As a new decorator, many years ago, a client once asked if I could find two chairs that would work with the twenty year old ancient, lumpy, gray leather sofa (sitting in their rarely used living room).
Back then I said YES.
Today, I would say no. It doesn’t matter that you have rarely sat on that sofa from the 70’s or 80’s. It’s dated (this is a general statement, obviously there are classics from every era, I'm not saying it all needs to go, but I'm trying to make a point here :) and unless I find some chairs from that era, your new chairs will look like today and that sofa will still look like yesterday.
When a client informs me that they would like to keep their white lacquered kitchen [from the 80’s) with black granite countertops (with rounded edges—from the 80’s), rip out the 12 x 12 gray tile flooring and install brown hardwood with a black and brown mosaic backsplash? My job is to paint the picture —in advance—before they do all of this and hate the kitchen. Why? Because adding brown to this mix will not hide your cabinets. You will still have an 80’s kitchen.
I was once in a clients home [for a colour consultation] who had a navy blue sofa, a black area rug with coloured squares in burgandy, gray-green, butterscotch and blue greens. She told me she wanted to paint her walls brown and also asked my opinion about adding a chocolate brown ottoman to the mix as well.
I said not a good idea.
Why? Because she wasn’t changing anything else in the room. The carpet was new and already had 5 colours in it that did not relate to the navy blue sofa. Introducing brown at this point would have added a 7th colour to the room that did not relate to anything existing in the space.
So, unless the client was willing to change something, the wall colour needed to relate to a colour already in the space for the colour to do what it’s supposed to do, which is; pull the space together.
Just this week I was hired by a kitchen cabinet manufacturer to style some kitchens to be photographed for their new website (photos coming soon). They showed me images of five kitchens they wanted to shoot.
One of them had stark white cabinets (they should have been cream, see my post on selecting whites here) with brown granite countertops and a brown subway tile backsplash. I said “that one already looks 90’s so I wouldn’t shoot it”. Luckily I had a smart client, he went along with my advice.
During the shoot, my client suggested an angle that would have included dining room furniture that was dated. Again, I advised him not to do it. I know I immediately flip the page every time I see an advertisement selling hardwood flooring or carpeting, with poorly styled or dated furniture so I'm sure other people do as well. That [poor styling] immediately makes the image look like it’s from an old magazine.
Just before you think I’m one of ‘those designers’ that has to start with everything new. On the contrary; what I am saying is, instead of installing a mosaic backsplash into your older kitchen, use simple subway tile instead (for example). Still an updated and fresh look but something that will not draw as much attention as a ‘bling bling’ backsplash that belongs in a newer kitchen.
So before you introduce the newest, trendiest colour or tile somewhere in your house, make sure it works with your existing space. The best homes are not trendy at all, but look like they have been lovingly collected over time into a space that speaks to you, your family and your lifestyle.
To get your colours right, download my eBook, It's All in the Undertones.
To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!
If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.
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