What’s the Complexion of Your Home?

The bulk of what I do is Paint Color Consultations.  Something just hit me the other day and made me kinda laugh out loud (sitting by myself like a psycho).  As many neutral paint colors that I specify for clients’ homes, I have NEVER used a neutral paint color in my own homes.  

 yellow period kitchen

My Breakfast Nook 

 

Ok, I did just paint my 13-year-old’s bedroom Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (she begged me for gray!), but the focal point wall is Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow to liven it up.  The paint colors in my home are REAL colors, but I don’t often specify the kind of colors I have in my home to my clients.  So I’ve been thinking about that.  

orange room

Mr. Man’s Office 

 

I think it may have something to do with the kind of homes where I typically do Paint Color Consultations.  Way more often that not, my Color Consultations are done in homes that were built within the last 30-40 years.  And there are certain fixed elements that are common to the last 30-40 years.  To a great degree, these finishes dictate which paint colors feel “right” in a given space.  They often call for a beige- or gray-based neutral or a “dirtier” color.

natural finishes New Build That Will Require Neutral Paint Colors

 

My home was built in 1939.  In the period homes I specify paint colors for, I choose cleaner, REAL colors. Because they work with the complexion of the home.  They work well with dark wood, white tile and trim, and black accents.  What gets tricky is when a 1920’s home has a 1990’s kitchen.  Or you add a beige sofa or some kind of natural stone that isn’t marble.  That’s like putting brown eyeshadow on a pale blond with blue eyes.  And that’s when it’s hard to establish a good color flow throughout the rooms.

hawthorne yellow

Hawthorne Yellow, Waterbury Green, Prescott Green 

 

Homes built in the last 30-40 years tend to have a warmer complexion.   The fixed elements are warmer – beige and tan carpeting, gold and orange in the granite countertops, yellow or pink in the tile.  Thus the warm neutral paint colors.  But what DOESN’T work is applying those neutral paint colors in a historic home.  That’s when things feel “wrong.”  

DSC_5281 Historic Wedding Venue with Neutral Wall Colors

 

I recently specified paint colors for a wedding venue set in an historic home from the 1920’s. The venue had been painted out in all neutral colors in an effort to provide a “neutral”  background for whatever the brides’ color scheme might be.  But the result felt wrong, in my professional opinion.  It needs vivid, cleaner, REAL  colors.  

DSC_5278

Historic Home Before Color Consultation 

 

I specified them – we’ll see if the owner follows through.  I’m really hoping she does.  Because when you ignore the natural complexion of a home, it only results in a finished product that feels wrong.  

DSC_8058

 

The wall color in the above photo is the main paint color in my house. This paint color would NEVER work with a granite countertop or beige carpeting.  So, what’s the complexion of your home?  Are you fighting it, or embracing it?

 

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Sarah @ Redesigning Sarah
Guest

Fantastic post Kristie! So true about a home’s natural complextion – great analogy!

Christine
Guest

I could not agree with you more. I have a 1960’s brick rancher and there is just a certain ‘vibe’ that is dictated by the ‘must stay’ elements of my home. You have a wonderful outlook on your profession and I truly enjoy reading your blog.

Charisse @ Whimsical Home & Garden
Guest

Hi Kristie, Interesting article. I really like your kitchen and I really like your color choice, in fact, I used a quite similar color in my kitchen and I have two different kinds of granite; My kitchen is part of a great room area, lots of windows and light and it works in this situation. I get compliments all the time. I have used this color for clients in similar situations as well. There are photos of my home on my site that you can look at if interested. The one granite is a baltic brown and the other is… Read more »

Connie Nikiforoff Designs
Guest

I totally agree with your post! We had a 1955 home that I struggled with for quite awhile trying to find ways to warm it up (to go with the wood trim color) and yet keep it light (I love light rooms!) Finally settled on a very soft yellow that worked and warm off whites. I think a visitor to our home said it best “Your house just glows!” I also agree with you about the 1920’s home pictured. The neutrals just aren’t giving it a nice vibe that works with it. I always say when I see an historic… Read more »

Karhy
Guest
Karhy

I love the color you used in your home. My home is actually only 10 years old and I used several of the same colors you did. The reason it works….I guess…is we ripped out the carpeting installed wide plank flooring lots of woodwork and beadboard…still working on that and used marble and a grey granite that has the same shades as marble. We moved here after living in a historical home. When we first bought that home I painted every room downstairs white until I had a feel for the place during all the seasons. You’re right! The safe… Read more »

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

Hmm,interesting. But I must say I love the neutral wedding venue. Light neutrals with wood trim looks great to me.

Susan
Guest
Susan

I think you have hit the nail on the head, for me anyway. I live in a new construction house. Shades of taupe throughout with dark wood floors and light trim. I love color and chose a bright turquoise and green area rug for the main room. Just couldn’t figure out why it didn’t go. Now I know why it’s just not quite right. Luckily this isn’t my forever house (even though I’m 63!). Thanks for an illuminating article. I enjoy your blog.

christen
Guest
christen

Great insightful post. So what would you recommend for someone who loves historical homes, and also wants all white walls? Painted trim? I feel like there are a lot of historic&neutral on my pinterest board…

http://pinterest.com/christenelaine/home-style/

Holly
Guest
Holly

Kristi, You are absolutely right about that historic wedding venue – it looks drab and depressing with the colors they have now. I certainly wouldn’t want to have my wedding reception there the way it is. I hope they take your advice. BTW, another great article!

Kate
Guest
Kate

Kristie, this makes so much sense! I just attended a free design seminar (am on the Gulf Coast) and the presenter talked about “are you warm or cool?” She showed photos of very similar great rooms and one was painted gray with white slip covered furniture, black and white artwork, white porcelain accessories, black wrought iron chandelier. Then she showed pictures of a similarly built space painted in greige with linen/khaki furniture. There was muted color in the room in the rugs, art and throw pillows. I was stumped because I LOVED them both – but my own home is… Read more »

Chez
Guest
Chez

Such a great post – and definitely making me think about my imminent plan to paint most walls in my 1900 cottage a light gray. As you said – the trouble is that it’s been renovated so it has a bit of the new millenium running through it as well. I need to noodle on it some more. Maybe I’ll stick with the gray but add some cleaner colors as accents (art, pillow, etc) throughout. Then again, that might make the gray walls look yucky. Oy this stuff makes my head spin! Anyway – thanks for such great posts –… Read more »

Paula Van Hoogen
Guest
Paula Van Hoogen

Oh, This is such a fascinating subject Kristie, and in your area I’ll bet there is the gamut of home types! You are so correct about Historic homes and real color. I think of the homes built in the 20’s and how classic and enduring they always feel. Wonder if there will ever be a trend back to that kind of enduring interior design. I believe it would be refreshing. My newer (5yr old) home was built intentionally with historic window profiles and coffering in the main space. We started with taupe walls, linen window trim and dark wood windows.… Read more »

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

Kristi-
I have a house from about the same era as yours. Is your kitchen floor original? I have faux wood laminate tiles and am looking for a change.
Thanks. I love your work!

susan
Guest
susan

I love color and am very partial to blues in all hues. We have recently moved into a house built in 1972, in California. It has a wood exterior and the interior doors are white and some are plantation style. We will be remodeling soon and gutting the kitchen and opening it up to the dining living and foyer areas. The cabinets will be white shaker. The granite off white and creamy with steaks of blue grey and small splashes of black. We will have wood floors in a walnut (non reddish) stain. The living room ceiling is peaked with… Read more »

Linda
Guest

Interesting take on this Kristie. I never thought of color with age of the home but it’s true. The walls have to speak to the fixed elements or things look and feel “off”.

Christina
Guest
Christina

I subscribe to several decorating blogs but yours, honest to goodness, is the only one I read EVERY SINGLE TIME IT COMES OUT. Looking forward to that book you keep talking about 😉 This entry was as informative as all the rest and I thank you for that. However, I am stuck on a comment you made just as a metaphor: Why oh why shouldn’t a fair-skinned, blue eyed blonde wear brown eye shadow? So I know this has nothing to do with home color theory but I need to know! When I bother with eye shadow, it’s my go-to!… Read more »

LibbyP
Guest
LibbyP

The timing of this post is incredible!! My house was built in 1989 by a person fanatical about the 1880s. He selected all the trim, colors, etc. He found wallpaper that was a reproduction of the period. I’ve moved in and use similar colors but not period colors (mine is a Cape Cod house – I used the colors from Sherwin William’s Coastal Cool collection). But now we’re planning to redo the kitchen. Eek, you’ve scared me. Will my 2013 kitchen stand out against my 1880s house? Suggestions? I’m open to advice!!

Jil Sonia McDonald
Guest

People and some designers, need to have this tattooed onto their forehead – such great advice, absolutely brilliant!

Kelly R.
Guest

I’m with you, Kristie! A neutral on the walls where I live would be an exception, rather than the rule. My idea of neutral is a light yellow-green or a mid-tone green-blue :). I am more in the gray than the beige camp when it comes to neutrals, but there’s a time and place for just about everything. Fun post 😉

Joan
Guest
Joan

Kristi,
It was only recently that I found your blog and have found it interesting as well as educational. The articles are an easy read filled with enciteful details. I find myself looking forward to each new addition. Thank you for sharing your expertise with others.

Sabrina
Guest
Sabrina

You should do a fan’s post, like ask people who have been inspired by your blog to send a photo and see what pops up. I have been making those christmas decorations from books I saw on this website and I get great compliments about it every year 🙂

Maria Killam
Guest

Great way of looking at dirty vs. clean colours! Love it, Maria

Paula Van Hoogen
Guest
Paula Van Hoogen

Hi again, Kristie, I talked so much of that wedding venue, I neglected to say that I love your home!

Wish I could sit & talk with you in that wonderful breakfast booth….

Your children are blessed!
Paula.

Pam PIke
Guest
Pam PIke

This was very insightful. I’m having a home built. The house has an open floor plan. Upon entering the house from he entry foyer you can actually see the open dinning room, open sitting room and the open family room. The family room is also open to the kitchen. We have a triple window in the dinning room, not window in the sitting room and 4 large floor to ceiling windows in the family room. We have chosen 5″ hand scraped hickory plank flooring through out with tan tile in the kitchen and a golden color granite counter. When choosing… Read more »

Kelly
Guest

Yes, yes, yes! I agree the wood tones work with the darker blues and greens. So much better with that style and date of home. Embrace the stained woddwork and work with it! Have a good weekend Kristie!

Christie
Guest
Christie

I couldn’t believe the colors I saw in “Mr. Man’s Office”!! Just yesterday I asked my son what colors he would like to paint his bedroom–and these are the exact colors he chose!! I didn’t think it would work; but it looks good together! The only problem is …his bedroom is in the basement. Not sure if it would look quite as good.

TJ Jackson
Guest
TJ Jackson

Hi Kristie! My husband and I just purchased a 1931 Tudor that has horrible metallic blue paint in the living room and wallpaper all thru out the house that is suppost to look like a stone wall. This lady even wallpapered the dishwasher! I stumbled on your site and fell in love with the colors in your home. I have picked out BM antique jade as a starting point and I think it is alot like your prescott green. We haven’t moved into our new home yet and I would like to strip all that wallpaper off before we do… Read more »