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The 80/20 Rule for Getting Colour Right: Before & After

By 07/01/2013December 11th, 202028 Comments

People email me all the time asking me how in the world it’s possible to specify colour on-line. They say things like “My husband is skeptical so sorry”.  Which is totally fine of course, I’m busy, don’t worry about me.

The point of this comment is that if you’re a designer and you want to conquer the world of on-line design, you should learn my system for Understanding Paint colours. Join me in one of my Specify Colour with Confidence™ colour training seminars.

So today I’m going to show you a colour consultation that I did with Amanda in Chicago last year. They bought this fabulous house that needed new paint colours badly.

And I’m also going to let you in on a secret and here it is: 80% of getting colour right is about Understanding Undertones™ and 20% is getting it right in the lighting.

Yes it’s true that you can choose a colour that you thought was the most perfect colour ever and the light changes it into something really bad, but most of the time, it’s getting the undertone right that makes the biggest difference in having colour in your house that makes you happy when you walk in the door.

Many people use the age-old excuse that the lighting changed the colour but the real reason 80 – 90% of the time is that the undertone was wrong to start with.

I talked about the Pareto Principal of the 80/20 rule on my blog a few years ago.

The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After

Here’s the exterior.

Amanda was so sweet to post her review on my Houzz profile and here it is:

“I found Maria’s website when I purchased a new house over a year ago and was beginning to search for inspiration images for redecorating my new home. I found her advice regarding color and paint so interesting and fresh (invaluable really) and it really resonated with me so I hired her for a consultation for the entire 5,500 square feet of my home. 

Prior to deciding on the consultation, I had already purchased her 50 large colour samples, which I had hoped would simplify the process of choosing the right paint colours (they have). We used them in the consultation and I have also used them to help my parents choose paint colours and my interior designer sister has tried (unsuccessfully to buy them from me!).

They have paid for themselves over and over again. We have successfully chosen great colours on the first try when we’ve used them without any hassle.

As for the consultation, I could not have been more pleased! From her years of experience working with colour, I had a feeling I would be able to trust her design advice and she did not disappoint! Our consultation covered choosing all of the paint colours in my home (using my furniture, flooring and fabrics as a reference point). In addition, we discussed the other renovations I was working on at the time like updated my kitchen and retiling my foyer/mudroom. Maria and I discussed all the elements of the foyer and the kitchen: The backsplash tile, cabinet paint color (white of course), the countertops I was purchasing (Cambria Torquay), the hardware, lighting, etc. 

She really does give sound advice through and through. From my experience, she has an in-depth understanding of what paint can do for a space and she definitely understands the concept of undertones (which is a critical component of creating a beautiful space). Overall, I feel like her design advice outside of colour results in a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing look that is timeless and classic.

I can, without hesitation, say that Maria’s fee was 100% worth it. I shudder to think of the mistakes (cost in $$$ and stress) I would have made without her expert advice. Choosing paint colours was completely stress free, my choices for my kitchen renovation were confirmed by the white kitchen expert and I am now enjoying every square inch of my new home and it’s gorgeous palette chosen with the expert help of Maria Killam.”


The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After

Lovely back yard.

The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After

 Pretty, flagstone pathway, My LA, MaryAnne White would approve.

Before entry


Brace yourself for some STRONG colours! I believe it’s my mission in life to give my clients the confidence to use colour but certainly where appropriate. This house was VERY colourful! But hey, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to colour.

The 80/20 Rule of Getting Paint Colour Right: Before & After After

We toned down the red tone of the wood floors and staircase into a medium brown. The new timeless colour for floors.

The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After

After: Wall colour P&L Phantom 11-31

The 80/20 Rule of Choosing Paint Colours: Before & After


THe 80/20 Rule of Choosing Paint Colours: Before & After


Dining Room Before


Amanda wanted to paint out all the trim, so that’s what we did.

Colour Consultation: Before & After

 After: P & L Dried Moss 15-25

Amanda and her family actually had to re-locate soon after they moved in, so they moved out and had the house staged which is why the furnishings are basic.

Their house was on the market for one day and they got their asking price! She was thrilled!

Before Office


Amanda had found this wonderful wallpaper and it made sense to paint out the millwork in this den.

The 80/20 Rule of Choosing Paint Colours: Before & After

After: Millwork: P & L Off-White 32-31

The 80/20 Rule of Getting colour Right: Before & After


Kitchen Before


And of course the kitchen, which is the best transformation in my opinion. Since I renovated my kitchen last year I get much fewer emails asking me about white kitchens. Instead I receive emails with people saying “Maria, I’m copying your kitchen exactly, I just need a few more details”, haha.

I really need to post better photos of my kitchen but I was waiting until there was something pretty outside the windows after my landscaping was complete so I’ll have to do that soon.

Colour consultation: Before & After

After: Countertops, Cambria Torquay, White P & L Off-White 32-31

I love that she had the island re-designed, it made this kitchen feel brand new.

Colour consultation: Before & After


 Here’s another view.

The 80/20 Rule of Choosing Paint colours: Before & After

Master bath – Before

When we got to the master bath, I suggested Amanda have the two sconces removed. The placement was odd given there was no mirror. Obviously the wall colour was 100% better not cut up like it was in the above picture.

Colour consultation: Before & After

After: Existing Calcutta Tile: Paint colourL P&L Gray Moire 33-30

The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After


Colour Consultation: Before & After


Colour Consultation: Before & After


The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After


The 80/20 Rule of Getting Colour Right: Before & After

After: Paint Colour, P&L Pavonne 25-26

Remember this house has been staged to sell. I think she did a great job, thanks Amanda for sending me the before’s and after’s!

Related posts:

What NOT to do with your Kitchen Island Design

The New Timeless Hardwood Floor

PEI Cottage gets a Dose of Colour me Happy

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 


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  • Teresa says:

    Love, love and LOVE! I really need to have you help me. Hope that you’ll have the time.

  • Angela N says:

    WOW!! It looks so much more expensive in all the after photos!! Love how the ceiling was painted the same color as the walls in the master bath. Also LOVE the redesigned island int he kitchen. Did they just paint the existing cabinets and change the island? Looks all completely new. Beautiful!

  • Tracy says:

    It’s easy to see how her home sold in a day! Gorgeous!

  • Nataly Roberts says:

    The “before” kitchen is almost a perfect example of using too many fancy design elements together…all it lacks is a busy patterned backsplash. After is such a relief!

  • Jann Newton says:

    Wow, Maria! The whole house looks great. I especially love the white kitchen!
    Have a nice relaxing vacation.

  • These before and after photos are incredible. You did an amazing job! I would love to share a few of them on my post tomorrow!

  • Jennifer Johnson says:

    One of the best transformations I’ve ever seen. Really that kitchen is crazy bad (before) and crazy good (after)!

  • mrsben says:

    Overall a wonderful improvement. Love, love the character of the home! -Brenda-
    P.S: Have a great week and wishing you lots of sunshine.

  • Margaret says:

    Just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing the paint colors! What color was used in the master bedroom? Enjoy your holiday! Margaret

  • Beth says:

    Truly amazing how paint color changes everything. Maria, did you help with the exterior paint, too? It’s lovely. What is it?

  • Wonderful color transformations here, Maria! Beautiful and timeless!!!

  • BillP says:

    What a handsome home and a brilliant makeover. Interesting to note that nothing was structural other than the new kitchen island. Interesting how much the walkway looks like yours, Maria.

  • Fran says:

    What an amazing transformation! Especially love that beautiful ‘after’ kitchen!

  • I think it’s sometimes hard for people to get that color consultants rarely suggest wild color combos. These photos are a great example of calming down a space in a way that makes it look bigger and better. Great job, Maria! Have a great vacation.

  • Angela says:

    Any way to find out where that bed came from? I’m dying for it! Gorgeous home inside and out!

  • Amanda says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for your positive feedback on our house! It was an absolute pleasure to work with Maria. We got every color right on the first try. It has been wonderful to live in such a tranquil and soothing space. Never underestimate the power of color!

    Angela, our bed is Drexel Heritage. It is part of the Shelter and Shore collection. It is called the Hatteras bed. Here is the link I found for it, but I am not sure if they are still making the line. I purchased it at Walter E. Smithe in Chicago:

    If anyone has any questions regarding finishes or further details about the house, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

    Finally, the link for our home is still online. For more pics, please see:,%20IL%2060068

    Have a great week!

  • Jerseyjan says:

    What a magical transformation! I’m in love with the balck and white floors and especially like the kitchen. But wait, the master bath… No doubt, your talents are immense, Maria! Perfection!

  • Jerseyjan says:

    What? No edit? Make that “black and white floors.” Oh my!

  • M says:

    OMG, what a huge change. Every space is just stunning especially the entry with black and white floor and the kitchen. Hard to believe those are the existing cabinets in both areas!
    Can you please tell me what color you used for the kitchen cabs and what type of paint? All sprayed (or brushed) in place?
    Love it all.
    Look forward to seeing more before and after projects and yes, more pictures of your kitchen and banquette please!

  • mimi says:

    Fabulous, Maria! The changes are really quite remarkable- hard to pick a favorite- I love it all!

  • Everything looks amazing Maria. Love the color choices. I never really liked black and white checker floorings…but it works really well here!

  • Barbara says:

    Fabulous, simply fabulous! Can you (Maria or Amanda) tell me what color the formerly blue bedroom was painted? Thank you!

  • Connie says:

    Congratulations to you both for creating such an absolutely beautiful transformation!

    I would greatly appreciate information on the cabinets in the kitchen as I am getting ready to change my own from stained to painted (white). What brand, color and sheen of paint did you use? Are they sprayed or hand painted? Did you pre-treat the existing cabinets first or sand them down? What is the wall paint brand, color and sheen?

    Thank you so much for sharing your home and talents with us, Maria and Amanda!


  • Amanda says:

    Hi Connie,

    The cabinets were painted in Fine Paints of Europe Hollandlac paint, color matched to BM Cloud White. The sheen we chose was satin. The cabinets were sanded down first, but I would reference the FP of E website for very specific and thorough instructions of how to prep your cabinets for this process. I believe the prep is dependent upon the current state of your cabinets. Also, the paint was applied by hand with a foam roller, which achieved a very uniform and perfectly smooth finish. It was easier to control than a spray application.

    The wall color is BM Manchester Tan, eggshell finish.

    Thanks for your positive feedback! And, good luck with your project!


  • Karen Aamodt says:

    Reading your blog and looking at all the BEFORE and AFTER photos is like having a mini Pinterest at my finger tips!!!!!

    We are planning a kitchen remodel and I think I will borrow an idea for the new built-in double wall ovens from the purple den and house them in a cabinet on the diagonal; and the cabinet to the right would be my cook top. Super pricey $$$ estimate for moving the gas line makes it necessary to re-think this part and if I can make it PRETTY and PRACTICAL I will be happy, lol!

    Thanks again!

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