Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Outsmart a Paint Chip: Lesson One

Paint chips can be sneaky little guys, but you can outsmart them!  As a decorator, I've learned a few paint color selection tips along the way.  Here is the first in a series of paint color mini-lessons. Enjoy!

Lesson One: Never Trust a Paint Color Name

I have a theory that paint color names come from one of three places:

Paint Color Name Source #1: SAT Test Preparation Booklets

This is the source for unhelpful color names like "Effervescence" or "Vicissitude".

Paint Color Name Source #2: Mad Libs

Remember Mad Libs? Nouns, verbs, and adjectives randomly strewn together to create an uproariously funny, nonsensical story? I'm convinced that paint company employees use Mad Libs as a tool to come up with useless "Adjective + Noun" color names like "Jaundiced Panda" or "Wistful Igloo".

Paint Color Name Source #3: Maps and a Dartboard
This method is simple: the paint company employee throws a dart to pick a location at random from a map and then adds a color tag at the end.  This is the source for meaningless color names like Milpitas Mauve.

The lesson, folks, is that color names are silly, and you should never take them seriously!  Trust your own eyes and not the color name.  I repeat: do not trust color names!

An example of a misleading paint color name is "Concord Ivory" by Benjamin Moore.  When I think of the word "ivory", I think subtlety.  I think wedding gowns.  I think piano keys.  Concord Ivory is a great color if you're looking for a bold, Tuscan yellow, but it's not ivory!  Benjamin Moore's website describes the color as "a saturated golden-yellow with a quiet apricot undertone".  Which I guess means "ivory" in paint company speak!

Another example is "Truly Taupe" by Sherwin Williams.  Taupe, by definition, is a brown-gray color.  But "Truly Taupe" is truly...purple! Check out the swatch; it's a neutral purple (and a neat color) but purple nonetheless.  The Sherwin Williams website even classifies it in the violet color family.

This misleading color name came in handy once when I was working with a couple who couldn't agree on a dining room paint color.  The wife adored purple and wanted a purple dining room.  The husband felt that no self-respecting man would ever agree to a purple dining room.  He wanted a neutral dining room.  I reassured them that we would find a color that they could agree on.  "Truly Taupe" came to the rescue!  The name sounded so innocuous that it slipped, undetected, past the husband's purpleshield.  The pro-purple wife saw the purple undertones and loved the color instantly.  In the end, both parties were happy with their color choice--a win-win!

Have you had any experiences with misleading paint color names?