By JUDITH KELLEHER   Gazette Contributing Writer

Color consultant Amy Woolf essentially had a blank canvas to work with when Joan and George Leonard hired her to help pick out interior colors for their 2,800-square-foot condominium in Easthampton.

Having moved from a home in Northampton that was “80 percent white” on the inside, Joan Leonard, 70, wanted to jazz things up with more color in the new space.

Woolf, owner of Amy Woolf Color Consulting in Northampton, discussed color options with the Leonards and came up with ideas she felt would work with the couple’s combined tastes. One of the challenges for Woolf was that the couple did not yet have any furniture or other home decor items like rugs to help generate color ideas.

“They struck a perfect balance between expressing their preferences and helping me unravel their relationship to color,” Woolf said. “It was important to find out what kinds of colors made them happy.”

Whether people use a color consultant or select and paint on their own for interior projects, there are a number of factors to consider, including which type of paint to use, how natural and artificial light affect the colors and how to best prepare surfaces, say area paint experts.

Woolf believes consumers are savvier today in understanding the color options and design opportunities due to the wealth of home decorating information on programs that appear on TV, such as the Home and Garden Television channel.

“We live in a different kind of world today with so much information on decorating. Twenty years ago, just painting your house linen white was OK and expected,” Woolf said. “Now, people have woken up to a world of possibilities around color that they may not have considered before.” 

Color follows function

Woolf recommends that color choice should be driven by the function of the space first, such as the difference between the uses of office space versus a home. For example, color choices for a business create an environment conducive to concentration and help employees remain alert, but not become overwhelmed by the color, she said. On the flipside, the home is more of a refuge and a place for socializing and is better served with colors that either support restfulness or liveliness, depending on the room, she said.

Besides a room’s function, people embarking on an interior painting project should consider both artificial and natural lighting when selecting the variety of paint types, such as flat, semigloss, satin and others, said Scott Kellogg, assistant manager at Aubuchon Hardware in Easthampton. 

“When customers come in looking for paint, I basically ask them how much light comes into the room. If it’s a darker room I would recommend they go with a shinier sheen because it reflects more light. The duller the sheen, the less light it reflects," he said. “On a ceiling, you would use a flat so you don't see as many imperfections." People should also consider the amount of artificial lighting in a room when choosing colors, Woolf said. Adding more lighting and tweaking existing lighting, such as using higher-wattage bulbs or switching to different color lampshades, can impact wall color choices, she said. 

In addition to lighting, another critical piece in picking interior colors is factoring in the colors of objects in a room and the shades of adjacent rooms, Woolf said. 

“Color is what it is because of what’s around it. Don’t consider wall color in a vacuum. You need to consider what’s hanging on the walls, the color of the rugs, and when you put that all together it is going to shift the wall color," she said. But before applying the first brush stroke, preparation of the walls and trim are critical, said Levi Owens at r.k. MILES Inc. in West Hatfield.

Painting is more than just putting paint on a wall. Preparation is probably 80 percent of the job. The surface has to be clean and flat, so nail holes need to be filled or dents in the wall should be repaired before you get going,he said.

For cleaning interior walls, Owens recommends a cleaning solution called trisodium phosphate, a powder that is mixed with water. Brand new, unpainted walls, or previously painted walls, should also be lightly sanded to create a surface that makes it easier for the paint to adhere to, he said.

In terms of color choices, Owens said neutrals and grays have come into their own in a big way in last 10 years.

“A lot of people are turning to some of the more subdued colors. The big in-your-face pop colors of the­80s and­90s are going away,he said. “The more subdued and more sophisticate d colors are on the rise. 

Matching colors

When customers in search of interior paints come into Florence Paint & Decorating Center in Florence, sometimes they bring pictures or an iPad or smartphone to display photograp hs of their interiors to show staff, said owner Lee Pitrat. While useful in some ways, the images dont necessarily accuratel y reflect the true colors of what they are trying to display, he said. Staff there, including Kathi Mereschuk, can assist customers with choosing colors once they have an understanding of the goals for the look of the room and their color preferen ces, he said.

“We try and recommend focusing on something you alrea dy have in the room that you want to take color from, like a kitchen plate or a living room painting,Mereschuk said. “Its easier to pick paint color to match something you already have than to find a design to match the paint colors. For the Leonards, their project three years ago was the op­posite. In meeting with the couple for a few hours, Woolf felt she had enough information to recommend colors for each room. While she would normally spend more time with a client to assess their needs, the Leonards were under a very tight deadline. The couple had already sold their house and were staying with friends in a house next door to theirs while the painting project was going on. 

The day after the color consulting meeting, Woolf provided them with a list that specified each surface in need of paint, the color, the type of paint, such as glossy or matte, and even the product number of the paint. Almost every surface in the condo was in need of painting, including walls, ceilings, woodwork and baseboards. 

“All the painter had to do was take the list to the paint store,” said George Leonard, 67. 

The Leonards went with colors such as a deep blue, terracotta, three shades of green and marscapone white to cover the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms and office. The condo featured an open space feel on the first floor and cathedral ceilings. 

“The way Amy managed to figure out how the light works in every room and how looking from one room to another would work, it just feels so peaceful and serene,” Joan Leonard said. “The whole place just blends together.” 

As the painting project progressed, the Leonards were feeling good. 

“As far as I’m concerned, the deep blue that Amy suggested for our bedroom is like waking up inside a beautifully cut sapphire every morning,” Joan Leonard said. “As the project was going on we were happier and happier.”