Be careful, paint chips may deceive

SATURDAY, JAN. 21, 2012

The paint has dried on my sunny office walls and I stare, feeling my gut start to churn. Rather than the soft, pale buttery gold I envisioned, the walls are perky toddler yellow.

“It’s got to be a mistake,” I tell Richard, who has done all the labor while I’ve been sleeping off a migraine, unable to check the progress. The paint store must have erred in matching the paint chip I chose; it’s happened before.

So I grab the paint chip and hold it against the wall.

Aarrgh! It’s the correct, most awfully correct, color after all. How could I, who am exquisitely attuned to color, have gotten this so wrong?

Fortunately, I married an amazing man who goes with me to pick out the right color and then patiently repaints the room. It’s beautiful. He’s beautiful.

Paint chips are handy, but can be little deceivers. Drenching your home in the right color, tone and intensity requires big picture visualization. The teeny square of color that seems so perfect, transferred to an entire room or house, may result in the dread Paint Chip Shock.

PCS happens when you select a sophisticated pale lavender that ends up a lurid lilac. Or paint the exterior of your house the once popular combination of creamy tan with teal trim, but fail to factor in how teal will clash with a pumpkin-colored roof.


Given our experiences, I’ve become too timid about wall color, and since moving to our current house nine years ago, we’ve taken a long time to put color on the cream walls. But it was time.

After spending hours comparing taupe paint strips for our main living area (nothing too yellow, peach or gray) we settled on three warm, sandy shades. Richard began painting as I was out shopping, and when I came home and saw the darkest wall, I gasped in dismay, “It’s baby-poop brown!” But we gave it a few days, and dang, it’s a great color and doesn’t resemble infant egesta at all.

After painting the main color for our master suite (got that one right – whew), we’re trying to select colors for accent walls. Green is out, though, as we’ve had perpetual fails with it. Our latest fiasco was picking a subtle shade that turned turquoise and practically glowed at night. It was downright eerie.

If there’s anything besides experience that we’ve gained in our painting adventures, it’s the never ending amusement over paint color names. What exactly are Translucent Whisper, Discovery, Flirt, Indulgence and Solitude? Will we sleep easily in a room painted Lullaby, or badly in one painted Bounce? Our favorite color name so far is Dorian Gray and we can’t help but wonder what might appear in our attic if we chose it.

We plan on painting our house exterior soon, but don’t want to make a literally huge mistake, loathe our own house, and have to plant the front yard with quick-growing aspens as a mercy mission to the neighborhood.

Deciding on a method least likely to backfire, we drove through neighborhoods with similar home designs, the same roof color and nonnegotiable white trim. This paid off when we found just the colors we wanted in new construction, learned the name and brand, and picked up the color strip from the paint store.

What a great “color scheme!”

Given that our homeowners’ association must approve exterior colors, it’s tempting to give in to my puckish sense of humor and submit hot pink with electric blue trim chips to the architectural committee. After a little jolt of PCS, they’ll surely have no problem approving our real choice.

And we won’t have to shell out for a stand of aspens.

You can reach Deborah Chan at tabbytoes@ comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists.

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