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I was talking to an interior painter the other day and the subject of picking paint colors came up. The painter lamented that clients often ask her to recommend color for their interiors, They say they are “bad with color” which means, roughly, “I’m afraid I’ll pick the wrong one, please help!” The painter explained she always hesitates recommending colors because color is such a subjective thing. She added that just because a color worked well in the last client’s home doesn’t mean it will work in this client’s home.

This is true for obvious color theory reasons — color hues change depending on lighting conditions and other colors paired with them. But what she was really alluding to is the emotional side of selecting paint colors. Color and the feelings they evoke are completely individual and personal. As could be said about a famous painting by one of the Masters, one person’s “I love it!” is another person’s “I wouldn’t be caught dead with that painting (and for the purposes of this blog, color), in my house!”

So how do we help people find the “right” color, i,e, the one that inspires them most? Here are a few tips:

  • Outfit inspirationAsk your client to show you a favorite outfit. If there’s a lot of blue in the wardrobe, blue may be a good place to start. The rule is: If you look good in that color, you will feel good in that color.
  • Pull colors from a favorite painting. If you feel like you want to jump in the painting Mary Poppins style and stroll down the path to the gray house at the end with the red roof, you may like grays and reds in your living room.
  • Look at a photograph from a favorite spot on vacation. If you feel yourself back on the veranda in France looking at green hills and golden wheat, those may be good colors for your kitchen.
  • Simply look outside. If your issue is whether certain colors go together, look to nature. A duck has emerald green, blue, gray and beige in its feathers, topped by an orange beak. These colors coordinate beautifully, even though they seem not to relate.

Color wheelOne designer I admire for her approach to overcoming fear of color is Jane Lockhart and her method of introducing color options using only things the client loves. She creates a color wheel made up of fruits, vegetables, place mats and tableware for a chef client, for example.  For a musician client, sheet music, instruments and guitar picks represent the colors on the color wheel. These themed color presentations help customers pick colors they gravitate toward without thinking.

Picking a paint color need not be fear-invoking. Find inspiration from things that make you happy. It’s not only a good, but a comfortable place to start!

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