Paint Colours

Picking A Paint Colour: Style at Home Designer Secrets

Thank you to Style at Home, I was thrilled to be participate in their special 100+ Designer Secrets colour issue, which hit the stands a while back.  I have to admit I had some difficulty getting my hands on a copy, the first one I had was left behind at a girfriends before I even cracked it open (and I never saw it again) then it took quite some time to find another copy on the East Coast.  Inside you’ll find some tips from myself and other paint aficionados on how to pick paint colours.  Its a a great topic, one of the major components of every project I work on is selecting all the paint finishes, usually for an entire house. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to elaborate beyond my tips included in the issue.  How and where to start when picking a paint colour?

Many designers will say that they pull the paint colour from a fabric, or select a paint based on the exposure of the room or chose colours from the homeowners wardrobe.  All common approaches when decorating an existing room.  But what if the space a) doesn’t have any significant fabric, or b) doesn’t have a window or c) the occupants vary in age, gender, and fashion taste.  Many times you can be in a position to have to pick a paint colour without having a significant fabric or persian rug to work with.  You can still lay the groundwork for a beautiful palette - if you chose the right neutrals you can layer in the colour later.

Because most of my client projects are renovations, often the paint colours for the entire interior have to be selected long before the homeowners and I have even contemplated new fabrics or area carpets or before they've accumulated an art collection.  Sometimes newly furnishing the space will follow a year or so after move in, sometimes only a few main rooms are decorated with the remaining to be completed over time.  Aside from those situations that are driven by time and budgets, there are many spaces in a house that often don’t ever have fabrics in them such as; bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, staircases or laundry rooms. The paint colour can spin off of a fabric story from adjacent rooms but that colour, primarily, has to relate to the hard surfaces.

Finish samples for a clients kitchen (paint top right).  The paint selections compliment the wood floor and cabinets, the marble backsplash and quartz countertop and stainless steel.

My process for selecting paint is always the same. It never starts with fabric.  The approach I take with paint is that its role is to enhance everything in the space (and the views outside) not distract from it.  First and foremost I take direction from the permanent surfaces and architectural details like wood, stone, tiles, metal, mouldings and in some cases broadloom. These are far more permanent than any fabric or wallpaper but are the foundation of the overall palette and have to be considered with every paint selected.  Secondly, I take into consideration the style and character of the home (Heritage or contemporary).  Lastly, the natural light and views - what is the setting, what is the view outside the windows. (The only exception to any of the above is kids rooms, its all about their favourite colour and making it work for both mom and child!).

All the upholstery fabrics chosen for the living room in this contemporary home were pulled from the colours in the stone fireplace.  The travertine stone tile was also used in the entryway and a guest bathroom.

For 90% of the interiors I design, I could happily work from a paint deck of nothing but greys and when I say grey, my definition of grey covers a wide spectrum from warm to cool, from almost white to almost black , from clear to muddy and with undertones that can make them read green, blue, beige, purple or brown.  Light and airy, to dark and dramatic, its all there.  Its in this spectrum that I always find the perfect neutral that works beautifully with the finishes of the house as well as more vibrant colours that could be found in the garden, fabrics or the painting over the mantel.  For walls, when I'm not chosing white I'm always drawn to the mineral, sky and watery greys.  I am least drawn to anything with a red undertone or citrus colours because I don't think they pair favorabely with most natural wood tones (typically golden or reddish woods) they don’t compliment or contrast instead they can clash with these woods or suffocate the room in one note. (This is particularly the case in Canada where we use a lot of wood floors, wood cabinets, wood railings, and wood furniture.)  Contrary to this effect greyed neutrals do the complete opposite, to my eye grey makes all other colours and materials look better.  Grey is anything but dreary in fact I love how grey brings everything in a room to life - nothing enhances wood tones, complements colour and is crisper with white trim better than grey.  It has the ability to make anything paired with it look modern and sophisticated, and that's why it has been and will continue to be my go to palette for picking the perfect colour.

The natural walnut floors and various feature stones inspired the paint palette for throughout the home.  The paint palette was a range of off-whites and greys,  contrasted by black metal window frames.
You can never judge a grey by the paint chip alone,,,these chameleons only reveal their true beauty in context with the whole of the room. Sample, sample, sample.

Whether you like your spaces neutral or colourful you'll find loads of great colour tips and advice in this issue, including my best tip on picking the right paint colour and what paint combo i'm coveting now.   If you haven’t see it yet its on stands until August 31st.

All Photos and Design (Except Cover Photo):  Carol Reed Interior Design

Style at Home: Living Room Paint Palette

I was thrilled to be asked by Style at Home to share a favorite living room paint palette for their readers to be featured in a special Designer's Secret's issue, on stands now (and on-line at Zinio).  The requirements were to provide them with a four colour paint palette to include a ceiling colour, wall colour, trim colour and accent colour.   You can see the first page of the feature below were my palette is shown.

Style at Home - Designer Secrets 2012, Page 59

A favorite palette of mine instantly came to mind, its based on Benjamin Moore's, Horizon OC-53.  It's not a palette I've just pulled out the air, its a palette I've used time and time again over the past 7 years -  if I had to name a 'go to' colour that wasn't white, Horizon would be it for me.  Its the palest silvery blue that reads differently in every space, its as light as a white so it highlights architectural mouldings and showcases artwork like a white and it pairs beautifully with all wood tones.  I've sampled it with dozens of other greys and off-whites and its almost always the unanimous choice.  I've used it in client's living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and ceilings, in both traditional and contemporary spaces, urban and country.  The feature on p.59 illustrates one of my favorite trim/ceiling/accent paint combos with Horizon OC-53.  (not to be mistaken with Horizon Gray, a different colour completely). 

Below is my own breakdown of the colours and why I chose them, along with a photo of a client's living room and dining room painted in these paint colours (minus the accent colour).  The house is a grand old Edwardian in mid-town Toronto, home to a young family of 4.  If I had to describe this palette, I would say it exudes SIMPLICITY & ELEGANCE.

Benjamin Moore
Horizon OC-53
This pale silver grey is my favorite alternative to white walls but with all the same attributes - its simplicity compliments wood tones, highlights furniture silhouettes and enhances other colours.  I first used it about 7 years ago and its been a go to paint colour for me ever since, it works in any room.  Its undertone has just a whisper of blue so this grey reads clean and sophisticated, never drab.

Benjamin Moore
Swiss Coffee OC-45
A warm off-white that has an aged looked to it and is perfect for architectural mouldings in a traditional space.  Paired with HOrizon this tinged white trim work gives a room timeless and elegant character.  (pair with a white trim for a contemporary space).

Benjamin Moore
Chantilly Lace OC-65
A very neutral clean white, a good balance with the mix of cool wall paint and warm trim paint.  It provides a nice crisp definition against the antique white mouldings.  In a contemporary space, use this for the trim too!

Farrow & Ball
India Yellow #66
What I love about Horizon is you can go any direction for an accent colour.  My favorite with it is a deep ochre yellow, its inviting and chic paired with pale blue/grey, use it on the backs of a bookcase, upholstery on a statement chair, silk pillows, ceramic lamps or on the walls of an adjoining room.

Wall Colour:  Horizon OC-53, Trim Colour: Swiss Coffee OC-45
Room Design and Photo by:  Carol Reed (2007)

Upper Wall Colour:  Horizon OC-53, Wainscoting and Trim: Swiss Coffee OC-45
Room Design and Photo by:  Carol Reed  (2007)