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12 posts from March 2010

March 17, 2010

Exterior Colors for the South

Even though it's not always obvious, exterior paint colors are influenced by the regions in which we live.  It makes perfect sense.  In northern, woodsy regions, for instance, you'll see darker greens, mosses, and brick reds.  In warmer climates, where homes are made of stone or adobe, you'll find mineral hues of gray, slate, and terra cotta.  One of the tips every designer offers for choosing exterior colors is to look at your environment. So, what are good choices for the South?

Rainforest Dew 2146-50

We chose two very different regions: Palm Springs, California, and Seaside, Florida.  In both, there's a lot of sunshine, and this strong light means people often opt for brighter, more vibrant colors, and so can you.  What might look garish in more sober New England light looks perfectly natural here. 

There's also the landscape to consider.  The earthy desert palette of greens and browns around Palm Springs can be echoed or contrasted.  The home of designer William Stewart, for example, was inspired by colors popular there in the middle of the last century.  "People think of modern desert colors as a palette of sage, mud, and sand.  But older Palm Springs, around its heyday in the 1950's, was a little more adventurous, with crisper, more saturated and citrus-y colors."


Top: Rainforest Dew 2146-50; Door: Wythe Blue HC143
Bottom: Fascia boards: Alligator Green 2143-20; Front door: Wythe Blue HC143

Stewart says he wanted the house to feel cool when you looked at it, and cool when you're inside.  He chose a color scheme of pale avocado with deeper avocado accents.  The Tiffany blue front door is a nod to the many swimming pools.  Inside (that's another story), and around the outdoor (but covered) lounging area, is a continuation of this scheme in brighter, even more vivid citrus yellows and greens.  "It's like a giant margarita or Tom Collins," says Stewart.

In Florida, of course, the influence of the ocean and the intense, clear blue sky is ever-present.  The community of Seaside, Florida, is filled with wood-frame cottages with deep porches, wide overhangs, and lots of cross-ventilation.  In other words, perfectly suited to their environment.  (You've probably seen Seaside and didn't even know it--the community was used as the location for The Truman Show.)

Left house: Pure Joy 327; Shutters: Lake Victoria 668
Right house: Violet Stone 2069-40

Although there were certain building codes for the community, color was left up to the individual homeowners and designers.  Seaside is still Florida, so influences from the Caribbean and other islands make their way here, albeit in more subdued forms.  In this region, bright but not garish colors are paired with crisp, white trim.  Homes in shades of lilac and blue are found next to sunny yellows, pale greens, and pinks.  The ever-present palm trees give them their context.  Change a few details, and these houses could live in a lot of towns in the U.S.  But put them together, in the heat and sun, with their lazy porches and cool, shaded interiors, and you're definitely in the South.

March 15, 2010

Tips On Choosing Exterior Color For Your Home

It's what's on the outside that counts when it comes to picking paint and color for the exterior of your home!  Have you started thinking about exterior painting yet?  It's the right time to start considering colors, paint, or stain.  I've shared my take on house painting and color in the current Better Homes & Gardens Exteriors: "The exterior of a home is public art.  What you put out there gives people the first glimpse of your design sensibility.  It tells the story of who you are and projects your image."  What does your home say about you? 

Exterior House Paint

Many of us procrastinate on this project, but just imagine the Jones' trying to keep up with YOU once the job is done!  Now is the perfect time to start planning ahead for the exterior of your home.  Depending on your taste and needs, let's figure out the project that's right for you. 

If your home's exterior is in good shape and just needs a touch of color, your front door can be a great place to use some bold and interesting color choices.  Think of your front door as a piece of jewelry on an outfit.  Let it be unique, intriguing, and unexpected if you want to make it memorable.  Here are three tweaks on the classic red, blue, and black door.  Deep Rose has a hint of orange to update it.  Gentlemen's gray is a deep blue with a teal tint underneath.  Kendall Charcoal is just gorgeous because it's a rich deep gray rather than a traditional black.

Front door colors

How do you know if your house is ready for a fresh coat of color and paint?  If it's been a few years since you've painted anything on the outside of your home, this is a great year to get to it!  Since we're coming out of such a harsh season, your house deserves a little spa treatment.  A new coat of paint will make you feel like you've moved to a new house!  Not only is it a whole house makeover, it's also an important step in protecting your home from rough weather that's surely ahead of us, too.

Remember These Four Important Tips For Choosing Exterior Colors:

Listen to Your Mother-- Mother Nature, that is!  Pay attention to your natural surroundings and use the colors in them as inspiration.  If you have a very colorful landscape, you may choose to let the house be more neutral.  Or you may take to colorful camouflage and use one or two of the saturated colors borrowed from your surroundings.  The two approaches say very different things about the person who chooses them.

Exterior Neutral

Exterior Fall Colors

Work Within the System-- This is a project that's meant to be last a few years and look great, too.  So be as selective about the paint product as you are about the color itself because they work together as a system.  The most beautiful colors can be disappointing if you use a paint that wears away too quickly.  Read, ask contractors and your friends for the most honest advice on what works where you live.  Benjamin Moore has a great stain called Arborcoat that has just launched this season.  Also, many of you have used Aura on the interior, but have you tried Aura Exterior?  It's designed to live up to the Aura name and protect your house on the exterior, too

Consider the Neighborhood-- Look at your neighbors and decide if you want your colors to fit in or stand out.  It's always nice to compliment the neighbors with a palette that may be similar in tone, but still unique in color choice.  There are also many other factors to consider like light, architectural style, and weather.

Designer Trick--   Here's a major rule of thumb about getting the right color.  Color will usually look lighter on the exterior than on a chip.  Our natural environment is filled with light that makes the color appear a bit lighter than you may expect.  That means that we can confidently select deep or dark colors when it comes to the outside.  Whenever possible, paint a sample of the colors your considering on a more hidden part of your house before you decide so you can really see the combination in your environment.

Over the next few posts, we'll gathering color advice from regional experts who will help us discover what colors are classic and which ones are trend-worthy in many areas.  What are your favorite colors for exteriors in your area?

March 12, 2010

Color IQ: Makeover Options for The Perfect Palette

I am so thrilled to see all the spectacular experiences and color ideas that many of you shared here, on facebook, and twitter in response to Meredith's Interesting Question on Color (Color IQ).  Altering colors in your home can change a room from status quo to extraordinary.  Adding the right combination of paint and color is one of the smartest and most cost effective design tricks out there when you're looking for a way to give your home a facelift.

So when one of our readers, Meredith, challenged us to come up with the perfect palette for her already "magazine ready" room, many of you pulled out those fan decks and shared your favorites!    As a result, here are some combinations that add just the right amount of color to upgrade her style and complete the look.  I used Benjamin Moore's Personal Color Viewer to upload Meredith's photos and try many, many color options!

Option One: Classic Sophisticate.  This palette is perfect if you're looking for colors that will stand the test of time.  Using two colors from our Historic Collection, I created a combination that is subtle and achieves just the look we were after.  Many votes came in for both colors from all of our readers!

Living Room Stonington Gray 

Stonington Gray HC-170 is a popular light gray with cool undertones and works well with Silver Satin OC-26 on the ceiling to keep the overall look cool and subtle.

Palladian Blue Color 

Palladian Blue, HC-144 is a classic color choice for the Dining Room

Classic Sophisticat blue gray color

Option Two: Naturally Inviting.  To play with tone and the natural elements in the space, I used a warm gray, Cape Hatteras Sand AC-34, to bring out the warmth of the wood and stone.  The blue is an aquatic inspired color called Serene Breeze 449.  It's invigorating and soothing at the same time.  These colors are accented by Cloud White OC-130 on both ceilings.

Living Room Cape Hatteras Sand

Cape Hatteras Sand AC-34 is a warm taupe gray that can bring out the warmth of the wood and stone.  It's paired with Cloud White OC-130, a balanced white for the ceiling that works with many colors

Serene Breeze Color 
The adjacent Dining Room is painted in Serene Breeze 449, a blue that has soft hints of green, too. 

Blue gray color natural inviting

Option Three: Fresh and Relaxing.  Gray Horse 2140-50 was another recommended color by our readers.  It's such a refreshing gray because of the green in it.  Green is a neutral these days and works beautifully with just about any color. It also works to bring out the opposing color, red/orange in the wood accents in both rooms.  Another suggested color, Constellation AF-540, is a as clear as a summer sky.  It offers a true blue option for this space.

Gray Horse 2140-50
Gray Horse 2140-50 is a green toned gray and will accent the stone hearth well while also highlighting the great amount of nature outside of the windows. Vanilla Milkshake OC-59 is a warm white on the ceiling.

 Constellation Color Affinity 

This blue option is more of a powder blue called Constellation AF-540

Gray Blue Colors Relaxing Fresh 

 And I didn't forget about trim.  To keep it simple, I found that Chantilly Lace OC-65 works beautifully for the trim with all three combinations.  I would suggest using the same color for trim throughout the open areas to help with flow and continuity. 

Chantilly Lace Color Trim

Just remember that colors are always so different on our computer screens than on our walls, so make sure to check out samples of each of these colors to really see the nuance and beauty of each one!

Meredith also mentioned that the previous owner was a smoker and left behind some lingering odors.  Carpet (and carpet pad) are one of the usual suspects when it comes to this problem in a house, but since we're working with hardwood floors, that can't be the source of the odor.  One of our readers, Donna Frasca, had a great suggestion to clean the walls first with "trisodium phosphate".  This is a great cleaning agent to get walls ready to prep.  Make sure to be cautious and follow safety guidelines if you decide to use this or any other cleaner on your walls, of course! 

To minimize the odor after cleaning, Benjamin Moore recommends priming and sealing the walls with a product called Fresh Start Alkyd Primer 024.  The advantage of this Alkyd Primer over others is that it's lower in VOC or volatile organic compounds than competitor's alkyd primers.  VOC's are the chemical and subsequent odor that's left in the air from many sources every day like painting, getting your nails done, or even spraying air freshener!  Some VOCs are more noticeable than others, of course.  But it's always a good idea to consider using low or zero VOC paints whenever possible.  My suggestion is to pair the Fresh Start Alkyd Primer 024 with a zero VOC paint that's available in limitless colors, like Natura.  This combination allows you to create the look you're after and still be able to breathe easy knowing that you have a high quality paint that will last and leave little impact on the environment.  (Note:  If you don't have these specific concerns that Meredith is dealing with, stick with Natura Interior Waterborne Paint Primer, otherwise known as Product 511.  Like Natura, it's also zero VOC!)

Meredith was kind enough to invite us into her home and so we've all raised our Color IQ's a bit.  I have a feeling we'd all like to know what Meredith will do next!  Meredith, I hope you'll share what you think and some "after" shots, too.

Try Benjamin Moore's Personal Color Viewer for your own rooms here and then find your local Benjamin Moore Retailer to complete you project!

March 10, 2010

Color IQ: The Perfect Palette for A Beautiful Home

Given the chance, wouldn't we all love to raise our Color IQ?  Many of us have a great sense of style when it comes to home decor, but are still in search for the perfect palette.  The perfect paint and color choices can add that finishing touch every home needs to feel complete.  Choosing the right palette means weaving in the right blend of color, pattern and texture.  One of our readers, Meredith, sent in photos of her very well designed home that's missing just one thing-- Color!  What are your ideas for her?

Meredith home is gorgeous.  It's well-designed and thoughtful.  Take a look at her photos below.  Her classic contemporary style is accented by bold lines and symmetry.  It reminds me that many people are in the same boat-- a great eye for what they love and in need of the right color combination and paint choice to create a memorable room.

Dining Room Bungalow
Living Room Bungalow
Dining to Living View Bungalow

What works:  Meredith has created some great flow and continuity of design already.  She's used similar dark woods, white and off-white accents, and a similar framing style for all of her photos and art on the walls.  The rich stone fireplace is a great accent that adds some depth and she has loads of natural light coming in. 

Color Opportunities:  Some would say it looks great as it is, but I think Meredith is wise in her search for color.  Color can add layers of interest and a sense of a personalization that makes a space beautiful.  The right paint choice can protect your walls and be durable until you just get tired of the color!  

Since these rooms are open to each other, we certainly should consider the colors of the two rooms together, too.  With her neutral color palette as a starting point, the directions are endless, so we need a little direction from Meredith to understand what she would love to live with in her living room and dining room. 

When I'm looking at a space, I try to categorize what exists and what I'd like to introduce.  Here, we have repetition of style and color, contrast in a fairly dark and light palette, and nice architectural details.  By adding color to the walls, we'll bring the space alive and introduce depth and a bit of excitement, too!  I also think about how the space is used.  Do you need a paint that will take a beating and hold up well?  Are you mostly concerned with your indoor air quality?  Or are you just looking for decorative accents and specialty finishes?

What are your color or paint ideas for this project?  Le'ts raise our collective Color IQ together as we figure out the answer to this Interesting Question (IQ) from Meredith!  I'm going to work with Personal Color Viewer from Benjamin Moore and share my ideas tomorrow.  A clue from Meredith:  She's looking for the perfect gray and the "palest of blues" to create a look that's as classic as her taste.

March 05, 2010

Designer Blues Make For Happy Rooms

If you're looking for a new idea for your room, a fresh color palette for spring, take on blue.  The Blues are in the air right now and interior designers are using the hue in every variation.  Red, green, and gray are all adding to the sophistication of the blue palette these days.  Whether you love blue violet, turquoise, or a powdery steel blue, you're still very much on top of the Blue trend. 

Palladian Blue Living Room Benjamin Moore
Palladian Blue HC-144 by Benjamin Moore

 Richard Powers Blue Room Design 
Photography by Richard Powers

Gigi Interior Design Blue Room 
Blueberry 2063-30 by Benjamin Moore

Blue is even a favorite of many people internationally and across both genders.  It's restful, relaxing, and confident in many ways so it can work for a living room, powder room, or even a bedroom shared by both a boy and a girl! 

Because blues can look great with everything from crisp whites or bold oranges, it's a very versatile color that works well with what you already have.  I've used Prescott Green HC-140, a soft toned green blue on the walls in the sitting room adjacent to my bold Autumn Cover 2170-30 dining room.  I use clean white china with blue and gray patterns at the table to bring that subtle color connection into the space.  How do you do blue?