Almost like clockwork, early each year, top paint manufacturers debut their new color schemes and trot out their “it” colors. Coral Reef, Springtime Dew, Guildford Green, Pink Ground; so tempting — and sure to perk up a home, especially when the occupants have been suffering from the winter doldrums.
Conventional wisdom says paint is the easiest, least expensive quick-change artist in a homeowner’s tool box. As with much conventional wisdom, however, the topic isn’t quite that simple.
“It’s a big commitment to paint walls,” says New York City architect Anjie Cho.
Choosing a color after painting swatches or taping paint chips to a wall and checking them out during the day and at night, then buying brushes, rollers, drop cloth, primer, sandpaper and tape, and finally applying one or two coats of the winning shade obviously takes time.
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And then the color may look different once it covers an entire wall or room because lighting and furnishings affect results.
“I often see what I call ‘a paint chip gone wrong,’” says San Francisco designer Claudia Juestel, adding, “As a general rule, when applied to four walls, a light color looks lighter and a bright color appears brighter than the small paint chip or swatch.”
Of course, you can hire a professional painter or color expert who understands the nuances, but they can be expensive. The new wisdom about paint, in a world where the hot hues you spot on Pinterest one day can leave you with painter’s remorse the next: Tread carefully when it comes to trends.
“Their appeal may be fleeting,” says Juestel. She advises picking a palette — walls and furnishings — that works with your home, amount of light and personality. “There’s no color that’s bad or dated, but a combination of colors can appear so. Mauve or blue-gray by themselves are fine, but if you put them together they can scream ’80s.”
The other new wisdom? If a dose of trendy is what you need to make your place feel updated, adding color is still a solid place to start, even if you stick to a low-commitment approach.
Here are a few alternatives for injecting 2015 colors into your favorite spaces without painting.
Art is among many design professionals’ favorite sources of color. If your budget is tight, Cho suggests making your own masterpiece atop canvas — a solid or abstract. Or go online and have a favorite photo printed in a large scale atop canvas.
Los Angeles designer Mae Brunken likes to frame wallpaper from companies like Flavor Paper (www.flavorpaper.com) in a large white museum-style frame in her office, and changes it out regularly.
Los Angeles designer Erica Islas used similar white frames to showcase colorful children’s artworks on off-white painted walls in a client’s living room. She introduced more color with guitars on an opposite wall, a seafoam rug underfoot, and blue and green pillows atop a blue sectional.
Play up accents
A colorful throw, a sari, pillows, lamps, vases, headboard, towels can all add color, and sometimes texture, says Brunken. Even many kitchen appliance companies now offer their products in a rainbow of hues. Keurig’s 2.0 brewer (and a multitude of other products for the kitchen) comes in Pantone’s 2015 color of the year, marsala.
Showcase one piece
It doesn’t have to be an expensive sofa or all your seating. One new upholstered or slipcovered chair, chaise or ottoman can make a difference.
Florida designer Holly McCall enlivened her neutral-colored office simply by painting her Ikea chairs with Annie Sloan’s Antibes green chalk paint.
Judge a book by its jacket
They don’t all have to be serious and leather-bound, or wrapped in original dust jackets. Brunken likes the idea of covering your books in vivid tones or sophisticated white for a wow background effect. The idea takes time if you do it yourself, but there are companies that do the work for you; one wraps them by the foot.
Focus on the fifth wall
Chicago designers David Kaufman and Tom Segal begin a blank room’s color scheme with the rug choice. “It’s the grounding for the design, figuratively and literally,” Segal says. “It sets the tone, palette, and from there you can select interesting fabrics.”
Certain rugs also add a handcrafted, knotted touch, says Christopher Frederick, president of Organic Looms, whose rugs are made in Nepal.
For a sleek, hip, almost boutique hotel-style black and white bedroom, Chicago designer Aimee Wertepny went with a rug that’s a “neon-electric-teal-vintage-electro-mod pop of color for the otherwise monochromatic palette,” she says.
Don’t forget the power and appeal of living plants. Greenery and flowers — even a single orchid plant — can inject color.
Still want to paint?
Here’s how to get color with a longer shelf life, from Jackie Jordan of Sherwin-Williams:
▪ A color of the year is often trendy. You don’t have to use it for an entire room — consider it in small doses.
▪ Pick a color after placing a swatch or panel of it behind a sofa or by the room’s trim or floor so you see how it really will look.
▪ Go a bit darker rather than lighter. Pick the color one chip down from what you initially thought.
▪ For a subtle change, consider neutrals. Kilim Beige has been the company’s No. 1 color choice for several years; Accessible Beige is a popular newcomer, and Jordan says she expects Light French Gray to become another classic.
▪ Don’t forget the right finish. Flat for walls and ceilings conceals imperfections, is durable and is washable. Trim represents more of a personal choice, but best in satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss, depending on how bold you want to get.