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March 17, 2011

Beginning At The Beginning

Lucianna Samu

Planning a whole house palette is somewhat of an art.  Of course, I don't know your level of expertise.  And yet, there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of; neither novice nor expert will walk into a paint store, flash the dealer a smile and say: Surprise me!

So we need to start somewhere, which is why I created what I call a process palette--(click back for a refresher), a collection of the unchangeable colors I'm surrounded by.

Today, I've made up a quick drawing of my floor plan.  Don't panic on me now.:)  Nothing fancy here--could be a layout of your space on the back of a Cheerios box.  Let your kids draw it if you're nervous, and then transfer each of your reference colors onto the drawing.  Having a visual reference in hand which designates the placement of existing colors throughout the house will not only help you to maintain a pleasing flow, it will act as a knowledgeable and comforting friend, helping you to make your choices confidently.


Now it's time to get busy, either working from or around the existing colors. As a practical matter, few of us can heave all of our furnishings or carpets into a dumpster and start from scratch.  So we need to get our color fix in whatever rooms we have, that are willing to see it our way.  In my house, the entry foyer is very willing!


Shaded by the portico outside, the entry is dark, and I'm going to use this circumstance to my color picking advantage.  On a sunny day, and for most of the snowy winter, anyone who enters my house needs to take a minute to allow his or her eyes to adjust.  People instinctively look up when this high contrast, light vs. dark transition thing happens.  It's sort of a "give me a sec while I get my bearings" moment.  Because everyone who comes through my door needs a little time, and looks up, I'm going to add a very strong statement color to the ceiling.  My guests and I will all have a color to admire while we gather ourselves.


Generally speaking, I would choose the warm blue grey of Winter Lake 2129-50 or Normandy 2129-40 for a space like this, and it would be lovely on my foyer ceiling for sure.  But I don't want to advance any kind of nautical or water inspired color reference.  I also want to reduce the contrast inside the foyer as much as I possibly can, without turning it into a cave.

Winter Lake 2129-50, Normandy 2129-40

There's a lot happening in this small space already.  There's lots of movement in the hand-painted black and white "wallpaper" and more pattern in the strie below (Blond Wood 1067, over Ivory White 925).  The grey floor is neutral but a color all the same.  The door is cherry and a tiny bit red.  Plus, I have black, white, 2 beiges and a trim color. Seven colors in a 9'x9' space; be brave my color companions!

Blond Wood 1067, Ivory White 925


Sometime in January, long before I began my color palette planning, I was standing near a window just before dark, looking east over the river.  The sky was a most amazing combination of violet, lavender and purple; twilight, or as my photographer husband calls it, 'magic hour.'  The colors settled deep into my color reference and lo and behold, here we have it: Bonne Nuit AF-635, along with the picture I hurried my husband to capture in January.

Bonne Nuit AF-635

More than a splendid color for the ceiling in my foyer, this color turns up often--over the river, in the early blooms of crocus, and the purple magnolia trees, and on my reference plan.  In truth, I picked the color without considering any of this, but I love it when my reference colors support a bold decision.  How could I go wrong?  Bonne Nuit AF-635 it is!


There's one more tiny tweak I can add to the foyer to settle the entire collection of colors down, and bring the foyer into the adjoining living space . . . ten colors and counting--it's going to be glorious. : )

Stay colorful,

Benjamin Moore Colors:

Benjamin Moore Color Gallery

Blond Wood

Bonne Nuit

Ivory White 925


Winter Lake

More Links:



Reference Plan


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Having a reference palette as beautiful as this one is what makes me want to do the same. Although in smaller version only. I like the idea a lot. After reading this, I wouldn't thought something like this added with a few twists will turn into an art, so thank you for the idea. You did well.

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Great images - I love your photo of the plans & the colour chips.

Your idea to change your accessories with the seasons is terrific. The very neutral grey hues are cool, but if you choose a grey-green, such as Gray owl 2137-60 or a a grey beige, such as Cape Hatteras sand AC-34, you will have a warm grey! I'll be using lots of grey on my project, so you'll be able to learn more about how grey behaves on the walls! Get yourself a sample chip of HC-170 to use for a very cool grey reference. When you compare the colors you're considering to that color, you'll see for yourself how the blue grey range is cooler than the grey green range.Thanks for sharing your great idea!

Maria, mother nature can be hard to duplicate. But I'm going to give it a try on my entry foyer ceiling. Wish me luck.

I am thinking of painting our bedroom grey/ white or black. I love the thought of being able to change the throw cushions to follow the seasons pastels in the spring,oranges & reds in the fall maybe something glitzy in the new year. I don't want the grey to be too cool. Do you have any recommendations?

Wow that purple is amazing, great photo!

I'd like to make a very BOLD blue statement. The entry ceiling is merely a dash if color. I plan to find a place to put Normady or a similar blue, after all it is the perfect compliment to August Morning.

Nothing wrong with dark. Think dramatic, twilight, moonlight. Dark spaces can be very exciting.

Love the Normady! You mentioned it was too nautical. Is it too nautical just for the foyer or would you stay away from this color everywhere in your house?

Love the color but is it not too dark for the foyer?

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