You have no doubt heard about the movie 50 shades of gray. BUT did you know that those 50 shades of gray are different because of their undertones?
In one house I staged, the house had been on the market for 4 months NOT staged. There were over 50+ people that had gone through the home but it wouldn’t sell. The realtor called me in to stage the home. After I staged the home, the owner had complained about the furniture that I put into the home. It was the first complaint that I EVER had about the furniture. The SAME furniture that I had put into other homes. She didn’t like the furniture. However, the issues WASN’T the furniture. The issue was the PAINTER had chosen the wrong color and it was difficult to make the house look warm & inviting. He picked a medium cooler steel gray because it was the trending gray at the time. The kitchen cabinets were a warm honey oak while the floors, were a warm but darker reddish oak. The color he choose clashed with the natural woods in the room. The wrong color choice was very evident in the bedrooms where the cool gray clashed with the warm 60’s beige carpet. The room felt “off” no matter how great the furniture looked in the room. The correct color would have been a cream, tan or a warm gray or a “greige” as we call warm grays.
So you want to update your colors in your house. Whether you’re styling to stay or staging to go, you need a change. But where do you start? You stare and the paint chips at your local paint store and you feel overwhelmed. Its like looking for a needle in a haystack! Where do you begin?
What to Consider When Choosing Paint Colors
1. Find Your Inspiration:
Choosing Neutral Trends
The current color trends are definitely leaning towards the neutrals. whites, creams, tan, and light greiges. These colors give you a blank slate like a canvas in a painting. You create the mood of the room by the furnishings and decor that you choose just like a painter chooses the color and scene for his/her painting.
If you prefer the neutrals, you may want to take a clue as to which neutral, white, cream, tan, greige, gray from inspiration from your room.
Taking Inspiration from Your Room
Another option is taking inspiration from your room. You could use a picture, fireplace, kitchen counter, ceramic flooring to take your color inspiration from. If your house has a stunning view like a ravine or water, you may want to choose a color that reflects the outdoors. Try to avoid using items that maybe replaced one day like furniture or throw cushions.
If you’re unsure if you want a neutral color as opposed to a “color”, pursue both options and narrow it down.
If you’re getting your house ready to sell, you would want to choose colors in the more neutral tones to appeal to the masses.
2. Watch Out for the Undertones!
Mass tone vs. undertone. Whenever a color is made by mixing two or more colors together, the “mixed” color will have both a mass tone and an undertone. The mass tone is what you see first; it’s what tells you the color is red, blue, green etc. The closer the undertone is to the mass tone, the truer the color will appear. So a true red will have a mass tone and the undertone is similar. Magenta will have a blue undertone, while poppy will have an orange undertone.
So what happened with my client in the example above? The undertones of the elements of the room, specifically the oak kitchen cabinets and the cherry hardwood floors were warm, while the undertones of the wall color were cool. They clashed! The cool steel gray walls were too harsh for the warm wood elements in the room. Not to mention the 80s beige carpeting in the bedrooms as well!
Warm vs. Cool
How do you tell if a color is warm or cool? Warm colors create a cozy, warm vibe whereas cool colors are crisp and vibrant. Neither one is right or wrong. It just depends on the mood that you are wanting to create in your room.
Warm colors typically have a yellow, orange or red (pink) undertone.
Cool colors typically have green, blue or a purple undertone.
Colors can be both warm or cool depending on the undertone of the color.
Can you mix warm & cool colors? It depends who you talk to. Some color experts feel you can tone down a warm room by adding a cool color and warm up a cool room by adding a warm color. Others say you should never mix warm and cool colors together. Its a personal preference. In my client’s case, the warm elements of the room where overpowered by the cool steel gray paint color.
3. Time to get Paint Chips!
If you’ve decided to pursue both a neutral and an inspiration color, be sure to pick up many paint chips for each color. Once you get home and start analyzing the warm and cool colors, aka undertones, you will see why. There are actually MORE than 50 shades of gray, white, blue etc etc.
4. How to Compare Colors
If you’ve decided to look at more than one color, group all your colors together.
Compare Color Strips Side By Side
Put your color strips side by side to each other preferably on a white poster board.. You will be able to see how they differ. This difference is the undertones. If you’re looking at light colors or neturals, look down the strip to reveal the undertone. You should be able to see the mid to darker colors like blue, green, yellow, pink for example. By doing this, you may find that the tan has too much pink it in or that the white that you thought was going to be THE color is too green.
It may seem easy to pick a neutral like a white or a cream, but there are undertones that can warm and cool tones that can complement or conflict with your elements.
Hopefully you have narrowed down your color choices to a few by now. Buy WHITE poster boards from the dollar store. Paint your color boards with your test pot paints and place them on the wall UNDER white poster board paper. NEVER put the test paints directly against your current color. You will not get a good test of what that paint actually looks like. NEVER EVER paint the sample paint directly on the wall. You will not get a true feel for the color.
Be sure to move the poster boards around on ALL four walls of the room and a different times of the day.
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
You Need to Consider the Natural light AND the Artificial Light in a Room.
Have you enjoyed being in a room during a certain time of the day not felt comfortable during the evening for example? How much and what type of natural light a room gets can have a big effect on the undertones that come out of a color. What exposure your room faces, north, south, east or west, impacts the lighting in a room as does the time of day. You don’t need to over analyze what your room’s exposure is, but move your color boards around all 4 walls and and different times of the day, typically 7 am, noon, and around 7 pm, to get a feel of how that color is going to look through all the lighting changes.
Colors will look totally different under artificial lighting like white or yellow incandescent light, or fluorescent light, but its easy to change artificial light in a room. Natural light, you need to work with it.
I’m Debi Collinson. Stager. Stylist. Real Estate Investor. In 2006, at the request of a realtor, I staged my very first home. Staging houses was just starting to become popular. I was very nervous staging my first house, but the sellers liked their newly redesigned home so much that they turned down an offer for full asking price. I went back to design school and have never looked back. Since 2006, I have been staging & styling spaces to make them look like they belong in a magazine page, and buying “fixer uppers” to fix up & either sell for a healthy profit or to rent them out. I’m currently living in my 8th “fixer upper.” Sign up to receive my e-mails of how to make your home stunning, how to sell your house for top dollar AND learn how to become financially independent one fixer upper at a time!