An expert is someone who has made all mistakes possible in a narrow field of expertise. Albert Einstein
Whenever I have learned the most about the business of specifying colour, is when I’ve also made the biggest mistakes. Here are the two most important lessons I’ve learned:
1. I used to think it was my job to pick a new colour for every room.
Flow? What the heck was that? I had no idea. Transitioning the colour from one room to the next? Huh? Once I learned how it was done, I was surprised that it wasn’t more obvious to me in the first place!
The first time I chose a tuscany yellow (which the client requested) for the entry and stairwell of a high end home, I cringed when I walked in (later) because it screamed like a ‘laundry room’ yellow. Yikes!
I had yet to learn that most colours get twice as bright when they go up and what makes a yellow chosen by a designer different from one someone else might choose is we know that.
We also know that a pretty paint chip doesn’t necessarily give you a pretty paint colour.
2. The first season that I specified exterior colour, I would leave each call feeling completely inadequate. I felt lucky I’d just been paid for my time.
Looking back, I was like Vanna; holding up colour chips like an idiot, “Do you like this one? How about this one? I know, this one is even better”. Why these colours worked or not I certainly couldn’t tell you back then.
I tell my students all the time that you are paid for your intuition. This is true to this day, however when you are new you don’t have enough tacit knowledge yet to be able to express why your suggestions are correct.
And this does NOT mean your suggestions are not right or that your talent isn’t enough. It simply means the more you can articulate what you know, the more your client trusts you.
The definition of Tacit Knowledge is knowedge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.
A person who possesses tacit knowledge with food can open a fridge and turn leftovers into a gourmet meal. Those of us (like me) not gifted with that talent, throw away the leftovers and order sushi!
You know what makes me sound like an experienced designer/expert when I’m in your house?
1) I have the answer to the question why?
Why out of 600 colours is this flooring the right one? Why out of 40,000 fabrics is this the one for my sofa? Why in your paint kit of over 2000 colours is this beige or colour correct for my space? As I talked about in this post, you are paying for the answer to this question.
It’s the answer to the question why, that will enable you to sleep at night, confident that you have made the right decision. There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling of watching thousands of dollars of tile, granite, drapery or furniture being installed and then realizing the colour is wrong.
2) I usually have a story to tell that illustrates or confirms why the choice you are making is the right one.
This is the biggest piece of Tacit Knowledge and it’s also the reason why you can’t teach it to anyone.
It comes with years of experience.
Need help choosing the right neutral or colour? My How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s all in the Undertones ebook takes the hundreds of choices down to 9 neutral undertones along with list of all my other go-to best grays, broken down into 3 undertones, green, blue and purple. The beige undertones of pink, yellow, green, gold, orange and taupe along with the best greens and blues.
My bonus book of colours is worth the price of the ebook alone but you will also get my system of understanding undertones so you can stop making mistakes when sourcing tile, carpet, countertops, etc.
The only way to choose the right colour every time is to combine my system of understanding undertones with the most indispensable colour tool available. You can purchase your own set of my curated large colour board collections here.
If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.
While you’re here, subscribe to this feed so you don’t miss out!