This latest Ask Maria question is a really good one and here it is:
“Hi Maria, After purchasing your How to Choose Paint Colours It’s all in the Undertones book I sort of live in this undertones world now and have a question:
Yellow beige sofa paired with yellow beige/cream walls
Image via How to Decorate
Why do undertones have to match when combining neutrals (ie. example in the book: yellow undertone beige paint will pair best with yellow undertone beige sofa), but when mixing darker colours (ie: strong yellow undertone paint such as BM Cable Knit goes with dark burgundy which has blue and red undertones) this rule doesn’t seem to apply? And where is the line? Would a yellow undertone neutral paint (yellow beige or yellow undertone white) go with the darker burgundy?
So I am wondering the following:
When dealing with light colours and neutrals: do I match undertones?
When dealing with darker saturated colours: do undertones need to match? Because when mixing burgundy and gold tones it doesn’t seem like they need to match.
Can you cross undertones when using one light or neutral colour, and one dark and saturated colour? So part golden yellow and then a neutral white with pink undertones? Or part dark burgundy and then a neutral white with yellow undertones.”
Here’s the easiest answer:
Your wall colour should pull your room together.
And if you have not chosen to do that with a colour and are going with a neutral? Then yes the FIRST place to look is at the existing neutral undertones in the room that might exist in your sofa, drapery, or your carpet.
Burgundy is not a neutral. It’s a colour. So you’re not looking for clues in the undertone of burgundy to come up with the wall colour in the colour burgundy unless you just want to go many shades lighter to end up with a pink that relates to the burgundy. (above)
The SECOND place to look is consider how fresh or earthy your colours are. Or to use the language I use in my eBook, how clean vs. dirty your palette is.
See my living room below?
By the way, I still love my new black and white zigzag ‘Kelly Wearstler’ inspired pillows that I introduced to this room in the Spring with my post about Barbara Barry.
Anyway, if you look closely, you’ll see that I don’t have any neutrals in the furniture and furnishings other than white and black. There’s no beige or any shades of grey anywhere. Since we probably aren’t going to paint this room black, my two options for a neutral are either white or greige.
The reason I did not chose white is because the rest of the walls in the house were painted either a neutral or a colour, so unless the walls in the entire house were white, it would start looking a little like we had not painted this room yet.
Beige would die and look dirty in an interior with this much clean colour (unless it was super pale, which is hard to be offended by unless you’re me and the undertone would drive you nuts no matter how light it was). That’s the reason the grey trend is here, it provides a crisp backdrop to cleaner colours.
And, if this room had been painted anything darker than a mid-tone grey, for this room to really look good, a darker grey should be repeated somewhere in the room.
If I was going to choose a colour, my options would have been raspberry or yellow, since I don’t really have enough green in the room to ‘pull the room together’.
Here’s a burgundy sofa with lot of white and a burgundy and taupe rug. The white works in this room because there’s lots of white repeated here. And the second possible option for a paint colour would have been?
You guessed it (for the True Colour Experts out there 😉 a colour like BM Pale Oak.
Wouldn’t you like to look at an image and know exactly what the right colour is for the room? Same with hard finishes in kitchens and bathrooms? And even more important specify colour like this online for your clients so you can add this lucrative and valuable service to your list of offerings.
Well you can learn how to do all of this and so much more at one of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops this Fall. I’ll be in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Charlotte, NC, Tampa and Upper Montclair, NJ which is 12 miles from Manhattan. Find out what the course includes and see all the dates here.
If you have a question for my Ask Maria column, email me here.