Help often needed when selecting paint colors
As director of color marketing and development at Benjamin Moore, Andrea Magno monitors the role of color in the interior design and architecture industry and helps develop color palettes and color marketing tools.
Magno recently answered reader questions for The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: What colors work well with the Color of the Year?
A: The Color Trends 2020 palette includes nine harmonious hues that work well with the soft blush pink called First Light 2102-70. From the saturated to the bright and airy, all are easy to live with whether they stand alone, in a pair or all together. These colors are: White Heron, Crystalline, Windmill Wings, Buxton Blue, Golden Straw, Thunder, Cushing Green, Oxford Gray and Blue Danube.
Q: Is it necessary to use a paint specifically for ceilings? Should the ceiling color match or be lighter than the walls' color?
A: Our ceiling paint has an ultra matte finish that conceals surface imperfections. You can use the same color as the trim on the ceiling, but vary the sheen so there is a slight contrast.
Q: I have a four-story, skinny townhouse. Each staircase takes two 90-degree turns to the next level and doesn't have any natural light. I want to paint the walls something neutral that will be nice to live with but will still be neutral enough if I sell within the next two years. Any suggestions?
A: Because light is limited and you want to be sure that the color will work with other colors that you bring into the home, I would suggest trying Classic Gray OC-23 or Swiss Coffee OC-45. Either color will be nice and light while breaking away from beige.
Q: I'm having trouble coordinating whites for my open-concept kitchen, dining and living rooms. There's plenty of light from east- and west-facing windows. I would like to paint the kitchen cabinets and walls white and carry the color throughout the other areas. Any thoughts on colors for the cabinets, walls and trim?
A: For a crisp white, we really like White Heron OC-57, which would also be nice against a navy blue. Also take a look at Distant Gray OC-68, which is another crisp white (despite the name) that can easily be used throughout the home.
Q: I found a number of Benjamin Moore colors that I absolutely love: Luxe, Spotswood Teal, Hawthorne Yellow and Shadow. I have friends who have given up on bright colors because of the misfires they've had. How can I tell what colors will be delicious like these? I want to know more when I look at the chip.
A: My favorite way to evaluate colors to better understand the undertone and intensity is to compare colors. I will layer one color chip on top of another; you can quickly see which color will be easier to live with and if it leans toward a warm or cool undertone. Colors that are a bit muted are easier to live with. I would start with the Benjamin Moore Classics collection.
Q: We have a finished basement with a Terra cotta-colored ceramic-tile floor, and we are at a loss for what color to paint the walls. Every color we've sampled looks clownish against the orangy tiles. Would a charcoal gray work?
A: Terracotta is a fairly specific color to have to work into a color scheme. I suggest looking to a warm off-white or neutral to balance the intensity of the floor color. My first instinct is to look at Acadia White OC-38 because it is light, warm and will work with the floor color. Bringing in a mid-tone or deep color may create too much contrast for a basement with limited light.
Q: I have decided to remove the borders in my kitchen and bathroom that the previous owners installed. They total about 75 feet in length, and both are about 10 inches wide. What would be the best way to remove them? Assuming they will come off cleanly, what are some on-trend colors that I might use to repaint the walls near the ceiling? They are currently gray or rubbed sage.
A: Once you remove the border (there are many products that will help you take it down), I suggest painting the whole wall, and not just the area, for a more cohesive look. Because the borders are in the kitchen and bathroom, I would start by considering which colors may work well against cabinetry or picking up a color that's in a countertop so the room feels tied together.
Q: We're looking to paint our cabinets to save money on a full renovation. Are there certain colors you see as most popular for this space? Also, what's the best way to go about painting different colors for top and bottom cabinets?
A: We still see whites and off-whites being used in many kitchens. These colors are also quite classic, so they won't be dated too quickly. Some favorites for cabinets are Cloud Cover, Baby Fawn and Mayonnaise. We're also seeing more colors that act as a neutral in the kitchen, including deep greens and blues such as Caldwell Green and Hale Navy. I really like using a deeper color on an island to create some interest while still complementing the rest of the kitchen.
Q: I am looking to add some color into my home, but my husband loves our existing gray and white color palette. I think if I ease into it he will open up more. Do you have any advice for how to add color without it being too overwhelming?
A: I suggest choosing a room that is not a main room in the house, maybe a study, a guest room or even a powder room. These rooms have a door so if you're not sure, you can always close it. What often happens is that the first step of bringing color back into your home will increase your confidence in using color, and, before you know it, you may find accent opportunities or even a whole room where you're moving away from your current color scheme. Our Color Trends 2020 palette may be a good starting point.
Q: I'm looking to paint a smaller room to make it look and feel bigger. What colors should I look for and stay away from?
A: Small spaces that have a balance of natural and artificial light open up a range of color options, so if there is a good amount of natural light in the room, you do not have to limit yourself to a pale color. However, if lighting is limited, a safe bet would be to use a pale to mid-tone color. A pretty color for a small space would be something like Quiet Moments. If you do have a nice amount of light, I've seen small rooms painted in a deeper hue such as Normandy. The corners of the room almost fade away using this type of color, giving the illusion of space.
Q: How often should you evaluate your wall colors to stay fresh without constantly having to repaint?
A: The rule of thumb is to look at your wall colors every five to seven years, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to make a change. Maybe make a slight change, such as going a shade darker or lighter, but within the same family. A great way to bring in different colors is through accessories or an accent color if the architecture of the room calls for it.
Q: Is it still desirable to have every wall painted white?
A: White is still very popular and primarily white color schemes are timeless. We are seeing crisp yet warm whites in many homes, which is great because it opens up the opportunity to bring in other colors and textures through the materials used in the room.
Q: I have a single-story brick home in the Southwest that I'm thinking about painting. What are the best colors and paint, and what are the pros and cons to painting brick?
A: For the Southwest, we see a lot of warm neutrals used for the exterior, particularly neutrals that complement the natural landscape. I suggest using the front door and shutters (if you have them) as opportunities to bring in an accent. Take a look at Clay Beige OC-11, Gentle Cream OC-96 or, for something a bit darker, check out Carrington Beige HC-93. I suggest working with your local retailer and/or painter for a suggestion on an exterior product that will work well on brick and in the Southwest.
Q: My husband and I want to kick off the new year by redoing our bedroom. Any suggestions about bedroom color trends?
A: Take a look at Silver Gray, a pale blue gray. I think it will give a modern look to the room. If you select bedding that has a color in it that you really love, use that as a point of inspiration.
Q: The trim in my bedroom (door frames, window casings, baseboards) is painted daffodil yellow, which I want to keep, but I'm looking for a light color for the walls. Do you usually paint the doors and walls the same color?
A: In this instance, you can most likely do that. I think an off-white with a yellow cast would be pretty. Take a look at Lemon Chiffon or Easter Lily. The walls could be done in a matte or eggshell finish, and then consider using the same white, but in a semi-gloss, for the door.