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Time To Re-Paint: A Fresh Start For The New Year - Part I

Originally Posted: February 10, 2011

Cindy Lee Bergersen

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A fresh coat of paint does wonders to give a new lease on looks. (homeguides.sfgate.com)

Southampton - When it comes to home design, as well as maintenance, it's a given that a fresh coat of paint does wonders to give a new lease on looks in the most cost effective way possible.

Still we hesitate to repaint our rooms, even though the original color maybe in question because of the "every day living soot" that's accumulated on the surface. Why? Because we know from experience that even if painters are hired to do the deed for you, painting even just one room can be a life disrupting hassle, bracketed by questions and indecision. What color? What color goes where? Which finish? And even, which paint: Does it pay to splurge on premium brands? Take heart, clarity is about to be delivered.

All Colors Are Not Created Equal
If it's obviously time to repaint, is it also time to choose a new color? This is where confusion and indecision start to collide. What color, shade or tone will deliver maximum magic? Don't think that the color of your favorite shirt is necessarily going to be the answer for your living room walls just because you really like it. Think Big Picture: devise a color plan that makes sense for your whole residence. Don't think of a color for just the room or rooms to be repainted, think also how your color selection will tie in with the rest of your home. The goal is to give your rooms a cohesive look as a unified environment. The impression that your rooms are actually different countries in search of a continent to call their own is not optimum.

Watch Your Tone
Just as inspiration, maybe the color of your favorite shirt will work after all, but remember that while the small scale of a shirt allows for a bright, wild and crazy color, the same color on your eight foot by whatever long walls will give you a headache. However, if the same color is "browned or grayed" down to create its own neutral, or lightened or darkened to taste, you may have found the win/win solution.

Natural Selection
Nature's colors are perfect. If the Hearth and Home Gods have blessed yours with lots of big windows with views of trees and other greenery, your rooms can become one with the great outdoors by selecting colors that match those found just outside your window. A full-scale color fan deck is key but well worth the investment for discovery of perfect leaf greens, bark browns and a plethora of shades of stone and of the good earth itself.

This is by no means a rule but a suggestion that always works: Favor neutrals or at least muted colors for walls and large pieces of upholstered furniture and rugs. Save bright/strong colors for pillows, artwork, towels, pottery, etc. If you have patterned drapery or upholstery, or even a patterned rug, you can also pull a color from the design and use a tone of that.

Where Does This Go?
One method of establishing continuity is to limit your color palette overall and reference only one or two of the colors used in the fabrics and/or rugs. Use these same colors, or shades of these colors more than once by moving them around to different rooms. An example of this might be to use only four colors and a unifying trim/molding color through out a two bedroom, two bath residence.

 • The wall color of one room could be the ceiling color of another room.
 • The ceiling color could be a pale shade of the wall color in that room or the accent color. Be sure that the accent color is referenced in other rooms too.
 • While you might opt for different colors in several rooms, your hallways can tie the rooms together if you use the same neutral shade in each.
 • Another method is to use only one color family. Choose the lighter tones for the public spaces and the darker tones as you move back into the private areas. There is some wisdom in the notion of using light tones in light spaces and darker tones in dark rooms simply because you won't be fighting with the existing natural lighting.
 • If you are painting the entire residence, choose a palette that works well with the trim color so the same color can be used throughout.

New Rules For Old Assumptions
A white ceiling doesn't make a room look taller as much as it draws attention to itself. It's very stark. If nothing else, use a little of the wall color mixed into deep ivory to give it the same tone, or perhaps a light shade of café au lait.

This isn't to say a white ceiling never has its place. A white ceiling in a room with modern architecture, minimal moldings and clean line and angles has its advantages. If you want to use a strong wall color in this instance, a white ceiling with white door and window trims will be crisp and fresh, as well as play up the graphic lines of the architecture.

A great thing to do in a room without crown molding, is to paint the walls and ceiling the same color. Choose a pale to medium tone of a neutral or otherwise muted color for this purpose. Without the distraction of a color shift, the walls will seem higher. It's a seamless room without borders.

Stop thinking a small room is a bad thing you have to disguise. It's a losing battle anyway. Light paint will not make a room look bigger. It will just make it look brighter. Whereas a dark rich color could be the foundation for creating a fascinating "destination" within your home. Use a paint finish with sheen to keep the dark color from looking "murky."

Moldings, Trims And Doors
As with ceilings, toss out the notion that trims, moldings and doors always have to be white. Granted, if you have great moldings and doors, a creamy white is often a wonderful choice. However, remember that white will draw attention in a graphic way. Don't hesitate to paint the doors and wall trims the same color as the walls, if you don't want the extra detail or the doors and trims aren't great. Use a satin finish for the trim, and washable matte for the walls. Another good idea is to paint the trims and doors a few shades lighter or darker than your wall color. The effect is sophisticated, without being jarring

Generally, one starts the color selection process with a chip. If you're looking at a color chip select a shade or two darker than you want the wall to be, but don't stop there. Many of the best paint companies now offer their color selection in small sample sizes and you would be wise to test your color choices in the room where they will live. Light and time of day can change your opinion of a color completely. If you are going to test your color(s) directly on the wall, make sure to paint two coats in big swathes to see the color accurately.

The best method for color testing is to paint your samples onto white foam core boards. These are available at any art supply store and cost no more than a couple of dollars for an 18 x 20 inch sheet. Paint two coats all the way to the edges of the boards. You can then move the samples around the room to see how light affects your selection at various times and in various locations, how the color works with the rest of the proposed color scheme and also how it might work with your furnishings.

Wall color is a major player in creating the ambience through home design that you most want to live with. To that end, even choosing white must be a deliberate decision and is no longer the safe refuge of a default position.

The right paint color is the cheapest and most effective design tool you have at your disposal and armed with a little guidance and knowledge, your choices will no doubt be perfect and perfectly beautiful.

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Guest (NJ) from Springs says::
I have a question for Cindy. If a home has baseboard heating on some walls and molding on the others, how should they be painted? Both white, just the baseboard white, or both the room color?
Feb 24, 2011 11:08 am


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