Dear Jill,
I love the colorful rooms I see in magazines but when I try to imitate them I fall short.   My house now looks embarrassing. Should I just go all beige?  Help!
– Leslie in Overland Park, KS

BEFORE: From gold to a...

AFTER: ...soft, jeweled turquoise.

Hi Leslie,
What?! Beige—in Kansas City?  We may be famous for fountains, but there’s nothing watered down about our color palette…intense KC Royals blue, hot red KC Chiefs, and lush green Corporate Woods. (Even Andre’s chocolate brown can be intense!) But I understand your frustration.

Wall color is a difficult part of a design.  It is easy to fall in love with all the pretty color squares at the paint store only to have them scream “juvenile!” once they expand to fill your walls. Poorly chosen paint can give you that sick feeling in your stomach when you first step back to admire the room and realize you made a big fat faux pas.

Just differentiating paint colors is a job in itself. When swatches are side-by-side on a paper strip, your eye naturally compares one color to the next, which can be misleading. Just as you don’t want to stand by the best-looking person in the room (unless he or she is your date,) you need to separate your final color selections from each other to see the value and shade each truly offers.

BEFORE: From a light gold to a...

AFTER: ...striking, bold red.

Remember also that when the breakfast bowls are put away and the evening cocktails come out, there is a rebirth for all wall colors.  Each phase of daylight (and moonlight!) will completely change how a color dresses your walls. Shadows, light sources and reflections conspire to create a very different wall color at dusk—one you might relate to as you would an ogre or as a handsome man in a three-piece suit.  (No offense to Shrek, but I say pick the latter and head down to the Capital Grille!)

But all beige?  Please don’t.  You must be subscribing to the “neutral” myth, one I’m convinced was created by fearful real estate agents who needed something to tell tacky home sellers.  I once created a red and green interior for a home in Brookside that turned out stunning! (No, it didn’t look like Mrs. Claus lived there.) When it came time to sell, the Realtor® was scared of the color. I insisted the house was to remain as painted and suggested he increase the asking price. After he politely said I was a nut job, he raised the price to prove his point.  The client had four offers in three days—all for full price.

BEFORE: From an olive green to an...

AFTER: ...unexpected and striking black.

Often color is compromised when building a custom home and the colors are chosen before anyone has a visual reference.  With an exhaustive amount of decisions to make during construction, many people feel overwhelmed and they settle on beiges or off-whites and hope for the best.  A better idea is to complete the design plan once the blueprints are drawn. In doing so, superior colors and materials for the walls and other surfaces can be properly chosen the first time.  Too often, people lose sight of the final product in such a detailed process.  But if they are spending a fortune to create their dream home…is plain vanilla the best answer?   “Neutrals” can be very unflattering to skin tones as well.  I can’t remember the last time I told my girlfriend, Jean, “the dress I am wearing to the party is Johnson County Beige” or “your engagement ring is lovely—it’s so neutral!”

BEFORE: From a worn red to a...

AFTER: ...fresh, peaceful space to study.

But by now you may be asking yourself what the alternative may be. I submit this idea: think about the colors you are drawn to over and over again in all aspects of your life.  Have faith and trust your instincts. Don’t be seduced by the painful logic, “If you don’t like the color, then just paint it again!”  Now really, my friends, who wants to paint twice?  To get it right the first time, separate and hang your color options on the wall.  I recommend using larger swatches (obtained through a reputable dealer or by calling the paint manufacturer.)  Study them day and night; move them around; take them all down and view each one at a time.  And one more trick: make your final color decision AFTER the rest of the room is designed. You can tweak wall colors very easily, but that beautiful heirloom chaise you plan to recover –in a smashing flame stitch, of course—only works with so many hues.  Just remember:  fabrics and furniture first, lighting and accessories second, carpet and paint last.  Don’t chicken out on me, Leslie.

Make it fab!


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All photos:  Jill Tran Interior Design and Co.

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