Dithering over potential palettes for your home? A color pro might be the way to go. Here’s how it works
If you sense it’s time to call in a color consulting professional, here’s what they want you to know.
It’s not hard to find one.
How to find the right color consultant for you? You can start right here on Houzz. Click “Find Local Pros” at the top of the page, type “color consultant” in the search box, choose your city and start looking
. Some pros are called color consultants, and many interior designers offer color consulting as one of their services.
Also, if you have other professionals already working on your home, like painters, contractors or architects, they may have recommendations of people they work with as well. Your favorite paint store can also be a good source.
Barbara Jacobs of Barbara Jacobs Color and Design suggests choosing from several candidates. “Talk to the people you are considering hiring. As with any profession, you want your chemistry with your color professional to be a good fit. Recommendations from like-minded friends can be helpful, as well as reading testimonials from the candidates you are considering for your project,” she says. Jacobs also recommends asking for references if that makes you more comfortable.
You’ll be participating.
“Color consulting with my clients is always a very collaborative process,” says color consultant Debra Kling
. “Clients may need just a little design direction or may be starting off with a completely blank slate and only have architectural plans to work from. I assess where they are in the process and let them use me as little or as much as they need me. Often I’ll come up with a flat fee for the entire project; there’s no limit on the number of times I’ll return to help.”
They’ll be sizing you up from the first phone call.
Don’t let this make you feel self-conscious; figuring out which colors will make you happy is a color consultant’s priority. “The first call is usually quick — five to 10 minutes,” says color consultant Jacki Tate of inspirationColor
. “I get a sense of what the client wants, the scope of the project, and give them a time estimate.”
“The process may involve one session in your home, from two hours to a full day, or it may involve several meetings. “This will really depend on the consultant’s process and the size and complexity of your project,” Jacobs says.
Color consultation doesn’t take a lot of time, but a lot of it depends on you.
A common way color consultants charge is by the hour; some will have a minimum, so be sure to ask about how the consultant charges up front. Hourly rates can vary from $85 to $200. To give you an idea of hours,
Nolte estimates she can knock out the entire color palette for an average-size three- to four-bedroom house in about three to four hours. This time varies greatly, depending on the size of the home and how decisive the client is. “One colleague of mine likes to joke, ‘I can tell you the right color to pick, but I can’t make you pick it!'” says interior designer Andrea May
Other color consultants will charge you a flat fee for the project that includes all follow-up visits.
Be ready to look at choices during the first visit.
The first visit will involve a walk-through of your home. “When I do the first walk-through with the clients, I’m envisioning how the color scheme will create a flow through the home,” May says. “It’s really hard for people to envision the whole house just looking at small paint chips.” Thus, she comes armed with about 50 draw-downs in neutral colors she knows work consistently.
“It’s a good shortcut; I can show the clients these neutrals with their existing fixed finishes — i.e., countertops, flooring — show them how they do or do not work, and see their response,” she says. “Once we have the neutrals down we can add pops of color where they want to make bigger color statements.”
Tate says, “After the initial walk-through, the clients and I then do a brainstorming session so that I can get a sense of what they like; then I hold up swatches on the wall to show them options I think they’ll like.”
May likes to start in the room the client uses most, like the living room or kitchen. If you have fixed finishes, such as a kitchen counter, the color consultant can start coordinating the color palette there.
Expect to show a few of your favorite things.
“Having something like a piece of fabric or a rug to work from gives me a good direction and can make the process a lot quicker,” Nolte says. This also gives the consultant valuable information about your taste.
May recommends showing the consultant an inspiration room, rug or pieces of fabric you like. “A lot of time when I’m working on new construction, there is literally nothing to go on. I love to find a rug or a piece of fabric for inspiration. I recently used one piece of fabric to inspire the entire color palette for an 11,000-square-foot home,” May says.
They will not try to force their favorite colors on you. “Ultimately, I’m looking for the colors that will make the client happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a color that appeals to me personally or not; I zero in on what they like and what works with their homes by getting to know them, gauging their reactions to suggestions … sometimes I’m a bit of a marriage mediator, helping to find color compromises for couples!” Nolte says.
They will help you find colors that will make furnishing the room easy. “If the room is a blank slate with nothing to go on, I choose colors that will work with [furniture] available in the marketplace,” Nolte says.
They will find colors that will work for many years. Color consultants also have the vision to see how your colors will work in your home for years down the line. “In this nursery I worked with shades of ivory, so that the room could grow with the child. The mother wanted pink in the room, so we brought it in via this custom-designed rug,” May says.
They will show you options you never considered before. Jacobs suggests sharing what you like with the color consultant but also keeping an open mind about new ideas. “In working with a color consultant, you can expect to have the path cleared to an effective interior or exterior color palette that will probably be different in some way from what you came up with yourself,” she says.
You should live with samples for a few days.
Nolte brings large paper samples from paint companies like Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore to show clients large swatches of color, but she suggests painting samples directly on the wall before buying gallons of paint. Across the board, all the color consultants agree that painting samples before buying the gallons of paint is a must.
“Lighting is key,” Nolte says. “Paint two coats of large swatches, at least 2 feet by 2 feet, in a light corner and a dark corner, and look at them at different times of day, with the natural light and lit up at night. Also, move key pieces of furniture near the swatches to see how they look together.”
More on how lighting affects color
The right trim color will help create flow. “Typically, trim should be consistent throughout the home; the exceptions are special statement rooms, like a bedroom,” May says.
Don’t trust paint chips!
This is especially true with exteriors. “There are so many different materials used on exteriors; never trust a paint chip, because materials like stucco, brick, cedar shake shingles, wood siding or vinyl siding will all absorb the paint in different ways. You can’t see this from paint chips, which are printed on paper,” Kling explains.
She recommends observing paint samples over several days, at different times of the day, with different weather conditions. “Never underestimate the power of the sun. The sun reflects the color from different materials in different ways that you can’t see on a paint chip,” she says. “An overcast day will show the true color on the exterior.”
Don’t rely on historic paint lines to be truly historic.
Kling points out that some of the pigments offered today weren’t available during some of the historic eras they claim to represent. One of her specialties is helping clients in older homes research and choose historic colors, whether it’s getting into the spirit of the home’s era with a style nod or researching and matching the original color.
“Colonial-era homes in New England often had matching paint on the trim, so that’s a way to acknowledge the historical era without matching the exact color,” she says. “If clients want to research the original color, we can usually find it by using a sander in a bull’s-eye pattern, eventually getting down to the home’s original paint.”
They’ll leave you armed with all the materials you need but still be available.
Once you pick out your colors, Jacobs says, “you can expect a detailed written paint palette to share with the painter or contractor. You also can expect the consultant to be available for future questions and to answer questions of clarification for your painter or contractor.”
Kling agrees. “I’m there from start to finish. It may take several visits; they may need help shopping at the paint store and/or may need me to meet with their painting crew.”
Color consultants love their jobs. I have never met a group of professionals who love their jobs and clients more than the five color consultants I spoke with when researching this ideabook. Color consultants forge long-lasting relationships and even friendships while working with their clients.
You’re going to have a good time. “My clients are constantly telling me that they never expected to have so much fun picking out colors!” Tate says. Clients will often call color consultants for simple help with paint colors but then wind up using them to decorate full projects. Calling a color consultant is an easy, unintimidating way to get comfortable working with a design professional.
“People usually say they’ve enjoyed the process, see it as educational and confidence-building for future design decisions, and that they now have a design that they would not have thought of on their own,” Jacobs says.