It’s Just Paint!

“It’s just Paint!” Isn’t that what Rory and I yell at the couple on House Hunters who dismiss the perfect family home because they can’t get over the color of the master bedroom walls? And how many times have I sagely suggested “it’s just paint” to friends who are hesitant to stray from standard white cabinets because they are afraid they will get tired of a color they really love. Yet despite how easy this advice rolls off my tongue, picking the paint colors for each project is the single most stressful design decision I have to get to make. I agonize over it. 

I have experienced both the euphoria of nailing the perfect pallet, as well as the gut-punched feeling of realizing my choice sorely missed the mark. Unfortunately, I often don’t know which way the pendulum will swing until the project is complete. For example, I must have tried out 15 different samples of dark gray paint when trying to find the perfect industrial charcoal gray to paint the exterior of our Irby project. After I narrowed the 15 down to 4, I painted large swatches of each color on the house, let them dry, and then visited the swatches at different times of day to see which one I liked best. At the end of my trial a clear winner emerged- Thunder Gray SW 7645. So I confidently turned in my color to Nicholas (favorite painter in America) and the next day I arrived to find that my entire house was painted army green! 

Ok, army green might be a slight exaggeration, but regardless, a definite green tint was visible that I hadn’t noticed in my test run. I HATED it! I immediately called Nicholas and told him that we had to repaint; I then talked to Rory who said we couldn’t afford to repaint; so I called Nicholas back and said nevermind on the repaint; then I went into a major month long funk. In the end, we ended up compromising by repainting the trim a lighter color which helped tone down the tank feel of the house. After the landscaping and other finishing touches came together the color no longer really bothered me, BUT regardless, the experience left a mark and has made me very skittish to pull the trigger on my paint choices ever since. 
In my opinion, whites and grays are the hardest; and I tend to use a lot of whites and grays. These two colors tend to go blue, green, brown, yellow, or the scariest two of all pink or purple.  So finding the right shade is always a challenge. I could open my own paint store with all the samples I have purchased over the years trying to find the perfect shade for my houses or furniture.  

For Donaghey I’m wanting to find the perfect earthy gray and white so I’m leaning toward shades with brown or green tones.  Here are 4 different off-whites I’m considering.  

Yeah, I can’t really see any difference in the whites in this picture either.  I was just so proud that I actually remembered to capture this moment on film, I had to include it in this blog.  

After the off-whites dry, I’ll add a complimentary gray to each sample board then step back to see which board, if any, sings to me.  

Fast Forward 2 weeks (because it’s taken me FOREVER to write this thing)….

I’m happy to report I found my winning pallet! Board number 3 with its complimentary gray sang loud and clear. The gray/white combination was exactly what I pictured in my head for Donaghey. I immediately knew it would be the perfect backdrop to help tell the story and history of this Gouffre Financier.  I felt a peace wash over me that I had actually been able to find “it” and it only took me 4 sample boards, a new record- I must be getting better!  With a new found confidence and a renewed excitement for the project, I loaded up that hallowed sample board and left my workshack to take my anointed colors to the house to see how they looked with a few tile samples I had picked up.  But when I got the board outside, I was like “um, where did it go? Why is my board no longer singing?” Instantly my colors went from warm, earthy perfection to cold and sterile.  What?!?

To make what could be a very long and boring story, I called my friend Donna to vent my frustration and she quickly figured out the problem was the fluorescent lights in my shop. Duh! Hadn’t even dawned on me.  Sooo I went back to my workshack to shop my samples for colors that were the natural light equivalent to my fluorescently lighted ideal. Yeah, that was fun.  In the end, I am cautiously optimistic that I found it.  They have passed the obligatory swatch on the house test, so now I’m just waiting for February 1st, when Nicholas is on the calendar to start painting, to see how they play out in real life.  Fingers crossed!!!

I’m hoping by sharing my paint picking woes you will realize you are not alone if you get stressed and doubt your own paint choices.  In the two weeks it has taken me to write this rather pitiful update, I have had 4 friends call me for advice on picking a paint color and 1 friend call after she experienced the gut punch of a regretful color choice.  I think this post has made it crystal clear I am NOT the best paint picker outer to be giving advice BUT if I was held at gunpoint and told to give my top 5 picking paint tips or die- these would be my 5:

1. Get Samples.  You can not trust the 1×2″ swatch in the paint deck.
2. Paint large samples on the wall or area you will be painting, and then visit the sample throughout the day to view it in different lighting.
3. Ask around to see if anyone has used the color you are thinking about using and ask to see it in person.  Or, at a minimum, look up the color on Pinterest to see how it looks in other people’s spaces as well as read what others are saying about the color.
4. Let your furniture and/or accessories pick your paint color.  It’s a lot easier to find a paint to match your bedspread or chair then to find a bedspread or chair to match your paint. Fabric is my favorite jumping off place in my own home.
5. Don’t be afraid of color.  Personally, I tend to stick to neutrals on the walls, but like to use pops of color on cabinetry, ceilings, small spaces, and/or accent walls.

And 1 tip to grow on- It’s Just Paint! You can always paint over it if you don’t like it or get tired of it in a few years.  

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