Monday, January 31, 2011

ON PAINT: "Any Long as it's Black" (Part I)


Paint, one of the most inexpensive and important elements of design, was not one of Henry Ford’s favorite interests. In his reference to all cars being painted black, Ford wanted to maintain an identity, a branding if you will, for the automobile he created.

As homeowners, we have a vast array of choices, black among them. In fact, New Yorkers are famous for loving black in their apparel and accessories. But other than on pieces of furniture and the occasional granite counter top, black is not a favorite wall option, albeit it’s strong and powerful design statement in the home.

Color is probably the easiest variable to change. The first thing a new homeowner does, if they are not renovating or building, is to paint. And, while it can be an expensive line item, with skim coating and preparation, it usually fits quite comfortably within the client’s budget, however small. Paint can change the look of a room from formal to casual, from serious to whimsical, from mature to youthful. It is part of the magic that an interior designer manifests in creating a room’s appearance.

Paint can define spaces, create distinct areas without having to build walls. It can also create interest in its placement, moving the observer’s eye from one wall to another. It can create a mood, an ambience, a style. For instance, were all the walls in a room painted stark (decorator’s) white, it would evoke a spare, minimalist feeling. Were the space painted dark green, one would gather it more suitable for a library or club. And, if a room were colored with pink and blue stripes, most probably it would be a nursery. In addition, colors change with the light of day or night, so that a sofa looking periwinkle blue when in the sun, may very well appear lavender in the shade. So, yes, color does define by intention, by subtlety, by design. As the Benjamin Moore company notes: “Paint color is a most powerful decorating tool. What color to choose? What sheen for trims, for ceiling for walls? There are important decisions to make in selecting paint and so its best to confer with a professional designer who has the experience and knows exactly what works best.”

Choosing the right color is oftentimes difficult. The small chip you get at the store parlays into something completely different on the wall at home. Having had a client who chose not to use a professional’s expertise in selecting a color, she chose a pink that, when applied to her dining room wall, ended up looking like a bordello! It all has to do with the amount of reflectivity a color emits. Plus, color expands and deepens from chip to wall. So, if you are choosing a green that has a lot of black in it, it absorbs the light, whereas a lime green might evoke the opposite effect.

What should be taken into account is the finish level. A flat finish will absorb the light, yet show less imperfections. Thus, it is a perfect choice for the ceiling. Walls usually require an eggshell finish, that is more easily cleanable. And, woodwork most commonly requires a satin finish, easy to maintain.