For some home and business owners, the idea of finishing their interior spaces comes down to a trip to a big-box store and grabbing the largest bucket of whatever color of paint is on sale. In these cases, when the spectrum of pigment and its effect on the human psyche is detached, a simple solution will satisfy an immediate need—but little else.
Those sensitive to how color interacts with emotions, know that the colors around us play an essential role in productivity at work and can determine a level of satisfaction with our lives at home. They acknowledge that lathering up the walls with whatever color a retailer is trying to unload—won’t do.
Color affects human emotion and rhythm; it can regulate behavior, like whether a person repeatedly hits the snooze button and is consistently late out of bed, determine the consumption of calories during a meal, even elevate feelings of optimism. Yes, the paint colors you surround yourself with are as important as the people you let into your lives.
With this understanding, there is a plethora of evidence indicating we are not static in our choices. As time passes, our tastes swing and moderate, often connected to a more significant movement across society. And while this sounds like the cusp of laboratory science, know that there are thousands of people who study color and make predictions on your choice of clothing, purchase of an automobile, and what color you decide to paint your walls. More remarkable is that this is all accomplished approximately a year in advance of when you make your selections.
Extraordinary, by any stretch of the imagination color is all around us, and we often don’t recognize its importance. It is a gift which deserves recognition and praise; and once you start to understand the concept, you’ll grow to appreciate its foundation in daily living.
One of the most significant barriers to starting a new painting project is a lack of knowledge. Often, a person who wants a new look for their home or business start with good intentions, only to realize they are clueless, (no fault of their own), as to where to begin, what the process entails; but, most importantly, what if they make a mistake in selecting colors? (We address this later).
Allow us to intervene.
This year—2019—the trend has been moving away from “browns” and in the direction of natural colors found in organic-based materials. Lighter stone tones, the warmth of unfinished reprocessed/reclaimed woods, hues of clear blue water; these colors and tints have been creeping into environments with little fanfare unless of course, you’re in the industry.
Color is related to our social identity and the mood of the nation. When there is conflict or uncertainty, people tend to search for comfort, and so their selections are safe and soft, they prefer light and soothing colors. With this, we have witnessed a rise in neutrals and what are referred to as relaxing colors. Grays, egg-shell, pale blue and green; even beverage tints are playing a role in our selections of interior paint.
In our search for professional advice, we sought out two SouthCoast interior designers and color experts. Each plays an important function at their place of employment, and while they have varying tastes, our guests share a common theme in how they approach their jobs of consulting businesses and homeowners.
We started our conversation at Wilmot’s Design Center in Middleboro, MA. Color specialist, Sue Benjamin, has been working with clients for well over 16 years on interior design projects, but in large, has focused on helping customers get a grasp on how the color of paint trends year to year, methods to complement existing surroundings, and assure their goals in creating a unique experience is satisfied.
An artist and antique collector, Sue has a broad interest in the old and the new and is keenly aware of how taste evolves.
With choices slowly changing—although steady enough to confuse consumers, Sue explained her approach when meeting a new customer. “My role is to guide them [clients] through the process. Some customers are apprehensive while others come into the shop—color chips in hand—and generally know what they want, but may need some guidance in matching shade or tint. What is important to me is that I learn the details of their project; is it paint, paint and wallpaper, or a complete remodeling of a room, a floor of a home, or the entire interior.”
With the housing market hot in many areas of Massachusetts, Sue told us about her clients. “I see younger people buying a first home, we have families building homes and seniors who are downsizing, and want a different look.”
Sue offers the following advice: start at one location if you have a big project, and try not to meet all objectives in a single swoop, but rather, walk in your front door and decide what you want that first impression to be. Once this has been decided she’ll help you move towards the next goal—it could be a dining room, open living room, or a small study you spend a great deal of time in and need to feel comfortable when working. By taking the job one small step at a time, the outcome is likely to turn out better because it allows the opportunity to digest each choice made along the way, then evaluate the progress.
When asked what the most difficult challenge is with a new customer, Sue laughed and said, “Sometimes a person will come in and be fearful—really worried—they’re afraid of making a mistake. My response is, ‘So what—its paint—we can do it over, don’t worry.’ I try to set them at ease and make the project fun while offering advice I’ve gathered over the years.”
Sue is very easy to speak with and puts real effort in creating trust between her and her clients. She told us about customers she has followed from home to home over many years. Like other professionals, when you find one you fit with, you want to stay with them.
Later in the day, we visited Wilmot’s Design Center in New Bedford. We met Veronica Colby, a youthful and vibrant woman who is part of a new crop of interior designers. With the enhancement of living and experiencing contemporary style and modern design as it unfolds, she has a refreshing look at how customer’s tastes are changing.
We learned that Veronica finds inspiration from her many years of working with color while advising customers and sharing knowledge with her colleagues.
Veronica explained her thesis on design. “I look for a combination of simplicity, balance, and color; and as far as color, I search for those naturally formed, warm, and rich; but, of course, the grays are still king.”
As an artist, Veronica is grounded in natural colors; it became evident that she is attracted to a wide array of taupe, most fitting with her interest in mid-century design—due to its minimalist values. “I like earth tones, umbers, and clay,” she commented.
What makes a big impression in the design area of the paint and décor store is the massive display—some 3600 choices—against the wall. When asked how clients view the rainbow of color, Veronica says, “It’s all visual—they want to see what they’re going to get.” She added, “To meet a client’s needs, you should learn what their end game is; to what level or type of energy are they trying to achieve?”
These insights are essential steps when meeting a customer’s goals so they can confidently decide to start their projects.
During our time together, we discussed how younger people are more discerning than previous generations. Today’s consumer expects more from their purchase, have good ideas of what they want, but sometimes need validation. According to Veronica, the role of the designer/colorist is to build confidence in a customer’s choices.
We learned that what differentiates the services offered by Sue and Veronica from other businesses of the same type is the one-hour complimentary consult offered at each retail location. And it isn’t to be confused with someone pulling out colors that match what you brought in and they have to sell. Contrary to this misinformation, each colorist is not afraid to make recommendations and help a customer explore new options that might become a gateway to a new and exciting look.
It was impressive to meet the two ladies, who we gave different—real-life—décor and paint design challenges. They each asked many questions, and confidently delivered sound solutions we hadn’t expected.
It was amazing that in each instance the consultant took the bait and began to recite a list of choices they knew would work for the project described; they also expanded the process to include floor and window coverings which would further complement the room we described—all of this with a moments notice. Because of their experience, they made what I viewed a difficult task, look easy.
The take away from this experience is that colors matter and that expert advice is a necessary component for achieving great results.
Now September is here, and the holidays are only a couple of months away, planning a project today will allow you plenty
of time to complete your home improvement efforts. There are steps to take to assure your satisfaction, so be sure to do your planning ahead of time so that once guests arrive, the only thing you’ll worry about is when to take the turkey from the oven.
To book a consult to discuss your next home improvement project contact either Wilmot location—full disclosure, Wilmot’s is a client of this publication and contributed to this article as a courtesy.
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