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Advice for HomeownersColour ConsultationOne bad decision pays for the designer

Vancouver Colour Expert; The Three most important Words in a Consultation

By 08/25/2009January 23rd, 201734 Comments

The most important word is because.  Really. That is what you are paying for when you hire a designer or a colour consultant to help you with your design decisions. If you hire a colour consultant to help you select colours for your home and all you have at the end is a bunch of colours and that’s it? You have paid too much.

I get emails all the time asking for a quick opinion on exterior colours (and it’s okay if you keep emailing me, I love getting mail from my readers) but if I just fire a colour or two back, here’s what happens. Nothing. You simply add them to your poll–you know the one you are doing with your aunt, your uncle, your friends, your painter, your dog and your cat? And why is it basically meaningless?

Because it still doesn’t give you the answer to the question, Why? Why is your colour the one? Why is it better than all the 2,000 colours in the fan deck? That’s what you are paying for, the Because. And it’s working with a professional that gives you the confidence to move forward. After all, its expensive to paint the exterior of your house. The cost of the right colour is the most inexpensive piece of the entire bill!

How about interiors? When I worked at store level, people would walk in asking for a consultation, certain it would only take about 20 minutes; “How on earth could it possibly take even one hour?” was a question I was asked all the time. And you are right. The colour is the fastest part of the whole thing. You know what takes all that time? Decorating. Yup, that’s the second most important word. Going back to the statement I made earlier; if you are left with a pile of colours and no PLAN to pull together the look and feel of your home ? You have paid too much.

Or you are renovating, (that’s the third one by the way) and you need to know if you are making the right decisions, especially when you are doing-it-yourself. Very important at this stage, that you have the designer in to validate what you are doing, otherwise you might end up wasting a pile of money.

I was recently in a kitchen with honey maple cabinets from 1995 with black granite countertops and cream and gray 12 x 12 floor tile.  The client asked if she should continue the same granite up on to the backsplash. ‘Not if you are keeping the cream tile floor. it will look way too heavy to have that much black granite on your backsplash’. Problem solved, and a lot of money saved on granite that was not necessary in the first place.

So, if you are on a budget, you have no budget to waste! This is what we do all day, that’s why we know what’s current, what’s dated, and which finishes or furniture will give you the look and feel that works for your home!

When you have an empty house or you are buying new furniture (and telling me, please ignore this stuff, it’s toast) you need to have a colour scheme for your upholstery. Otherwise, without a plan, eeeeek, you might just buy leather, read my opinion on that here. Without a plan, ladies and gentleman, you will just flail around and stare at those colours and second guess them all day and all night. Why? Because (there’s that word again) it doesn’t relate to anything in the room.

I was at a colour consultation a few weeks ago where the client showed me the chart she had from another designer who had paid them a visit months before. I looked at the chart, and asked why she had chosen a gray green (Clarksville Gray) because that colour was no-where to be seen in her decor. My client said “I don’t know, I just assumed she was the professional so I went with it, she didn’t even ask me if I liked it.”

At the end of our consultation, my client had a plan for her living room (and the rest of her home), she knew exactly what colour her sofa and chairs should be and the wall colour she ended up with? HC-115 (Georgian Green) which made way more sense as she had existing white vertical blinds (that were staying) including 80’s white cabinets, which would look way better with a fresh green, then a muddy gray green.

After all of these decision have been confirmed, or validated–together with your designer–the colour choice then becomes so obvious, you will wonder why you spent so much time agonizing on your own.

Can this be done on-line? Yes (in many situations it works well), email me for details of what it looks like.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

Related posts:

When to buy Leather Furniture
Hiring a designer; Luxury or Necessity
5 Designer Secrets that will make or break your Paint Colours
How to get the most out of your Colour Consultation

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  • Tiaa @ EYInteriors says:

    You have the best posts, Maria! Have you considered writing a book?? I'm serious by the way! 🙂

  • Vitania says:

    Of course i love reading this – and I think I am going to print it out and take it with me when my friends ask me to "validate" the choices they made for their room. I also enjoyed the leather fabric post – because I own a huge Brown leather sectional. Fabric was not an option, I knew it was going to be abused in our family room, and I am so greatful for the easy clean up. but I cannot wait til the day it finds a home in our basement!

    agree with Tiaa 100 % – write a book!! You are BRILLIANT!

  • Tiaa @ EYInteriors says:

    Hi Maria!

    Thank you for the compliment. I have all posts, comments categories formating etc. blogger has an exporting functionality. It took my designer less than 20 minutes and my blogger url is linked to my wordpress url so no lost readers, subscribers etc.

    Definitely the way to go!

  • Gwen says:

    You say the most important points in such easy to understand ways. I agree, where is the book?

    I love the leather couch that we inherited. When my boyfriend got his divorce, she got the house and we got the couch. With the housing market the way it is and our huge black dog, I think we got the better deal! It has classic lines, different pillows and throws change the look in minutes.

    Keep up the grand work, you inspire me and keep me looking at the big picture!

  • Design Wanna-be says:

    Very good. One of my favorite posts so far.

  • Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design says:

    What a fabulous post….again! I want to send a copy to everyone on my database. There are a couple of companies here that do exactly what you say – walk in choose a colour, leave the client with a 1" square swatch and walk out and they charge much more than I do. I can drive around my neighbourhood and work out which people didn't use a professional who takes time to ask the "why" and gives the "because". Why don't more people realise our worth?

  • Jen says:

    Yes I have to join the Chorus,
    Brilliantly put, because you covered all the salient points. So well.

  • Tracy @ comfortandluxury says:

    I wish I had this post a year ago. To forward to a client who wanted me to choose colors for her repaired walls (after some pretty extensive water damage). She had always had white walls but now she wanted COLOR!! And because of the work I had done for a friend of hers, she wanted ME to choose her colors! She had already chosen new flooring but had no intention of replacing any of her very dated furniture. I took these facts and the "possibility" of future new furnishings into careful consideration. I made recommendations and the resulting colors looked good by themselves in the rooms (and she was very happy) but until she redecorates (properly) around them, they won't look great. I gave her lots of advice while I could about future furniture and art choices but, to my knowledge, she hasn't updated anything else yet (boo for this economy!). Sometimes I regret helping her at all because I'm certainly no color expert and I know it would have looked so much better had I been able to convince her to do a little shopping for new things that would have helped those new colors shine… I hated leaving that job looking so "unfinished". Paint may be the most inexpensive way to add something new to your home but I think it's better done in conjunction with a decorating tweak than all by itself. Thanks for this post, Maria. Next time a client asks me what's all the fuss and why all the questions, I'll be well-armed with "because"!

  • Maria Killam says:

    My wonderful blogger friends,
    Just wanted to say that I think leather has a time and place, kids and pets are certainly a good reason to have one. It's when I see a leather sofa in someone's living room and really it should have been a fabric covered sofa that i wish I would have arrived sooner to help them out!
    Thanks for your comments!

  • DesignTies says:

    Another fantastic post, Maria! After I publish this comment I'm going back to read it again 🙂

  • Greet says:

    What you have written is absolutely the truth!
    Wonderful post! Everyone should read this post!



  • Velvet and Linen says:

    Your posts are always so wonderful in their clarity.
    People e-mail me all of the time about helping them pick out a color for their home. I'm curious how you do this through e-mails. Don't you need to visit the space and have fabric samples before you select a color?


  • Design Esquire says:

    You make a very convincing argument and its prefectly timed for me. I'm going to be emailing you shortly, because I would love your advice before I buy some new living room furniture).

  • Denise says:

    Awesome site-!! I am another one of you fans and read you before I have a cup of coffee. And, I get the same "can I ask you…." only in fabrics.

    I mentioned you on my site yesterday telling my readers to visit your site and learn how to "see" the different colours of beige.

  • Kelee Katillac says:

    I like it!

    I think "because" is the key! Had a big discussion on draperies with my architect designer husband and I said " Because why?" "He said what do you mean?" I said "you better have a reason for that statement!"

    love, kelee

  • CRICKET says:

    With every post I read I just "nod" my head. You are so right on. Often times I want to print out one of your entries so I can remember when its time to make a particular decision. Thankfully, my husband does nto like leather. My parents had one in their family room and I used to always slide off of it…

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Brooke (Velvet & Linen),
    I just edited it to say–in many situations–it doesn't work in every one, but based on photos and the fact that I've been doing this so long, I can usually pick the colour that matches the fabric, or countertop or tile and then the wall colour can be chosen from there!

  • Ideezine says:


    This post is great to print and review/highlight with new clients at a consultation. This gives them a way to understand the client/designer plan for them.

    Clients will then realize why the cost is what it is because it is a study of the individual, how they live and with what items.

    Designers are best at quick study because we practice, practice, practice the art of the individual. We have for many years to become a designer and the great ones (Maria) teach, study and work with others. Great post!


  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    Write an e-book? Or a how to video(s)? I really liked that one.

  • kerri says:

    Ahhh. You know how much I love your blog – all the great advice, plus you post so frequently! I don't want you to write a book because, selfishly, I'm sure the blog would suffer 🙂

    I'm excited that you'll do work via email as I'd love to hire you but I'm not so flushed with cash as to be able to fly you in! I'll get my act together (i.e. prioritize & take pictures) and contact you soon though.

  • lolly-jolly says:

    that is wonderful post! i'm going to furniture my new apartment which is partly already done before i got there. but i would really need to make a big plan for it cause it's small and very untypical.

  • Laura [What I Like] says:

    What absolutely genius advice…you are so right about the importance of cohesiveness! And as an aside, I adore that rust colored sofa in the second photo…that whole color palatte is just to die for.

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    Aw yes, the "because" is the whole reason to hire us. Color is the number one reason people come to me. They have a thousand paint chips in their hand from Home depot, and not one of them go together. And they wonder why the house has no flow! ANd when you tell a client they have to have a plan, BEYOND the paint they sometimes think we are crazy.

    Im working on one now. Indian family. Very lovely clients. But every single room, hall, closet and bathroom HAS to be a different color. They have changed colors on me three times and don't understand why baby blue doesn't go with emerald green, or why purple doesn't flow with hot pink. It has been challenging. And trying to get them to plan furniture, well that is a whole other post!!

  • Danica says:

    Jumping on the bandwagon here, this post is brilliant! Absolutely necessary information, as always. It does make complete sense to always have a reason why. Sadly, it isn't usually "common" sense, but I'm glad you're putting it out there. Hopefully, this will get passed on so more can learn from this.

  • Lauren says:

    SUCH great information!!!! Again, breaking it down perfectly for all of us.

    Yes, i find clients who've hired me for a paint consult looking at me strangely when I ask them what color the future fabrics/ furniture will be. It's so often that people call you in for paint before they've got the whole plan when really paint should be last. I end up leaving a "paint consult" and they have a plan for the whole room.

    But I'm so glad you've explained it like this because I was beginning to think I was crazy for making all theese plans & putting all this time into people when they simply wanted me to pick a color for them!

  • Developing Designs says:

    As always, spot on. Now…if we could get everyone to understand exactly how this concept truly works that would be a perfect world…..because, why, just because it all makes perfect sense. 🙂 Brilliant my friend. Keep up the amazing work.

  • Kate Smith says:

    Yes, this is exactly what we focus on with interior designers in our color certification program. We want them to be able to explain to the client the why behind the color choices. Another nice post.

  • Kelly says:

    Your posts are so fantastic, have you thought of doing online consults? I could use the help of a professional over here in CT!

  • Annie, bossy color says:

    Once again, Maria, you really break it down. And the BECAUSE is why I love doing this. What fun is it to throw colors at someone if you don't explain why? The story of the designer-recommended Clarksville Gray floored me! Thanks for another great post, Maria.

  • Catharine Grasty says:

    Maria, you have a new fan. Your tips and 'Insider Secrets' are full of sensible advise and you the design community proud as a whole with your Blog.
    I would buy your book and continue to read your blog….BECAUSE…..

  • Dawn says:

    What do you do if you are having a new house built and know that none of your previous furniture will fit in your new house. You haven’t picked new furniture yet but the builder is asking you to pick paint colors.

    • Lenore says:

      I am in the same predicament. My condo flooded everything was damaged, the kitchen is going in now but I have not purchased any furniture yet. The cabinet maker wants the paint color by the end of tmr. I have been stalling because I have no idea what to choose but I cant stall any longer. I hired someone and made the mistake of putting all my eggs in that basket, because the consult was a nightmare.

      All I needed what a white color for my upper kitchen cabinets that would go with my beautiful horizontal grain walnut veneer base cabinets. Easy peasy for a professional or so I thought. All I learned was what she liked. Not one question about what I liked. I told her I liked modern she suggested shabby chic…really? What I got were some hideous off white dismally gray paint colors. Most disappointing! That was $200 down the tube.

      Easy enough to say keep looking and hire someone else however I don’t have time to hire someone else. And I have been through this twice now and I am $600 poorer that would have paid for the paint in my teeny 650 Sq ft condo. So not fair.

      Now what do I do?

      Maria could you please throw a paint color my way? I am begging you …please…lol. But seriously not so funny!

  • Annette says:

    You are spot on. This post almost made me cry. I wish someone would have asked me WHY I wanted blue walls in my kitchen (with oak woodwork and cabinets). I hired a decorator to just give me paint colors (my first mistake!) and she picked a blue green color. First I went for the lighter shade than suggested. When that didn’t look right, I finally painted it the suggested color. Now I hate it even more. I can’t even find material for curtains to bring everything together. What a mess. I’m going to paint the room a beige and sell the house!

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