Paint, Paint & More Paint

Ahhh, paint colors.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  We have to wonder if more marriages break down over trips to IKEA or to Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore? Luckily, Alex and Katie actually had fun during the paint color selection process.  If it sounds like we’re gloating, remember that it’s much easier to select paint for a rental or investment property than for your personal residence.  With a personal residence you have all the baggage of having it reflect your personal style, living the with color daily for years, matching your decor and flooring, and picking something you like that hopefully won’t be outdated in a few years.  We just needed to pick something that would match the antique nature of the house that was also fairly stylish and likeable.  It’s why we’re still friends and business partners after this challenging process.

Since we’re still all about the rules, here are our 5 Top Rules for Paint Color Selection if you’re going to DIY it. You might find that hiring a designer or decorator is the way to go.  They’re trained to pick paint colors and practice it daily, so hiring one can save you a lot of time and aggravation.  You’re also likely to end up with a better finished product.  If you still want to do this yourself, you can bend these rules or break them but it’s good to know what works for most people before going hog wild with your rule breaking self:

1.  Copy Someone Else.  The easiest way to select paint color is by seeing it somewhere else.  If you go to your doctor’s office, museum, your friend’s house or even the Restoration Hardware showroom and you see a wall color you like, ask them for it.  This way you’ve seen how it impacts an entire room and you know you like it on a large scale.  This is doubly true for exterior colors.  You’re painting something absolutely huge in the sunlight and clouds that will not relate in any way to your paint samples.  It’s better to see your future house color in person on a grand scale and copy it.  You’ll thank us later. Promise.

2.  No Internet Colors.  Don’t ever select a color from the internet without testing it first.  Even then, it’s best to narrow it down to a popular color.  You can see from these photos how this is the same room and Shoji White wall color but the colors look very different in the two photos.  Some photos are retouched and some aren’t.  No matter what, you’ll never be able to tell anything about a color until it’s on your walls.

3.  Popular Colors Rule.  Unless you’re a designer or colorist, in which case we have to wonder why you’re reading this, it’s an excellent idea to stick with popular colors.  They’re popular because they’re tried and tested and look great in most rooms.  Designers have recommended them countless times because they don’t have unexpected pink or green undertones that only the trained eye can see on a small scale and they work well in most light.  We know that popular colors may seem boring and basic, but a bad paint color is not the kind of excitement you need in your life.  If it is, call us.  We’d love to hear more.

4.  No Paint Chips.  Don’t pick a color from the paint chip.  It’s too small.  It’s like selecting a book based on a paragraph on the back . . . oh wait.  Well, paint colors are a much bigger expense and commitment than a book, so trust us on on this.  You have a few options for testing out color.  You can paint two coats on a wall or paint two coats on a large flat poster board and move it around the room.  You can also order larger sticker samples, then narrow it down to a few options and paint those final selections on the wall in large swaths.  You need a big wall of sample paint because the new color will be affected by whatever color is behind it.  The greenish tan of the original walls on the 1898 House cast all kinds of unwelcome green tones onto our new paint colors.  Don’t freak out and don’t make a selection until your paint fully dries.  It’ll generally get a shade darker and mellow out upon drying.

A Fairly Bad Video. We’re pretty good at renovating real estate, we’re great at selling real estate, but we did not miss our calling as content creators. Producing high quality videos does not fit into our busy lives, but the videos are useful viewing if you don’t mind amateur hour.  In this video we’re choosing between Benjamin Moore White Dove OC-17 and Greek Villa SW-7551 for the walls.  Neither selection made the cut for our wall color but we did use Greek Villa SW-7551 for the interior and exterior trim.  Of course we should have painted two coats in a larger section and waited for the paint to dry but we figured out early on that these were too washed out for our project.

5.  Palette Flow.  Don’t pick colors you like room by room without relating them to each other, to your decor, to your overall design theme, and to your exterior.  Instead, create a plan with a theme that creates a relaxing flow for your entire house. Even if you don’t plan to paint the whole house, make a plan for your whole house that you may eventually be able to follow.  Start with a paint palette that blends throughout the house and make sure it also compliments your exterior colors.  For example, if you have a house with soothing natural greens and tans, you don’t want to enter the house through a jarring Miami pink door.  Similarly, if you have a house full of Big Leo Cheeto energy with oranges, yellows and pinks, you don’t want a serene Agreeable Gray SW-7029 exterior.  There are a lot of color palettes on the internet you can buy or copy to get a general idea of what goes together.  You can even research them by theme such as forest, mountain, mid century, coastal, or modern.  Put your selections together in one place on Pinterest or your favorite bulletin board so you can see how they work together.

The Interior

Our paint palette veered toward what the cool kids would call Light Academia with cream, light tan, shades of blue with black accents.  Whites seem like a no brainer until you have 10 samples on the wall and are wondering if you could have solved world hunger in less time than it’s taken you to make a decision.  For the walls, we looked at Shoji White SW-7042, White Dove OC-17, Greek Villa SW-7551, Ibis White SW-7000, Alabaster SW-7008, and Swiss Coffee OC-45.  It was a big decision since this white would become the sole color for every wall in the house except the bathrooms.  This meant that the color had to look good in rooms that faced all directions, in daylight and at night.  That’s a big ask for one color.  We narrowed it down to Swiss Coffee OC-45, Alabaster SW-7008 and Shoji White SW-7042.  Shoji won out.  We loved how the Shoji White had a hint of warmth, was a bit darker and created beautiful contrast with the trim.  It was great in all types of light and very neutral without being bland.  We had an easier time with the trim color and chose between Simply White OC-117, White Dove OC-17, and Greek Villa SW-7551.  We love Simply White for a more modern home and White Dove for less contrast and stronger griege qualities.  Greek Villa was perfect for an antique feel with a bit more character that didn’t veer into yellow territory.  We followed the typical rule of eggshell sheen for walls and semi gloss for trim.

The Trim Color Finalists:

The Wall Color Finalists:

The Living Room Before

We loved the dark trim too, but it wasn’t real stained wood. It was faux painted tiger oak painted over red paint that we couldn’t strip or repair. Should we have painted all the trim dark? Maybe. You be the judge.

In the second image, you can see the Living Room During Construction with Shoji White SW-7042 Walls and Greek Villa SW-7551 Trim

The Bathrooms

For the bathrooms, we used our tried and true Sea Salt SW-6204.  We really wanted to try something new and bolder like Retreat SW-6207, which is a darker version of Sea Salt but the bathrooms have very little light so we went with a lighter color.  We discovered on another project that Retreat is perfect for shelves or kitchen cabinets, especially paired with Sea Salt on the walls.

A Slightly Embarrassing Video.   In this video, where we are reminded why even moderately low rise jeans should never ever see the light of day, you’ll see us selecting a bathroom wall color between Mantra SW-9631, Serenely SW-9632 and Sea Salt SW-6204.  They all looked so similar in the light that we couldn’t tell the difference even after two dried coats of paint, so we went with Sea Salt because it was a cooler we used before and liked.

The Bathroom Color Finalists:

The Bathroom Before

The Bathroom During Construction with Seal Salt SW-6204 Walls and Greek Villa SW-7551 Trim

The Final Bathroom With Staging by Set the Stage and Summit Sotheby’s Professional Photography

The Stairs

When we bought the house the stairs were covered in brown wall to wall carpet. It was not beautiful. We wanted to sand the stairs down to their original wood buy they had also been faux painted on top of red paint. You can see the murderous red stripe that was covered by carpet squares a while back. We sanded and sanded and were almost left with no treads at all so we gave up and painted. We actually love how the black and white staircase turned out. We used Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel in Tricorn Black for the stair treads. This was how we wanted our stairs to look and how they actually ended up looking. 

The Stairs Before

The Stairs During Construction Before We Realized We Couldn’t Strip Them

The Final Product with Tricorn Black SW-6258 Stairs, Shoji White Walls and Greek Villa SW-7551 Trim:

The Exterior

For the exterior wall color, we were arrogant enough to break Rule #1 and Rule #3 above it showed. For the outside walls, we opted for Moody Blue SW-6221, which is a more vibrant blue green than the original powder blue. Even though exterior was recently painted, the surfaces weren’t prepped properly and they did a poor job. There was a lot of overspray and the paint was chipping and peeling. In order to avoid painting two coats, we needed a color that was fairly similar to the original powder blue and white. We thought the original blue was pretty nice but a touch off with its purple undertones. The white on the grime was too stark and looked chalky. Honestly, we wanted to love the Moody Blue, but we think it was a touch too vibrant for our vision. It was toned down by the Tricorn Black SW-6258 doors and will fade over time so we weren’t too worried about it. For the trim we opted for Greek Villa SW-7551 to match the trim color from the inside of the house and we loved that.

The Exterior Before

The Exterior With Moody Blue SW-6221 Sample Board

The Exterior After With Moody Blue SW-6221 Walls, Tricorn Black SW-6258 Doors and Greek Villa SW-7551 Trim

When we’ve followed Rule #1 it’s consistently worked out perfectly.  When we haven’t, it’s been hit or miss.  This wasn’t necessarily a miss but it was maybe a double and not a home run.  We loved the trim and door color.  The new owner can now add a fourth and fifth color to make it a true Queen Anne Victorian.

Paint Colors Used at the 1898 House

  • Interior walls are Shoji White by Sherwin Williams SW-7042
  • Interior and exterior trim is Greek Villa by Sherwin Williams SW-7551
  • Bathroom walls are Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams SW-6204
  • Exterior doors, interior stairs, and railing are Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams SW-6258
  • Exterior walls are Moody Blue by Sherwin Williams SW-6221

Next month, we’ll take a look at the first floor remodel.