“Concerning the difficult question of color, once wrote Edith Wharton, it is safe to say that the fewer colors used in a room, the more pleasing and restful the result will be.” More than a century later, the question remains as vexed and contentious as ever. No wonder so many of us take refuge in the comfort of neutrals, those reassuring earth tones that are the equivalent of a soothing murmur.
How to create a color scheme that works? We spoke to color consultant Amy Wax who offers her best tips below.
Define your boundaries. “Do you want the space to be bright and energizing? Cozy and introspective?” Deciding on the emotional tone of a room, says Wax, allows you to group colors into categories. ”If you’re decorating a study, for example, you might choose a historic palate in which the colors are more muted than an exuberant modern one.”
Consider wall color in context. “People often think that paint will make a room shine all on its own. But really, the colors needs to work in harmony with the space. Depending on the other elements of the room–the quality of light, the textiles–a color that seems dull at first glance can have a calming effect.”
Go beyond beige. Instead, consider what Wax calls “nearly neutrals”–primary colors mixed with grey or beige or another neutral tone. Although such hues are richer and have a stronger presence than standard neutrals, Wax finds them extremely versatile. She’s especially partial to grey with a hint of pink,blue, lavender or green.
Turn down the volume. According to Wax, people colors chosen in overlit shops are often seem too bright when you see them at home. To compensate for this effect, Wax suggests going with a softer, quieter tone.
Splash out on superior paint. Premium paints within Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Paints of Europe and Farrow and Ball contain a high degree of pigments which allows them to bring colors up to their true values. Moreover, such paints tend to wear better than cheap stuff. Notes Wax, “The science of paint has changed dramatically in recent years. There’s been a move toward healthier products that require less ventilation. Some paints are even self-priming; others are washable or “scrubbable” as its called, when dry, which means no more water stains. Paints that previously would have required four coats now go on beautifully with a single coat.”
Think big. When deciding on a color, ditch the paint chips and sample a large area. “A common mistake is to put too small or too transparent a sample on the wall.” Wax’s method is to prime a 30 x 40 sheet of oak tag and give it two coats of paint. This allows her “to really see the color in context. It always surprises me how people will agonize over this color or that only to put up such a small amount that it serves no purpose. I mean, think about it. Small or large, you’re going to have to repaint anyway.”