never would have dreamed — especially changing out the legs on the chairs. Brilliant! What a huge difference in the look and feel of that room with the rug and revamping the accessories on the fireplace. Wish you were here in Texas and I could hire you!

    ~ Victoria in Texas

  • Laura Trevey says:

    thanks for visiting my new blog! Be sure to check out for your complimentary Watercolor 🙂

  • Under a Green Roof says:

    that blue-green color board makes me swoon!

  • sallymandy says:

    Hi Maria, this is my favorite thing I’ve read tonight! So interesting and full of cool ideas and photographs. I loved hearing about the color forecasting, something I find just fascinating. Thanks for sharing a little of how it’s done. I also enjoyed seeing what you did with that living room. I learn so much from you. Thanks and have a great weekend. p.s. thanks for your recent read and visit.

  • Meade Design Group - Iván Meade says:

    Thanks for all the new info about colour – really cool. I definitely feel a change in the approach of clients to use colour this year.

    I guess they are tired of the gray winter and they are ready to have some vibrancy in their homes.

    Love the vintage feel in the colour boards.

  • hello gorgeous says:

    What a great conference to be part of. But 4 months??!! 🙂

    I like how you resolved your client’s room issues without redoing everything.

  • annapaula says:

    Thank you very much for your passage in my blog !

  • Fifi Flowers says:

    I ADORE colour! Lovely room makeover… simple changes can sure make a BIG difference!
    ENJOY your day!

  • Tiaa @ EYInteriors says:

    Awesome makeover! Great example of how a little goes a long way! I can’t wait to here more about the color professionals!

  • Bethany says:

    Thanks for all the tips about working with clients. I actually thought of your blog when my client called and wasn’t excited about the new bar stools that we ordered for her. I remembered you saying how sometimes people aren’t sure about new things because they have been living without them for so long and are used to the empty spaces. So I went up to see them with confidence because I was so sure of them in the first place – I knew they would be perfect – and I was right! They were great and my confidence in them instilled confidence in her and now she loves them. I know if I hadn’t read your advice earlier I would have squirmed in this situation. Thanks for your advice!

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