Choosing External Paint Colours

It struck me that the majority of my posts have been concerned with colours for interiors but of course external colour selection is something I spend a lot of time considering.

I really enjoy selecting colours for commercial shop fronts as studies have shown that certain colours can actually drive more customers through a door. Being able to evaluate the effect of a colour with statistics is a really different way of looking at colour choice and obviously an important one for a business owner.

Position of colour on a building also plays a pivotal role. It is usually more pleasing to have “heavier”(darker) colours closer to the ground and lighter colours above as it helps to “ground” a building and in turn feels easier on the eye. This is normally referred to as “architectural order”. Reverse this and you have “typographical order” – like newspapers which use heavier colours at the top of a page in order to create a banner.

However, you will see some shops displaying typographical order as they may want to create a brand “banner” above the entrance.

And then of course you must look at colour association. It’s no coincidence that many fine wine shop fronts are painted red,

red wine colour

travel agents azure blue,

sea and sky blue

organic food shops green,

environmentally aware green

 spas violet,

purple, regal and spiritual

and this delicate bridal shop,

shell pink oozing femininity

However, a recent client, a farmer, commissioned Shepherd Huts to be hand built by Plankbridge ,a wonderful artisan company based in Dorset. The idea is that she will disperse the huts throughout a forested piece of land on her farm and will rent them out to holiday makers. She was really keen to choose colours for her shepherd huts that would meld into the natural environment – not to be camouflaged as the huts are beautiful but they had to related to the natural colours in the trees around them. On occasions like this, the best way to start is to analyse the existing colours in the immediate surroundings. I am always amazed how often violet grey pops up – a fantastically useful subtle and delicate colour in decoration and one which pairs so well with many other colours.

silver birch bark - Scotland

palm tree bark - Lisbon

plane tree bark - France

So next time you find yourself out shopping or taking a holiday in a Shepherds Hut (!) take a moment to look at the colours – there is often an interesting process behind the selection.

Confused, too Many Paint Swatches?

We’ve all done it – spent a fortune on tester pots and painted squares all over the house. Of course it’s a good idea to paint swatches (paint as large a sample as possible) in order to check the colour in varying lighting conditions and to make sure you  feel comfortable around the chosen colour (check out my previous post if you wish to mix your own paint colour). However, even after all this effort have you ever felt disappointed with the colour of the room once the decorators have left?

Well I have a simple technique which may help you. Unfortunately I can’t claim that it is my idea, I heard American colourist Lori Sawaya suggest it. Most paint swatches tend to be square or rectangular. However, squares have fairly rigid boundaries and seem to contain the colour inside their shape. Circles on the other hand do not have such rigid boundaries and do not constrain the colour within them. They seem to allow the colour to radiate from the circle and make it much easier to imagine a larger space painted in the colour of the swatch. It’s a very simple idea which I have tried (I painted a cardboard pizza base) and it definitely helps.

Of course there are many other factors to take into account including the fact that if your sample is placed on a white wall, your sample colour will look darker than it will look once it is painted all over the wall. For instance if you put a very pale sample on a white wall it will look quite “coloured” but once all the walls are painted in the pale colour they may almost appear white again.

Lots more decorating tips coming in future posts….