5 tips for choosing a new paint color

It’s Spring! Yay! Time to throw open the windows and let the light in!  Throw back those drapes and…GAH!!

This is me last week. My house looked like winter took it and punched it in the nose. Repeatedly. Closed up from the Chicago snow and wind for months, dust, dirt, and grime accumulated in its darkened corners with a free, all stages pass. Stuff I don’t even have a name for was floating by me in the full sunlight. It was like Raiders of the Lost Ark up in here.

So having OCD (a very handy trait in the design business actually) I cleaned top to bottom, and then stood back to admire. Then announced it was time to move. Just kidding. Just announced it was time to paint the walls a different color. But really  - same effect. But it’s been seven years since I’ve painted my walls. That’s an eternity in decorating.

Funny thing is that many of my clients must have been through the same winter a** whupping because they all seemed to call me last week for color consults. So after meeting with a few I decided to do my top fives for selecting a color. So here there are:

5. Always separate the existing wall color from the color sample. If you tape or paint your new color option over the existing color, it will not read right. Separate your colors with white, either by taping the paper sample up to white printer paper, or prime a square and paint the sample within that.

4. Always take a sample home. The light in the paint store is 99% of the time not the same light as your lovely home.

3. Always paint an actual sample. Those 1″ x 1″ paper samples are ink…not paint. And not on plaster or dry wall. They are ink on paper, so very different than paint on your walls.

2. Always hold the paper sample upright, like it’s on your walls. Light hits walls very differently than light on the floor. Hold those samples upright so it’s a better representation of how light hits the color.

1. Consider how and when you use the space. If you are someone that works throughout the day and mainly uses the space at night, select the color after you’ve seen it with artificial light (lamps and cans on at night). If you work from home, then choose a color that works best during the natural daylight hours – the hours you most use the room.

And if you are local and stuck, just call me.

Winter salt and wood floors

Right now in the Midwest we’re in the midst of a “wintry mix” of subzero temps, snow and wind. I don’t complain about it because I did choose to live in Chicago as opposed to Hawaii (Aloha mom!). I do have a love/hate relationship with rock salt though. It’s a damn necessity here. It will certainly cut your chances of ending up in traction post porch stairs slip. One winter I went down the back stairs so hard that my car key flew out of my hand and landed somewhere in a pile of snow. I had to wait a week for the snow to melt before I could find it.

So I use rock salt. But I don’t like it. It gets tracked indoors onto my wood floors. Wood floors and rock salt are a bad mix, like my mother and Chicago winters. Rock salt is generally made from sodium chloride, which will take off the finish from a floor, and if it’s left to sit for too long, it could cause the wood to split and/or rot. Use a good wood floor cleaner, or at the very least water, to clean up any rock salt residue from your floors. Use mats at the door that can be washed often, and make everyone takes off boots and shoes before they come into the house, regardless of whether it’s snowing or raining out. No one should walk around a house with outside shoes on anyway. The dirt and grime from shoes ruins carpets, not to mention the gunk that they trap in the carpet fibers. But that’s a post for another day.


Update on the Grove remodel

The remodel is almost complete! Even without the furniture in the transformation looks amazing. Fun project!

Bathroom progress

The bathroom project is progressing nicely! The shampoo and soap niches are in after some minor positioning changes. The moisture barrier is up, all walls are sheeted and taped, electrical is done and ready for the sconces and ceiling fan. Next up –  tile!

Top Ten Room Energizing Updates

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We’re stuck indoors while another polar vortex/arctic blast whips through. To avoid going stir crazy with my five year old I perform two of my favorite tasks: purging and rearranging. My daughter loves it because she thinks I’m making furniture forts in the middle of the room just for her. It’s a win win.

But it’s not just a busy activity. The process of purging, rearranging, cleaning and balancing gets the chi flowing. And flowing chi is energizing. Who doesn’t need a dose of that on a gray and blustery day.

Here are my top ten favorite ways to invigorate a room:

10. Deep clean. It is so effective in changing a room’s energy. Don’t just wipe down bookshelves: dust every book, picture frame, knick knack, and then wipe down the entire cabinet. While you’re at it, toss the used paperbacks in a bag to give to your local charity. Wash floors underneath the rugs. Clean the webs from the corners. Prune dead leaves from plants. You get the idea.

9. Purge. Rid surface areas and drawers of unwanted mail, old magazines, paid bills, stacks of school artwork. Find places for the things you want to keep (file cabinets, poster boards) and toss the rest. Get rid of clutter. It takes up too much energy to ignore it.

8. Vacuum. Kinda goes with #10 but without the deep clean. A simple vacuum gets the carpets looking great again. Don’t forget to vacuum the couch and fluff the pillows.

7.  Decorate with what you already have. Stack two or three books on that nicely cleaned surface and add a pretty bowl on top. Buy some inexpensive branches or flowers and display them in your prettiest vases. Arrange books so that some are stacked horizontally and others vertically. Grab a home decorating catalog, see how they do it, and replicate.

6. Rearrange furniture. Pull that sofa away from the wall and try using it on a diagonal in the room. Try a different seating setup in front of the TV.  Try the rug on an angle. Put a narrow desk behind a sofa. Start seeing the room from a different angle.

5. Replace CFL bulbs with LEDs. Or halogens. Or incandescents. Anything but horrible CFLs. The colors in your room will change instantly.

4. Light candles.

3. Put on music.

2. Add pillows in bold patterns to sofas and/or chairs.

1. My favorite? Invite friends over. Friends, laughter, conversation: all this will elevate the chi instantly.

Recent project: removing wall paneling

I recently decorated a mid century style living room that had an open floor plan. One wall in the room was  completely paneled, including a built in cabinet. Removing the wall paneling was the best thing I did to bring the entire space together. Once the drywall was up and painted, I moved the dining table from a small area off to the side to the more open space behind the sofa. I defined the area as a dining room by centering a fixture above the table and anchoring the table and chairs with an area rug. Having the walls all the same material and color made the room feel more cohesive and helped the stone fireplace stand out more. The paneled cabinet will be removed at a future date, so painting it the same color as the wall helped to deflect  - rather than emphasize –  the panels until they are finally gone for good.


Holiday Decorating

I recently helped a client get her dining room ready for Christmas. When she called me we had just under four weeks to make the room feel more inviting and warm before 18 relatives descended upon her. She was a quick decision maker and excellent notetaker,  so while I gave direction, she quickly executed. We started with a new wall color  - a warm gray. There was a nice sized hole in one of the plaster walls and no way to get a painter in by Christmas. My client patched and painted by herself like a pro. Next we pulled new drapes in a bold pattern and a wool rug with soft lines to give the room more texture. A print on one wall was replaced with a striking mirror that added a lot of interest and helped bounce light around the room. Vases, lots of red and silver accents, holiday plants, and lights strung from the drapery rods added holiday charm and warmth. Good job CM!

Your colors

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is picking color. Changing the color of a room is the best way to give a room new life. Most people know this, but knowing doesn’t make the picking any easier. I spend a lot of time at my local paint store and I watch people stand at the paint chip kiosk, pick up a tiny square of color, stare at it for a minute, then put it down. Then repeat. It is really difficult to visualize this teeny swatch of color all over your walls. Not to mention that the light in the store is most likely different than the light in your home, so that color you’re choosing (or not) probably looks completely different in the space you’re looking to paint.

As a designer my job is to know color: how to combine colors, how color and light  – both natural and artificial – interact, and how to use color to trick not so pleasant architectural features such as narrow hallways, low ceilings, etc seem more pleasing. It’s not a perfect science. Sometimes I have to try several tints and shades before I hit it on the head. But I always get there. I haven’t lost a room yet.

I use a holistic approach to choosing color. You may ask me to pick a wall color for your dining room. I’ll choose that wall color, but then also give you color direction for trim, ceilings, moldings, built-ins, flooring, artwork, fabrics, lighting, furnishings, hardware. Like nature abhors a vacuum a designer abhors a hue without a scheme, so to that end I recently had a neat piece designed by r3mg: creative boutique for my color consult clients. After the consult I provide a complete color scheme for the room, including wall, trim, ceiling, and any accent colors that would work well within the color scheme, all in a handy envelope. The color swatches are neatly tucked inside so that you can take them with you whenever you shop. If you see a rug or piece of artwork you like, just pull out your swatches and see if the rug color goes with your scheme.

Color consults are $200. I am excited to start using my new consult piece, so if you need to pick colors,   please give me a call today!

Sprucing up with a few changes

I just finished sprucing up a living room and dining room in Oak Park. The homeowners are very sweet couple with two young children. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money on new furniture right now, waiting (rightfully so) till the child-lunging-off-sofas phase has passed. So I needed to work with the existing pieces:  a sectional sofa, dining room table and chairs,  and two floor lamps. They also weren’t up to take on any remodeling work, so the color on the walls and the position of the light fixture over the dining room table were staying. But even without making any color or major furniture changes I was able to create a room that is more pulled together and relaxing for the family.

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Is your wealth corner missing?

Recently my husband painted the back steps. Exciting right? (Well the color* is! See below).  But why I mention this is because the back steps sit in our wealth corner. Which means that our wealth corner is not actually in our house. It’s…missing. If you drew a line across the back of our house, it would run along the back wall, jog down about six feet where the back door sits, then jut over to the left about another five feet.  Our finances have been a little missing of late too, so having everything else in order, I decided to tackle this issue. I hung a pair of wind chimes at the back door help to bring chi to the missing area. The tinkle sound is nice too and bonus – it helps to drown out the never ending hum of our neighbor’s AC. I also hung a clear crystal in the same area  – I could have used a purple one,  purple being the color associated with wealth – because crystals help liven up chi. And lastly I fixed that missing corner by literally drawing it in: I took some of my daughter’s purple chalk and drew a line across the steps and back to the house. Voila! Purple chalk! Good chi!

Wait! Rain! Ga! No more chalk. Well, I wasn’t that unhappy about the rain. We needed it.

Instead of redrawing chalk lines we painted the back steps. Purple. A lovely deep blue purple. And guess what? The next day the phone rang. It was a new client.

Normally feng shui isn’t this immediate, and it’s certainly not going to fix money issues especially if there are other major factors involved. But if you feel the energy is missing in that area, help it out with a little feng shui. And see what happens.

* Benjamin Moore Galaxy.