working with paint Posted on February 10, 2014 By Cindy Black


With a little free time in the first week of 2014, I scrapped everything on the magnet wall and gathered together all our paint samples from recent projects. The color chips above are from about fifteen projects, both interior and exterior colors. I wanted to look at them all side by side to see what was happening with our color story.

Each of these colors were final choices, arrived at after considering hundreds, sampling five or ten on the building, and selecting usually between two (some paint schemes have up to seven colors – do THAT math!). And each one was successful for various reasons, some due to specific sheen, placement on the building, adjacency to another natural material, or available daylight. So, in a way it’s hard to judge them side by side, out of context, but I still had some interesting discoveries.

1. Be bold! Memorable colors that have worked on past projects are really, truly bold on the chip. A successful color scheme is a committed one… no backing off with ‘dusty’ or washed out colors, especially for interior paints. I also found a distinct saturation level and value of these bold colors. For example, two colors that looked great in kitchens are Sherwin Williams Briny and Benjamin Moore Rhubarb. Notice their similar value (darkness level):

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2. For outdoor colors, just add black. My favorite front door colors also have a similar value and level of punch to the ones above. But since our Texas sun is so bright and color hues are exaggerated, we look for colors with a bit more black which tempers their saturation level. Without a bit of black, an exterior color will go Crayola… which is fine if you’re designing a day care.

Sherwin Williams Talipot Palm and Benjamin Moore Tropical Orange are great front door colors.

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3. Look to metal for neutral grays or gold. We’ve used the color Iron Mountain several times since it closely matches raw steel, and I’ve been intrigued by other metal-related hues, such as rust, copper, and Yellow Oxide (a rich gold that we used as a tile color recently).

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4. Silvery Blue seems to be our ‘signature’ color. One color that repeats through many paint schemes is a fresh pastel blue with a hint of brown (sometimes called ‘duck egg’ blue). Here are a few great ones are BM Silvery Blue, Sleigh Bells, Pale Smoke and Raindance. These colors work particularly well for a modern or mid-century building with smooth walls – they are airy and weightless, but not pastel and definitely not baby blue.
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5. Natural green has lots of brown. Surpisingly, these greens look quite muddy on the chip but work well in person. Vienna Green is the color of our living room, though it took several rounds of painting to get the right green. (When someone remarked ‘this feels like a beach house!’ with our first green, I knew we weren’t there yet.) We wanted the living room and view outside to merge, which meant finding a green that matched the leaves and grass. The right answer had way more brown than I ever would have been comfortable with on a first go-round. Dill Pickle is similar, but not quite as intense. We used on another project with shiplap walls. Which brings me to my next observation…

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6. Shiplap walls want rich colors. Maybe due to the visible grain, or because we know it’s made of wood and not paper, shiplap needs weightier colors. For example, we initially painted our shiplap bedroom ‘Pale Smoke’ since it looked so darn good in a bedroom of another project. But the other project had smooth drywall, and the ephemeral color appeared to hover over the surface. The scale and texture of shiplap boards defies this sensation. So, we’ve used richer, more brown colors with more success. Cromwell Gray and Bavarian Cream are good examples of this.

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And the last observation:

7. White Marble is not white. When using natural stone against painted surfaces, anything brighter than the natural stone will make it look muddy. Stonington Gray and Calm are grayish whites that blend with marble, yet still leave the room feeling bright.
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