Two weeks ago when John shared this post about the times that we’ve made bad painting decision, we received a bunch of requests for a follow up post in the comments:
Q: I guess I just have a hard time picking colors because I have a hard time telling which swatches have grey or brown undertones. Maybe you can show some swatches (of say the teal from the built ins). One that has a grey or brown undertone and one that is more saturated? It might be helpful to see them side by side! – Aubrey
Q: Thank you for this! I actually think tip #3 (pick a muddier color) surprised me the most because I’d never heard that or thought of that. But it rings so true in my experience! Although colors don’t show up perfectly on monitors, I would *LOVE* to see a post with color samples and explanations like, “We love this peacock blue, but we think it would be too garish on a wall. Instead, we’d try this color, and probably get the effect we’re looking for.” -Heyruthie
Sounded like a good time to us. Comparative swatches will probably demonstrate more than words ever could. So let’s just let the swatches do the talking. First we have the bold and fun color you might be going for on the left, so if you envision a deep teal tone, you might be tempted to use Classic Teal after seeing the swatch. But on the right, we put the swatch for Plumage, which is actually what we used in our guest room. See how grayed out the swatch looks?
Yet on the walls it’s every bit as bold as we hoped!
Colors in general – and especially dark ones – seem to amplify by a TON when they’re up on the walls, so we’ve had luck picking the ones that look a bit faded or grayed out, knowing that once they’re up on the walls they’ll look a lot more clear and bold. You can read more on the guest room here.
Next we have a swatch on the left that you might be tempted to pick if you want a bright and happy accent of pink – perhaps for the door of a kids room, like we used on Clara’s closet. But the swatch on the right is actually the one that we picked. A small square of it looks a lot more muted (sort of faded) compared to the bold and happy color on the left…
… but once it’s on a nice big area in the room (like the door), you can see how bright and clear that color reads. So even though the swatch on the left might be the pure and unfaded one you’re initially drawn to, in a nice large chunk it could almost read as neon. You can read more about Clara’s closet and those raindrops here.
Another coveted color seems to be a cheerful aqua tone, but in our re-painting-riddled experience it can be hard to get right. The color on the left is a peppy Tiffany Box blue… which is actually a color that seduced us when we moved into our first house… but once we had it on the walls of our dining room, well, it was a little overwhelming. Of course it depends on your room (someone with an amazing room full o’ light could make it look stunning) but in our experience, that color’s just not muddy enough not to get blindingly bright on the walls. So we’d be drawn to something like the swatch on the right, which should still clearly read as a pretty aqua tone in such a large quantity (here it is in a laundry room makeover).
So my general rule is that for painting smaller items (like a tray, side table, accent chair, or lamp base), those more clear/unfaded/unmuted colors can be great. But for larger expanses (doors, walls, ceilings), we tend to prefer muddier tones of the same color – like a softer aqua with more of a gray-green undertone – just so it doesn’t go from chic-tiffany-box blue to punch-you-in-the-face-when-you-walk-in blue.
The same thing seems to ring true for greens for us. Something bold and clear can work really well on a piece of furniture or a bathroom vanity (but not necessarily all of them, ha!). But when it comes to the walls, the color on the left would likely turn most rooms into Kermit Theee Frog (I love when he says his name that way). Meanwhile, the one on the right might look dull by comparison, but on the walls it could be really pretty. Sage is always gorgeous with wood trim or cabinetry, so that could be a nice choice for a kitchen with wood cabinets or a den with wood trim.
Here’s another way I thought I could attempt to illustrate the strange mystery of how a swatch with those muddy/muted undertones can almost look beige in your hand in some instances… but then when it’s on a bigger area, it’s very clearly a color. See how muted and almost wheat-toned the swatch on the left with the arrow next to it looks below? Yet when it’s in a bigger area (that’s the exact same color in a larger rectangle on the right) it definitely looks green and not tan or beige anymore.
Update: Someone asked if the muddy version of a color would typically be on the same swatch as the bright one (if you slide up or down) or if it’s on a different swatch. In our experience, it’s almost always on a different swatch, so there might be a whole range of clear tones on one swatch (from bright aqua to a light baby blue) but you’d want to go a few swatches over to the one that has a much grayer or muddier top color (like a deep blue-gray) and slide down to find those muddier counterparts.
One last example would be Dune Grass, which we used in our first house’s bathroom. It looks almost completely cream/beige/tan in a small swatch (with just a tiny hint of green) – especially when it’s arranged with other green tones that are a lot less muted…
… but in our bathroom it clearly reads as a soft green color. Once again, when it’s up on the walls, there’s just a lot more of it, and it’s definitely amplified from the neutral-looking swatch. So if you’re looking for a light or subtly colored wall (be it green, blue, pink, yellow, orange, purple, etc) you might want to consider those lighter wheat or gray toned swatches that almost look like there’s just a drop of that color in them. The result can be a room that’s clearly that color, but a soft and subtle version of it. You can read more about that big bathroom reno here.
As Heyruthie mentioned, colors aren’t always great on monitors, but hopefully just seeing these comparisons might help. And when making a final choice, the best method we’ve found has just been to bring some swatches home, check them out in our lighting situation throughout the day, and then grab a test pot (or three) of paint if we’re still nervous. Those small sample pots are only a few bucks and they can save you a whole lot of re-painting trouble.
It’s also amazing how different the same paint color can look in a variety of rooms/lighting situations, so I’m sure there are folks who’ve used those bolder colors in the left columns above with great results – so it really does depend on your room, how much light it gets, and how you layer stuff in. Like this could-have-been-blinding bright blue paint color, which looks awesome in a lofted and light-filled studio – especially when it’s tempered with lots of tan texture in those pin boards and that over-sized mirror.
Oh and since we’re on the subject of buying paint, here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years about scoring a discount:
- “Oops paint” can be awesome (it’s someone else’s already-mixed paint that has been returned for some reason, but it’s usually extremely marked down as low as $1 for a whole gallon, so you can even get a few cans and mix them in the hopes of creating a color you like for a serious discount).
- If you have a favorite paint shop (ours is a local place called Virginia Paint), you might want to pop over to their Facebook page and click the Like button or sign up for their mailing list. By doing that you’ll often be alerted if they’re running sales or specials, and sometimes you can save $10 or even score 40% off.
- If you get paint from a big box store like Home Depot, you can hit up their website and check out their Paint Promotions page.
- You can also get 5% off any purchase at Home Depot or Lowe’s if you use your store credit card there (Lowe’s does it automatically, and you just have to ask for Home Depot to match the 5% off that Lowe’s provides when you’re checking out and they will).
- Sherwin Williams tends to run some great specials. In fact right now they’re having their big 40% off sale. And I’ve heard you can buy untinted gallons (like a whole bunch of them) for 40% off and then bring them back later to get them tinted at no charge (I’d check with your individual store, but that’s the rumor). So even if you’re not sure what colors you want right now, if you have a bunch of rooms to paint it’s a great way to save serious loot.
- It never hurts to click around on any paint website for promotion info. Right now Behr is having a $5 off promotion and Benjamin Moore is offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on a quart of paint.
Do you guys have any other paint undertone tips to share? Or just some stories about going for the wrong swatch? Any other tips for getting paint at a discount?
We’ve never been more all over the place than we have been lately (Clara’s room, the master bath, the kitchen, the
sunroom veranda) and we can’t believe it has been around a month and a half since we last mentioned our staircase. Several of you have been eager to hear about the new runner that we ordered, and we’ve been eager to tell you all about it (it was back-ordered and arrived a little behind schedule, but it’s finally here). But the last vestiges of the old carpet in this house were standing in our new runner’s way…
When we finally removed the carpet from our master bath, the stairs became the sole remaining carpet location – even though we had ripped it off the top step in order to install the hardwoods back in May. But between avoiding the tedium of the task and worrying about a small dog and a small human navigating those slick uncarpeted steps, we’ve just been living with this lovely situation for the last five months.
But with our new runner just glaring at us from within its packaging for the last several weeks, we decided to start chipping away at the eyesore once again. You know, for the sake of the puppies.
The task really wasn’t that hard. It was just boring and meticulous. Here were our weapons of choice, basically all serving the purpose of prying things up (carpet, tack strips, staples) at varying levels of detail and care (crowbar for yanking up carpet, pliers for delicately twisting stuck staples out).
Once the crowbar helped me loosen a corner or two of the carpet, it was fairly easy to just yank it up by hand. Well, by gloved hand since the carpet was rife with staples and other sharp objects determined to pincushion me to death.
It’s what lurked beneath the carpet that was the true joy (italics = heavy sarcasm) of this project. Sure, the blue foam padding was quick to tear up… but the staples. OH THE STAPLES.
You can’t even really tell in these pictures just how many staples there were. So I decided to mark them (along with the nails holding down the tack strip) with yellow dots. I’ll save you from counting. There are 49. Multiply that by 12 steps and it’s nearly 600 things that Sherry and I had the pleasure of prying up.
Most of them weren’t that hard. We could just stick a flathead screwdriver under and pop them up. Usually only one side came lose from the wood, so we’d have to go back and pluck it out completely with the pliers. But some got stuck. Some broke. And at least one or two made us mutter some not-Clara-approved words under our breath as we went.
Slowly and steadily, we stripped each step clean of its metal and moved on to the next one.
We worked on it over the course of three days on and off, so Sherry would steal a few hours here and there and then tag team me and I’d go back in. All told it was probably around seven hours in total. And if we were to play you a montage of the process, it would basically just be a bunch of Burger cameos. I’m not sure if working on the stairs just made us notice all the times he goes and up down on a normal day, or if he increased his usual number of trips just to satisfy his curiosity about what the heck we were doing. Yes, that’s him doing some stretching in the middle of the staircase.
I’m mostly convinced he just wanted to be near us (there was one point where Sherry was leaning forward, full of concentration, and got some Burger tongue to the nose). I also had a particularly hilarious run-in with him when he was sitting on the carpet that I was about to rip up.
Here we are, at the end of our montage, with a completely carpet-less staircase and (more importantly) and completely carpet-less house. So one of Sherry’s before-I-have-this-baby goals has officially been met. And she’s pretty jazzed about it. Just don’t mention staple removal to her. There will be grumbling.
The wood left behind is in good, but not flawless condition. It’s not very scratched up, which is a relief considering all of the pointy tools we had near it, but there are some little more-noticeable staple holes in a few spots (these two steps on the bottom of the photo above are the worst, so we wonder if they used a different tool or re-stapled them here for some reason).
We still plan to paint the stair risers white – but not the treads (like this) – so that should help to hide most of the tiny holes (we can putty them before we paint). For the tread holes, the new runner should cover most of them and we’re hoping to do the same thing we did to fix up our downstairs floors before installing the runner, which should fill/hide some other slight imperfections. Note: we’re not planning to change the color of the stair treads since they flow into the upstairs flooring, which we chose to be a very close match.
One other step that we had to tackle before runner-time was painting the walls and the ceiling leading up the stairs, since we didn’t want to do that after installing the runner and risk dripping paint on it. But we’re glad to report that we knocked that out too! We thought it would be fast and easy (it’s not too much actual ground to cover) but the fact that it involved balancing on a ladder with a giant roller pole did add a few levels of difficulty (it was about 16 feet high in some points) – which is why this terrible picture is the only one we managed to capture of the process.
I also used our tape-the-paint-brush-to-the-pole method (detailed here) to get into those upper corners. All told, that was about another 3 hours of work, but it’s really nice to have it done. As planned, we used the same Edgecomb Gray color that we used in our foyer (we chose that knowing we’d use it up the stairs and in the upstairs hallway too). You can see where we stopped painting by the arrows along those two edges. We just wanted to do enough so we wouldn’t worry about dripping on the new stair runner, but tackling the entire hall means buying another gallon.
Hopefully early week will be the full runner reveal, assuming we can get those risers painted and dry in time! But the good news is that in the meantime both Clara and Burger have had no trouble on the carpet-less stairs. They’re not really slick at all (maybe from years of being lightly worn under a carpet?) so we’ve mostly put that worry to bed. But we’re still excited to add the new runner, just to be safe and to soften the blow if ever do lose our footing.
Is anyone else removing old carpeting and plucking every last staple out by hand? Does it make you rue the day that staples were invented? Yeah, me too.