How To Save Money On Your Next Painting Project

Anyone who knows me well has probably heard me use these words -- Too much is just enough! -- and knows that I am a believer in Abundance.  Too many flowers, too many colors, too many books.  When I host a dinner party I have enough food for a small army.  When I start tomatoes from seed, I grow enough for the whole neighborhood.  But too much paint?  That's another story.

I recently worked with a client who was very sensitive to waste.  She challenged me to specify two colors that would work for 5-6 rooms in her home.  She was also working closely with her painter to make sure they had enough paint on hand...and not too much.  Everyone who has ever painted before knows what a disappointment it is to finish the project and find yourself with an unopened can (or two) of paint.


Even worse, of course, is running out in the middle of a job.  Nothing worse, in fact!

This problem is often be avoided by choosing one color and just running it throughout your entire home.  Often, when building or remodeling, your color decisions come at the end of the project when you just don't feel like you can make One More Decision.   And maybe your builder or painter charges you a few hundred dollars for every color change.  So, how you you get the most bang for your buck from just a handful of colors?

Your most important tool when answering this question is a compass!

As we know, color is reflected light.  What this means to you is that the lighting conditions in a given space will impact how a color shows up.  Look to directional light for a variety in light quality.  Southern light is clear, strong and highly directional.  Artists prefer studios with Northern exposures because the light is muted and more diffuse.  Western light can almost "cook" a room as the sun sinks through the atmosphere while Eastern light is perhaps the easiest of all to work with, warm but forgiving.  

As an example, a fresh green used in a sunny Southern-exposure room will appear moodier -- and like an entirely different color -- in a room with a cooler, lower light Northern exposure.  You can use this to your advantage by repeating a color on different sides of your home.  The same color will appear completely different, depending on the direction the room faces and what time of day it receives the most natural light.

You can also bring a color from one functional zone of the house to another.  A friendly family room color can also be perfect for a guest room.  A soft terracotta used in an upstairs bedroom could be repeated in your powder room on the main floor.  If you happen to love a moody blue like Benjamin Moore's Nocturnal Gray shown here, use it in several locations like we did in this master bedroom and the den on the opposite side of my client's home.

So, you can lower your color change fees, reduce clean-up, prevent waste and even simplify your decision-making process, all by carefully repeating a few select colors.  The added benefit of repeating colors is what I call Automatic Flow.  Though the rooms will appear differently, they will automatically be harmonious because they are actually the same color.  Seems obvious, but it's worth saying it out loud!

One of the other things I've been heard to say now and then is, "There are no shortcuts with color."  But, this is definitely a shortcut and it's one of the few that actually works!