Why One Colour Doesn’t ALWAYS Fit All!
I’ve heard it DOZENS of times, ‘my sister/friend had this gorgeous colour in her living room, so I painted it in my house but it looks TERRIBLE!‘
Sure, it’s easy to be inspired by a decoratively-inclined friend. However, just because it looks good in your friend’s house, doesn’t mean it will look good in yours. It’s like going to the hairdresser and saying, ‘I want my hair colour and style to look JUST like Kate Middleton’s’ without understanding that you and Kate have different face shapes and colouring and simply don’t SUIT the same look. She comes out looking like a princess, you come out looking like a Muppet.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing the perfect paint colour and the very LAST thing to consider is whether you like it! I’m a rude lil’ Ginger, I know. But really, how much YOU like it can be pretty irrelevant if your home doesn’t like it – and your home has some serious needs, starting with exposure.
Paint Colours vs Exposures
Did you know that most paint colours will look DRASTICALLY different in north facing rooms compared to south-facing rooms? It’s a lovely little thing called metamerism, which basically refers to when a colour changes the way it looks in different exposures (exposure being the quality and temperature of the sunshine – or lack thereof, coming in your windows). Not only is there north, east, south and west but there also north-east, south-west – and so on and so forth.
And of course, there are OTHER forms of metamerism, but for the sake of our sanity, we’re sticking with this one for now.
And do you know what REALLY helps?
Wine Examples – I know you’re just here for the pretty pictures and my wit anyway…
Let’s start with Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray, one of my fave greige paint colours. Let’s say that Susan painted her south-facing living room Agreeable Gray and LOVED it and so did her best friend Nancy!
So, Nancy decided to use it in HER living room too, except her living room was NORTH facing and it turned out WAY different from Susan’s. Now Nancy is left wondering what the heck went wrong! Was it a mis-tint? Did she get the wrong paint? Should she have primed? Maaaaybe, but regardless, Nancy just didn’t take into account the specific needs of her own space.
And yes, you will see the above photo MANY times in my blog and that’s because it’s such a DAMN fine example of how the same colour can change with exposure!
Now, let’s pretend that Angela loved the warm creamy look of SW Creamy in Dave’s living room (oh that Dave, he’s so stylish)…
But was bummed-out when she painted it in her north-east facing stairwell – it just wasn’t as creamy warm!
Why didn’t things work out for Angela and Nancy? Well, those silly gals didn’t realize that because their rooms had different exposures from their friend’s, the paint colours would look different!
Want to learn more about exposures? I have articles specific to EVERY direction – north/south/east/west, so you can learn which colours are best for the exposure of YOUR room.
Agreeable Gray (above): See more of this project HERE
Moral of the story: Don’t be like Angela and Nancy – sample sample sample. Sure, you can totally check out the same colour, but whip up some samples to see if it will give you the same look in your room. If you have different exposures – it won’t look the same (or it will at night and only if you use the same bulbs).
Read more: North, East, South, West – Which Paint Colour is the Best?
Paint Colours vs Light Bulbs vs Natural Light
This one is a creature unto itself. I will be going more in-depth in the near future, but for now, let’s hit some basics.
In the olden days (you know, like 1995), if you wanted to change a bulb you just changed the damn bulb. Nowadays, you actually get to choose the TYPE of bulb and the TEMPERATURE of the bulb – lucky you!
So, let’s say you go to your friend’s house one evening and she has a beautiful gray paint colour on her living room walls. And you love the warm, inviting look of this gray JUST the way it is…
You then go home and paint YOUR living room that colour. You paint ALLL day long (with intermittent wine infusions), stand back when it’s done and say, ‘damn, I love that colour – personal high-five’. You go to bed pretty pleased with yourself and wake up the next day to cool gray walls and a mild hangover. You give yourself a few slaps (not so different from the personal high-fives, but to the face) and say, ‘am I dreaming? That is NOT the colour I painted!’ I’m sad to say that it is the colour you painted, you’re just seeing it in a new light.
And the above 2 photos are the PERFECT example of what that situation looks like! In fact, you would think that the above living room was painted 2 different colours, however, what you’re looking at is BM Classic Gray, which is a warm gray with a very subtle purple undertone (remember, ALL grays have undertones). In the north-west daylight, you can see how it falls back a bit grayer and cooler, whereas in the evening it’s a sure-fire greige!
Something similar to this happened to an Edesign client of mine. She wrote to me because she LOVED her Classic Gray living room (the above example AND the ones below) in the evening. However, in the daytime, she found it a bit too cold and gray looking.
Cool beans, eh?! I love this stuff, however, I understand that not everyone is as thrilled as me at the true glory of metamerism #nerdalert.
So yes, I did give her some new paint colours to try, colours that would hold themselves a bit better against that cooler northern light, while still having warmth in the evening, however, it’s important to know that NO paint colour will look the same from day to night unless your room has no windows. Fact.
Moral of the story: Look at your paint sample day and night and on EVERY wall. Remember that the colour of your light bulbs can also affect how your paint colour looks (which will be a major blog post unto itself). If you’re seeing somethin’ funky, try changing your bulbs! Or cut back on the wine…
Paint Colours vs Furnishings
Next up, take a look at SW Collonade Gray, a PERSONAL fave of mine.
Let’s say you go to your friend’s home and see Collonade Gray painted in her living and dining room and you LOVE the soft greige/warmth of it.
So, you paint it in YOUR living room and dining room…
Read more: Paint Colour Review of Sherwin Williams Collonade Gray
Only to wonder WHERE in the heck the WARMTH went?! And where did that GREEN UNDERTONE come from?
- The first example has a different exposure from the bottom 2 (bottom 2 are extreme north)
- The first example has warmer toned furnishings as well as warmer woods which can ABSOLUTELY change your perception of a colour
Moral of the story: Compare your paint samples to your furnishings. Hang them so that they act as a backdrop to your main furniture pieces, step back and see how they relate.
So, long story short (as usual) THOSE are just a few of the reasons why you shouldn’t paint your room the same colour as your friend’s. Could it work? ABSOLUTELY! But don’t count on it…
Want to know what paint colour best suits YOUR room?
Check out my E-Design – I’d love to help!
You are an adorable rude lil’ Ginger! I so love reading your articles and learning from you. I look forward to more videos.
Well, thank you Karen!
What a great post! My husband and I purchased a home from an interior designer. At the closing she gave me a long list of paint formulas by room. I was under the impression that all of the rooms in the house were painted the same color. Not so. She had tweaked the colors for each room, but it really did look like all of the rooms were the same color! PS I did hear that two of her painters quit . They ran out of patience! LOL
Good thing she left you the list, otherwise you would’ve been spinning in circles when it came time to repaint! Thanks for writing 🙂
All grey and white rooms look the same to me anyway! Thanks for the post- getting ready to redecorate a north facing room. It has always looked better at night so I think I’m going to go with lots of dark color!
Yep, Kylie, your consult to give me paint options for a light greenish-grayish-blueish wall color on a northwest house with water influence, was perfect! I adore my paint, after 17 trials of my own, it was great to get your advice
Wahoo, that’s what I love to hear – thank you Coleen!
Yet another great post, Kylie! You have such an amazing insight into colour!
Wondering if BM Ballet White would be fine in a powder room with a northern window (with overhang from porch roof). Hallway outside powder room is Edgecomb Grey. Flooring for powder room and hallway has not been determined. May need some advice on that, too!
I have seen Ballet White in another home but not with the northern exposure. Very calming.
Thanks for your help!
Hi Connie, I do love Ballet White and it flows nicely off of Edgecomb! While I can’t say for sure that it’ll work in your bathroom without seeing photos, off the bat I see NO problem. 🙂