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Asking the right questions

How to listen: Take a tip from Joseph Albers
Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.”

Among the many “what’s the first step” items in the process of a new client-relationship, asking the right questions is at the top of my list.

Of course this also goes for any project, even with people we think we know, since each project carries its own set of circumstances. That’s why I love the above statement by Josef Albers.

Warming up with Red Clay from EcoHues Full Spectrum Paint

While creatively problem-solving, opportunities to learn—and to teach—abound in every project

  • Help clients discover their own personal design styles
  • Introduce new concepts and ideas
  • Interact with clients in an authentic way
EcoHues Full Spectrum Paint - Atlantis and Blue Grotto

“Atlantis,” an EcoHues Full Spectrum color, is on the back wall of dining area and continues into the foyer that is visible from the dining room.


Soft full spectrum colors, kitchen view into family room

Rich soft colors enhance—and subtly define—three connected spaces, with 3 different close colors.

One example, from a client’s note to me
“…you helped take the confusion out of color selection process and opened up our eyes to color choices we never would have thought of using.  We appreciated how easy it was to work with you, and how carefully you listened to our wants and needs.”

It just takes practice!
As artists and designers, it’s so easy to become excited about a project and about our own approach and inspirations. The practice is in listening, and advising while not imposing our personal preferences. It’s really all about the goal for every client.

I’d love to listen. What is your story?


Color on the brain

We’re always looking at color, and talking about color. Somtimes, we’re even applying color. And, in between, we’re seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and thinking about color.

We don’t even have to be “color-obsessed…,” we just have to be what we are. Human.

We forget from time to time that “color” does not even exist on its own, except where there is light and we are able to recognize it. Then, we assign an identity to what we call the color that we’ve seen. Often we make the understandable mistake of thinking that, while color does matter (and it matters a lot) in so many ways, it is not Really “matter.”  It’s only Perception.

But what a subject! Endless, and so complex. When the ‘buzz words’ about color— from trends to color psychology— are tossed around so glibly, this will give pause to think a bit more about the depth of this vast subject.

With that in mind, I’m delighted to share this video with you. I hope you will share your thoughts after you’ve seen it.

Behind the increasing cost of paint

Here we go again, in Paint as many industries and products.
Yes, prices are going up—again. It used to be that paint was, well, “Cheap!” We always would say, hey, it’s the best way to get the most change for the least money spent.  Big change for small change, so to speak. Whether you’re “into paint” or just buying paint again after a long time away from your paint store, now you might be surprised at the current prices and the projected trend in this direction.

What is the story about the paint price increases? It’s not just for a few “premium” companies, but apparently all across the spectrum of brands, quality and price points.
paint fandeck

What’s in that can of paint?
Basically, all paint colors are made up of tinted bases. In sheens from flat to high gloss, the base material is a combination of materials, but this story is about, essentially,  “titanium dioxide.” That’s what makes the the paint color white, in the can, before adding tints to make Your colors. So, when the cost of that material goes up, so goes the price of paint.

If you’re into the economy of science–or the bottom line on why paint products are continuing to get more expensive– you might enjoy this article.

EcoHues Full Spectrum Paint - Pacific Mist

Boston condo – EcoHues Full Spectrum : Blue Grotto.  Making the most of a can of paint with a minimum of 7 tints in Every color—and not a drop of black or gray.

But OK, I will still say it—Paint is the way to go.  All the more reason why we want to really carefully consider what colors we’re using, and paying for.  And, all the more reason to make the most of the paint we are using—and enjoying.

Imagining, knowing, envisioning, creating, and Enjoying

Everyone does it!
That is, everyone looks at color, and feels the effects of color—one way or another. Even those with impaired vision experience and feel color internally.

So, when it comes to actually deciding what colors to use for our homes or even for our businesses, some confusion usually ensues. Typically, the ways color is decided when we need help is one of these:

Paint store defined palettes: Makes it easy, requires little imagination (ie: it’s already done for you). At the very least, this can be a good place to start, to explore testing some colors in your own home.

Ask-a-friend or family member: sometimes works, but the friend or family member is then responsible for their advice (and the relationship!)

Painter recommendations: Painters have more experience with applied color than anyone else in the field.
While some painters are happy to work with you closely to arrive at your specifically personal colors, I’ve noticed that they will typically want you to tell them what colors to use, so they can keep rolling.

However, on the side of patience and imagination,  there might be more that’s needed to achieve something really personal and interesting.

Copy the house down the street: this can be good for inspiration but might not suit your house, Or You, even if it’s the same style building.

What’s different?

  • You are different! There are no two people alike, even though they might like the same kinds of colors.
  • your House is different – even if it’s only the specific physical location
  • Landscaping is likely to be different.
  • lighting is probably not the same

Whether it’s for interior or exterior colors, in the process of determining a unique, harmonious and balanced personal color palette for your home, the four qualities in the title of this post are essential to really get it right. Don’t worry about where to begin, because you can actually start with any of them. The creative process is one that evolves through all of those phases.

They are all part of eliminating the frustration of being confronted by thousands of colors, and turning the experience into one that’s enjoyable and informative. At some point you may want to consult with a professional about any of these aspects of selecting colors:

  1. Imagining – artistic
  2. Knowing – educated, trained specially in the field
  3. Envisioning – experience
  4. Creating – putting it together

And finally: Enjoying
Something you can do without any help at all!


Go with the Flow: Whole House, Whole Color

Creating a cohesive feeling throughout an entire home is what I and other color consultants are often called upon to do. Typically, the goal is to create what’s referred to as “flow.”  It’s an overused expression that is not really specific, and often results in “boring.”  But in my view, even with subtle colors it’s far from monochromatic, and certainly not monotonous. In fact, creating “flow,” means to introduce harmonious colors—often in adjacent rooms and sometimes even in the same room—that are not in the same color family at all.

An Example
The beautiful home that’s the subject of this post is a Victorian house in the Boston area. The owners, an energetic young couple, had done most of the groundwork for renovating by themselves, and it was time to select the interior paint colors. The emphasized their desire for a warm and restful palette that would emphasize and complement the lovely architecture of their historic home, without dominating the spaces.

The Story: A Whole-House, Full Spectrum Palette
The owners were excited to use colors from EcoHues and Ellen Kennon throughout the house. They loved the idea of “No Black,” and complex color formulas, even in colors that are what we’d typically call “neutral.”

As we selected the colors, I provided them with actual 8″x10″  painted color cards. I particularly enjoyed hearing their exclamations of enjoyment in seeing how the colors complemented each other.

The resulting palette is soft, harmonious, yet interesting. Because full spectrum paint colors by definition are so complex and mutable, it was possible to keep the actual number of colors to a minimum—with maximum benefit—considering the size of the house and number of rooms throughout.

Ceilings throughout were done with Ellen Kennon’s “White Opal.” The walls in the master bedroom are Ellen Kennon’s “Gustavian Gray;” the master bathroom is Ellen Kennon “Pumice,” and the nursery is Ellen’s “Dusk.”

The foyer, kitchen, stairwell, sunroom and 3rd floor walls are EcoHues “Dune.”  Ceiling in the foyer and in the mudroom is EcoHues “Spring Showers.” Living room walls are EcoHues “Fieldstone,” and the dining room is EcoHues “Blue Grotto.”  First floor powder room walls and ceiling–along with 2nd floor bathroom walls–are EcoHues “Pacific Mist.” The 2nd floor office walls are EcoHues “Perfect Taupe.” On the 3rd floor, the walls and ceiling of the small bathroom are EcoHues “Spring Showers.”

Start the Tour!

Foyer: EcoHues DUNE up the stairs

EcoHues "DUNE" - Foyer, kitchen, up the stairs into 2nd floor sunroom/hall area

EcoHues “Dune” is a versatile color for many areas!
Standing in the entry, you look up the stairs, and also see into the dining room straight ahead. At left is the kitchen, with the living room to the right of the foyer.

Kitchen wall curved, EcoHues Dune

View 1 into kitchen. EcoHues "Dune" on walls, Ellen Kennon "White Opal" for ceilings throughout the house. Foyer is at left.

Kitchen view, EcoHues DUNE

View 2 into kitchen. EcoHues "Dune" on walls, Ellen Kennon "White Opal" for ceilings throughout the house.

Dining room
I suggested using EcoHues “Blue Grotto” for a rich, sophisticated wall color that would create a bit of drama in the dining room while creating a cool focus for the more earth-toned adjacent rooms. Visible from the dining room, through the entry to the pantry, is the same granite counter top material as used in the kitchen–a beautiful, very deep blue-green with iridescent flecks.

View from dining room "Blue Grotto" into foyer, "Dune"

View from dining room, EcoHues "Blue Grotto," into foyer, EcoHues "Dune."

“Blue Grotto” wall color is the perfect choice to highlight this unique oil painting.

Dining Room - EcoHues "Blue Grotto"

On the other side of the dining room, this oil painting is framed by EcoHues "BLUE GROTTO."

Living room
“Fieldstone” creates a warm, earthy feeling for the living room. It’s a lovely complement to the white and gray  marble fireplace on the other side of the room (not shown here).

Living room: EcoHues Fieldstone

View into living room from foyer. Ecohues "Fieldstone" on walls. Ellen Kennon "White Opal" on ceilings.

Upstairs: 2nd Floor
Going up the stairs we enter the 2nd floor sunroom. Off the sunroom are the master bedroom, the nursery, an office, and a bathroom. The sunroom, painted in EcoHues “Dune ” as are the first floor foyer, kitchen, and stairway walls, is a warm hub for the adjacent spaces.

View from 2nd floor sunroom into bathroom

Sunroom, EcoHues "DUNE," view into bathroom, EcoHues "PACIFIC MIST"

The tiles were an inspiration for using “Pacific Mist” on the walls, a perfect fit.

View 2 closeup Pacific Mist

Closeup view: EcoHues "PACIFIC MIST"

Being right above one end of the kitchen, the large, airy nursery has the same wonderful, historic curved windows (see the kitchen closeup view). On the other side, the nursery opens into the sunroom.

Nursery - Ellen Kennon "Dusk" view into sunroom, EcoHues "Dune"

Nursery: Ellen Kennon "DUSK" walls, view into sunroom, EcoHues "DUNE"

What could be better than a perfect taupe wall color for this home office? We used EcoHues “Perfect Taupe,” with Ellen Kennon’s “White Opal” on the ceiling.

Office: EcoHues "PERFECT TAUPE"

Office: EcoHues "PERFECT TAUPE"

Turn around, and look into the sunroom…
Through the opposite door is the master bedroom with Ellen’s “Gustavian Gray” on the walls.

Office view into sunroom

View: Office, into Sunroom, where walls are EcoHues "DUNE" abd ceiling is also Ellen Kennon's "White Opal."

3rd Floor
“Dune” continues up to the 3rd floor, where there is one still-unpainted, very large room and a small bathroom. This small bath has a very luminous feeling, where  EcoHues “Spring Showers” was used on the walls and the ceiling, too. This very pale gray with lavender tones creates an airy space and is a lovely complement to the marble mosaic floor and warm wood cabinet.

Soft Spring Showers in bathroom

Wall and ceiling are EcoHues "SPRING SHOWERS"

The Client’s Story
“My husband and I had spent the last 3 years renovating our Victorian house and were finally nearing the end.

Deciding on what colors to paint the walls felt overwhelming.  Barbara arrived with beautiful paint samples (with incredible names) and together we quickly made selections for most of the house.  From Gustavian Gray in our master bedroom to Dusk for the nursery to Spring Showers for the ceiling in the foyer, it all came together perfectly.

The paint colors are perfect for each room and we couldn’t be happier with the results.  Barbara also helped with selecting the exterior trim color to complement our new shingles as well as the incredible blueish-purple color for the ceiling of the front and back porch.

Working with  you was a great experience. Thank you Barbara!”

Making a Match–or not!

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , — Barbara Jacobs @ 11:57 am

Creating the definition
It’s always interesting to be in a conversation about matching colors. For me, the first question is “what do you mean by match? ”

I think that ultimately it’s just about feeling that the colors work together and  are harmonious in the space where they appear. Personally I believe that a more interesting space is created when “matching” colors is not even an issue.  I’d rather see it as the best way to enhance the space while referencing qualities of art work, furniture, rugs, and other important objects in view.

Boston - South End

Dining room wall colors reference the art work and stained glass panel. Color design and photos by Barbara Jacobs

What makes a harmonious result?
It’s true that when we’re in a paint store —with literally thousands of colors at our fingertips—it’s easy to bounce from one color family to another, and even from one tiny color swatch to another. Even when we bring along fabrics, pottery, pieces of wood, or other “match-worthy” items there are seemingly infinite possibilities. As with a satisfying meal, harmony comes from combining the contrast and balance of a few key ingredients.

Dining room view into kitchen

Warm dining room transitions into the cool kitchen. From the kitchen, we also see the blues of the painting in the dining room. Note the glowing warm and cool colors of the art-glass pendants.

Kitchen color with leaded glass and granite

Kitchen wall color refers to the tones of leaded glass and granite.

On another note, here’s a problem area resolved with color. Floor tile is harder to change than paint color!

Problem area resolved - a balancing act

Problem area resolved with color balance. Color design and photos by Barbara Jacobs

Stone wall opposite painted wall

Stone wall is the inspiration for new paint colors in kitchen and adjacent family room. Color design by Barbara Jacobs

Context is Critical!
There’s just about no way a color that originates in a fabric or other material can be re-created to an exact match in paint. Even if you have a look-alike color in the paint store, on your walls it might be another story.

Here’s why

  • We perceive color as reflected light. Space lighting has a lot to do with how we see color—considering the time of day or night, and the light source.
  • Even when using the exact same paint color on different walls, color appears different when light is reflected onto surfaces at different angles.
  • Color on adjacent walls intensifies in the corners.
  • Ceilings are always in their own shadows, in a way– so using color on a ceiling will be deeper than using the same color on a wall.

We have a natural tendency to look at color chips on a horizontal plane. Always view paint color chips at the same angle as they will be used on the walls.

Surfaces and textures
Whether on a horizontal, vertical, or curved surface, texture makes a difference in both the source color and the destination color.

  • A deeper, irregular texture creates subtle shadows and might even make a pattern.
  • A smooth surface will typically be more reflective, even with a matte paint surface.
  • Colors on a high gloss surface are the most reflective and will appear brighter.

Test the new colors
View the colors in actual painted large color cards, noting how they work with your furniture and fabrics. Look  from one room to the next, and back the other way.  Look at the colors in all times of day and night, with your painted samples taped onto the various surfaces. This is my most-recommended way to really test colors in your home.

You can read more on this subject in my “Perfect Palettes: Mix and Match” article on

Thanks for reading ColorViews. You’re invited to write to me about your color experiences and project questions that I’ll consider for publishing!

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