THE MAGAZINE FOR PROFESSIONALS

Pitching Paint Color

Paula Hubbs Cohen

Pitching Paint

“They can have any color they want, so long as it’s black.” That famous quote, attributed to Henry Ford, reveals just how much times have changed when it comes to color. Today’s color choices, be it cars, iPhones or even hair, are much more subjective—but only to a point.

In fact, there’s a whole science around color choices, ranging from how to use color to create the desired mood of a building or space; how to use color to ‘sell’ a space; how furnishings as well as natural and artificial light influence color choices; and much more.

To gather some great ideas about pitching paint—and therefore, color—we recently interviewed several industry experts who offer a variety of perspectives on what considerations you need to take into account when working with your clients on color.

Our expert panel includes:

  • Deborah Hattoy, Allied Member ASID, IACC-NA, President of Creative Color Consultants Interior Design, Scottsdale, AZ
  • Jennifer Roberts, CEO of RBN Design, San Diego, CA
  • Martin Rodriguez, Principal/Residential Director of Studio Dwell, Scottsdale, AZ
  • Lisa Santy, Owner and Interior Designer, Pizazz Interior Design, Round Lake, NY
  • Erika Woelfel, Director of Color Marketing, Behr Process Corporation, Santa Ana, CA
  • Debbie Zimmer, Paint and Color Expert, Paint Quality Institute, Spring House, PA

What follows is advice and ideas from these color connoisseurs to help you guide your customers toward color choices.

Q: HOW CAN PROS HELP CUSTOMERS MAKE COLOR CHOICES?

Zimmer: Depending on the size and scope of the project, Pros may be able to work directly with paint manufacturers’ color experts to identify an appropriate scheme for the space. Many have predetermined schemes that work well together, from broad wall to trim and doors. I always suggest that the actual color (or several colors) be applied in the space to be painted so the customer can live with it for a few days to see how it works for them. Lighting, space size, etc., all play a role in how the color will actually work.

Roberts: The first question I ask is, “What color don’t you want to see?” That always starts a good conversation about color choices. You have to really listen to your customer to understand their desires. If they are still unsure, I ask them to look at buildings or environments they like and then we can custom-tailor color to their likes and environment.

Santy: The most important thing is to listen to your customer. Ask questions. Get a sense of their living style, and consult with them about what colors, tones and overall mood they are ultimately interested in achieving.

Q: HOW DOES COLOR IMPACT THE MOOD OF A SPACE?

Woelfel: In an interior commercial space, color plays a strong role in carrying the business function, brand identity, type of client, and the products. The lobby or entry area of a building might use bolder selections of color to create a feeling of either energy or relaxation. Reds and oranges will energize, while cool blue and green often suggest nature and relaxation. Natural earth tones in gray, taupe, beige or sand are great for common areas like hallways. Break rooms sometimes utilize more fun accent colors (fresh green, orange, yellow, bright blue) because this is where employees can unwind while at work. Conference rooms often use warmer colors to increase the feeling of friendliness and cooperation.

Santy: Color makes all the difference in the creation of a comfortable mood for any space. Small spaces can take on dark colors to create the feel of a bigger space—never be afraid of using dark colors, because they can add a rich, inviting feel to a room. In addition, stay within the same color family, using multiple tones to keep a good flow within a building.

Q: HOW CAN COLOR BE USED TO SELL A SPACE?

Rodriguez: Color triggers our senses; it can help to create a sense of drama, excitement and romance—a number of emotions can be tapped into through color. When selling with color, repetition is key; the color choice needs to be repeated throughout the space in varying degrees. Identify your target audience first and then colorize accordingly.

Roberts: It depends on what you are trying to sell. For example, if it’s a vacant suite in an office building, then neutrals and nothing too bold. If it’s a restaurant, color should play on the cuisine, ethnicity and ambience.

Q: WHEN CHOOSING/SELLING COLOR, WHAT IMPACT DO LIGHT SOURCES HAVE?

Woelfel: Natural light coming into offices or conference rooms will allow for more color variation. Time of day will affect how the color looks on the wall; morning sunlight is usually quite bright and creates a golden-yellow cast on walls, while evening light tends to be rosier and casts a rose-gold glow on walls. In buildings where there is only artificial light, most tenants favor warm, neutral colors. To break up the ‘beige haze,’ bright colors in corridors or on panels, doors, and service areas can help.

Zimmer: Lighting, whether artificial or natural, certainly impacts how a paint color appears in a room. For example, a south-facing room with many windows can be ‘cooled’ by using blues and greens. A north-facing room might benefit from warm hues such as red or yellow. This is a perfect reason why it pays to use paint samples and test the color directly in the space.

Hattoy: To test color application on a building or an interior wall using a drawdown or actual physical application of the color selected is the best way to see the actual color and to see it in different light—natural light as it moves through morning, noon and night—and for interiors, artificial light and/or light reflected through different types of glass/glazing.

Q: WHEN CHOOSING/SELLING COLOR, SHOULD FLOORING, FURNISHINGS, ETC. ALSO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT?

Rodriguez: The entire space should be taken into consideration, as each element in its own way affects your color choice. It’s best to go into the selection process knowing what is going to dictate the dominant color in your space and build upon that. If you are working with existing furnishings, select a color that you can incorporate to pull everything together through the use of pillows, accessories, rugs and accent walls.

Woelfel: Paint color should be coordinated with the more permanent elements in a space such as flooring, cabinetry and built-ins, window treatments, and architectural details like brick/stone fireplaces. Despite the fact that walls and ceilings usually account for the largest proportion of color in a room, paint is actually the least expensive decorative accessory to change.

Q: WHAT TOOLS ARE AVAILABLE TO HELP CUSTOMERS MAKE COLOR CHOICES?

Woelfel: Most paint companies now have apps and website tools to help people practice or experiment with color. Tearing up design magazines and creating a journal is one way to gather materials. Taking the digital route, houzz.com and Pinterest are two websites that make it possible to create your own online ‘scrapbooks’ or idea-boards for gathering favorite colors and decorating ideas.

Rodriguez: Consumers need to see, touch and feel—a paint swatch alone isn’t going to do it. Showing coordinating artwork and accessories combined with artistic paint applications helps the consumer/customer visualize how color could work in their environment.

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