Years ago when I was just starting out as a brand new colour designer (back before I knew anything), I was standing in front of a totally white building, wondering which colour would make it look the best.
I vividly remember this moment because this is what I was thinking:
“I can’t wait until all the possible colours/colour combinations just flash inside my head like a movie.”
Twenty years and over 20,000 consultations later, that’s exactly how fast I am. And that’s exactly what happens in my head when I’m looking at any project.
During breaks at my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops, I consult with students, and usually in 5 minutes or often less, I know exactly what colour their exterior or the room in question should be painted. Or what colour the countertop and backsplash should be. Or what colour the floor tile should be.
In other words, the consumer seems to feel that a colourist should be paid for the TIME that it takes to complete a creative project.
And I’m here to tell you that is totally backwards.
Expertise is not the same as punching the clock. The faster and more experienced I am, the more expensive my time is.
Would you rather pay for a brand new designer to stumble around in the dark (in their head) for hours, days or weeks as they rack their brain, second guessing themselves, coming up with colour palettes for your house? Or do you want the colourist that has all the best possibilities already in their head and can tell you in 5 minutes flat what to do?
A designer friend charged $2,000 for a complete kitchen design. When a client asked how long it took, her response was “17 years and as long as it takes me”.
Recently we received this question from a reader:
I’ve been back and forth about purchasing an exterior paint consult because of a tight budget but I do want to get it right. . . so, what are the terms of the consult as far as, if I don’t like the selections that are recommended?
I have a specific color family that I want to use but I don’t understand undertones and it needs to work with the pavers in front and the roof, and give me the “feel” that I’m looking for. How much “back and forth” is incorporated into the consult?
If you’ve ever considered buying one of my eDesign consultations and wondered this very same thing, let me help clear this up right now:
The world is not your oyster when it comes to interior design or exterior colours.
Once you make one selection (for example granite or stone) and in the above example, she has pavers we need to work with, as well as the roof, you don’t have an endless number of options.
Therefore, all the ‘back and forth’ that you think might be necessary, is NOT necessary. Far from it.
Because based on your fixed elements, there might be one or two options that will be the very best (if you’re lucky you have 3 options but often that’s not the case). Every other choice after that will definitely not be as perfect as the first or second one.
I once had a designer in one of my events who, at the end of the third day, had this to say about my course:
“I choose exterior colour for subdivisions. Often I am working with bad exterior choices because the developer/builder got them on sale. I thought that if I came to your course, I would learn how to make most of those ugly finishes look pretty. What I’ve learned is that I maybe have one or two pretty combinations and ALL THE REST are UGLY.”
Photo by Maria Killam
Any of you who are required by your HOA to choose a combination of stone AND brick for the exterior of your home already know this to be true.
The home buyers who were first, got the choice of the best and prettiest combinations and you are left with the ‘not so pretty’ combinations because your house has to look different from theirs.
This leads me to the point of this post:
I recently received this email in response after one of my eDesign clients had received their colour specifications:
“I wonder if Maria ever truly laid eyes on my project. From the looks of her instagram stories she was out and about traveling, dining out, and hosting her color conference. It seems a bit odd that she had the time to sit down with my project.”
I really appreciated receiving this email because I’m quite sure there are other people who might have wondered the same thing.
I love my readers. Even when I sometimes choke on an email (above), that’s when I have the best opportunity to learn how to be even more clear on the copy on my shop page AND in my blog posts!
So first, what you don’t know, is that by breakfast (this is the part that doesn’t show up on my stories, and you should follow me my stories are fun :), I have already put in many hours of work which includes Skyping back and forth with my eDesign team (who are both ahead of me in my time zone). This is because I’m an early riser and because I can work anywhere my laptop is. And also, because I LOVE what I do.
I work exactly like this when I’m on vacation too. Like I will on my upcoming trip to Paris, Amsterdam and Finland coming up next month where I’ll be gone for 5 weeks. I don’t stop working. In fact it’s because I have my laptop with me that I am able to go away for that kind of vacation. And I do have a goal to go on a vacation without my laptop, but I’m not quite there yet.
And second, and this is the most important, there is not a single eDesign presentation that goes out without my input and approval.
This is MY REPUTATION on the line and there is NO WAY that I would send out designs that did not have my 100% approval.
My team works on the intake and presentation. THAT is what takes all the time.
Am I cutting and pasting images and writing the copy that goes into each presentation?
No, I am not.
But every colour comes from me.
And as you’ve just discovered, more time does not equal a more magical colour scheme.
And when you are good at something, you make it look so easy that people don’t think you’ve put in any effort.
Are there some projects that need more time from my entire team? Are there projects that I touch 3 or 4 times? Yes of course, however, as you’ll learn if you attended one of my workshops, there are a lot of projects where we are specifying the same colours over and over again so they are completed way faster.
What does that mean?
It means right now, the trend has moved to black and white so there are lots of presentations where we are specifying the same colours or whites OVER and OVER and OVER again. Because they work. Because they really are the best options. Because they are perfectly beautiful.
That’s why my System for Specifying colour (below) works so well. Because you only need the best and most useful colours in each undertone. And the list of most useful colours is very small indeed. You’ll find the list in my How to Choose Paint Colours ebook here.
And, if you’ve ever spent some time looking at a fan deck, you’ll see a lot of never-used and useless colours in them. Those are not the colours you’ll find in my system.
If we’re talking about exterior brick for example (I personally think brick looks best painted white or cream NOT a colour) there are probably 4 really good choices of white to cream. That’s it. And do you think we give them out to more than one person? You bet!
Read on, this next piece of my clients email fits into this perfectly:
“I could have spent 5 minutes on Pinterest with the exact same outcome for free.”
Yes of course you could have done that. But the difference between you and me is that you don’t know WHY that exact colour combination is the right choice for YOUR home.
Your intuition can’t tell you where the ‘You are here’, arrow is.
If you’ve ever consulted with me and I sent you a colour combination that simply validated what you were already thinking (in other words it was virtually the same), you might have thought “Well I could have done that myself!”, but here’s the difference:
I can tell you WHY my colour choice is the right one.
Armed with the answer to the question WHY the colour I’m specifying is the right one for YOUR home, you can confidently hire a painter and spend thousands and thousands of dollars painting the exterior or interior of your home.
That’s the reason why most of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops are full or almost full (below).
Because designers come to my courses so they can get much faster, not to mention MUCH MORE ACCURATE, than they already are, at nailing the colour. Their intuition is often right (that’s how you know you should be a creative), but what you don’t have and what you need to learn is how to EXPLAIN why.
And here’s the worst part about not being able to explain WHY your colour specifications are right:
If you don’t know WHY your intuition is right, you lack conviction, and your client can take the entire project off the rails with their objections to your colour suggestions.
By the way, this last statement is not intended to offend anyone. If as the client, your ideas were always right, you wouldn’t have needed to hire a designer in the first place.
This is why the faster you learn to be ‘bossy but in a charming way‘ the more accurate you’ll be and the more money you’ll make or save.
One of the reasons homeowners/colour enthusiasts come to my courses is so they can stop making very expensive mistakes on their OWN home.
I have one client who I have worked with many times to help fix colour mistakes she has made on her home. Most recently I helped her with her brand new kitchen that ended up completely wrong. So wrong, that in order to fix it she would have to remove her brand new tile or leave the tile, and paint her cabinets, change the countertops and backsplash in order to make it work.
Had she simply hired me in advance of making the wrong choices or attended my workshop to learn how to do it herself, she would be WAY AHEAD and have saved thousands and thousands of dollars rather than ending up with a kitchen that bothers her every single day.
I consulted with another couple who had received three exterior colour combinations from their designer.
They were horrible. Which is why they hired me to help them.
I threw out all three of them and started again. See how bossy that was? This is exactly how you want to be with your clients. Experienced designers who have been in the business many years can relate to this.
Anyway, when they finally realized that their stone choice was the most important, the husband said “Neither our architect, our builder or our designer told us that we had to choose the stone first’.
Because they had no idea.
Which was obvious looking at the colour schemes this couple had received.
And in all fairness, colour theory training helps no one choose colour in the real world which is all you get in design school right?
Sometimes a reader or upset customer will send a message that is pure gold to me. I get a lesson on providing better ways to give service, I learn to share and teach with more insight and how to understand that if things are not spelled out, people will just make up things up! It helps me be more clear on my choices and why I make them – and most importantly if I make any mistakes that I own them and make it right.
My fall dates are up! I will be in Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, Denver and Orlando. Register here.
PS. We’re hiring! I’m looking for a Colour Designer and a Social Media Manager, go here to apply.
I wrote the first rule of design (according to Maria Killam 🙂 in 2013 when I was working on my garden renovation.
I have had this rule quoted back to me many times by my readers and by students who come to my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops. This simple rule is so powerful that everyone, once they follow it, love their house even more!
The second rule is equally as important.
My second sister Lea recently turned 50. That happened on a Friday (April 19) and we celebrated by spending the weekend in San Francisco. Then, one week later, her long-time partner Greg retired from his career as a Mechanical Engineer.
I find it fascinating that often, big life events happen in bunches.
A few months prior to this momentous occasion, Lea called to share that they were buying an RV camper trailer because they needed an upgrade from their old camper now that Greg was retiring and they could spend more time travelling!
She asked if I could meet her at the Chilliwack location to choose our own floors, countertops and upholstery.
And it’s a good thing they immediately opted to do this, because this is the unfortunate and extremely dated combination that comes standard:
I was quite horrified to see that this countertop is almost identical to one that my sister Elizabeth still lives with in her kitchen from the brown trend. Although we did change the backsplash ASAP here and recently we’ve added some decorating updates which I’ll post soon.
I did a search online to see what people were saying about standard colours in RV Trailers and here’s a comment that I think sums up what we’ve just seen nicely:
“We are looking at new travel trailers. The decor options are hideous! I find this to be so no matter what brand we look at. It is almost keeping me from purchasing one. The interiors are very dark. Charcoal grays, browns, black, and dark cabinets. Floors are mottled tile or ugly wood simulation. No pretty wood patterns or lighter options. Complaining to the companies will probably not make a difference. It would be nice if more options would be available. As it us now, the flooring and carpet are the same, no matter which option you choose, and the other options are fairly close in color. I’m sure these will look more dated than the trailers built in the 70’s!”
Anyway, back to our new choices. We chose an LVP that looks like wood to coordinate with the maple cabinets. The photos are all bad because the trailer was located inside a warehouse along with bad lighting.
Photographing interiors with the lights on casts a yellow light on everything including hotspots.
So, I will post photos when their camper is finished. We chose a floor similar to this one (below).
You always need a spot for a table lamp and a macrame, haha (above)! When Terreeia and I rented one for a few days with my family out in Christina Lake a few years ago, I immediately brought a little table lamp with us to add atmosphere to the camper.
Here’s my sister Lea, testing out the seats!
So whatever you do, NEVER buy a new camper with the standard colours, you’ll instantly inherit colours that are 15 -20 years behind which will make your camper look like it’s already 20 years old.
Here’s what is in common with every beautifully designed interior: choices that are CUSTOM. Which often involve WAITING for weeks even months, for those custom items to be delivered or built.
Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
There’s a huge difference between any room slapped together in a week or less from a big box store with everything available NOW, vs. waiting for your custom, thoughtfully chosen and curated items to arrive.
So instead of being upset that the items your designer has ordered are STILL backordered months and months later, remember this rule. And remember that the world of custom requires patience.
Recently I was in a clients bathroom where she showed me two faucets. A pretty one she had selected for the vanity, and one that was a-close-but-not-quite-match for the tub filler. When I asked why it wasn’t the same as the sink faucet she said it was because they would have had to wait three weeks for it to arrive.
My response was instantaneous: “Oh no, you will HATE the fact that your faucets don’t match as soon as you see it all installed”.
Waiting = beautiful. Just like boring now = timeless later.” Same thing.
Happy Mothers Day to all the wonderful Mom’s who follow my blog! I love and appreciate you!
This post is written by Tricia Firmaniuk, my Senior Colour Designer who lives in Edmonton:
Before I let Tricia talk I want to say one thing. Our eDesign department does a ton of exterior colour consulting. And one thing I’ve noticed more than anything else is the overuse of unfortunate looking stone and too many combinations of different siding (for example).
So many people worry too much about the house looking ‘boring’ and end up spending too much on the facade instead of where they should, the landscaping.
You can have a beautifully designed home with great architecture, but if you don’t decorate your home, if it’s missing area rugs, lamps, artwork and accessories, your house will still not have atmosphere.
So read on to find out how easily you too can have a plan that makes you happy every time you drive up to your home!
The spring before last, a forceful windstorm had my dried out, unhealthy old top heavy spruce trees whipping around ready to fall on the house or the cars on the street. They were at least 60 years old and much too large for our house and yard. They were becoming a hazard.
One had come down a few seasons before (there were 6 in all, a veritable forest) and miraculously, it fell away from the house, between the other trees and missed all the vehicles parked on the street.
But it was a warning.
Taking out 5 gigantic trees is very expensive, and honestly, I love trees and I was reluctant on some level. But that windstorm had me pick up the phone and haggle a bulk deal with a local arborist.
Here is my house with all the trees except the one that already fell. It’s hard to see that there is a house haha.
Curb appeal is more than colour and architecture
It was a shock to see our little house looking exposed for the first time in the 11 years we had lived here. Whereas before, it was hidden from the street, now it was in desperate need of some curb appeal (below).
It’s always smart to hire a professional, even if you have some expertise.
It can be really tricky to look at your own home and design dilemmas clearly and objectively, being too close to the forest to see the trees 😉
Consider hiring a professional even if you have a measure of expertise
Before joining Maria, I had a small gardening business with some amazing clients with gorgeous gardens that I had the privilege of maintaining and reworking as necessary. It was so much fun. Creating arrangements in planters, redesigning beds, managing soil and plants to keep things thriving.
Here’s a planter I created along a client’s koi pond
And a couple pics of my own wild back garden.
I did a Master Organic Gardener program back in 2011. It was so fascinating and I can geek out on mychorrizae and compost quite gleefully. All this to say, I know gardens. But that doesn’t mean that I know how best to design a garden layout from scratch complete with hardscaping.
Our house basically looks like a Kleenex box from the outside.
Making the architecture and colour interesting enough to bring the curb appeal would be next to impossible without an expensive redesign. I knew a fabulous landscape design could add the look and feel our little cottage so desperately needed.
Expect a professional to see better possibilities
After sending Mary Ann some simple measurements and the dire before pictures along with pictures of my back garden, she sent me back a beautiful initial drawing that was well beyond my imagination.
Garden Design by MaryAnne White
The first thing you will notice about a professional landscape design (unless it is very contemporary or classical and so deliberately linear and symmetrical) is that there are all kinds of pretty curves. I probably would have run the sidewalk right up the middle. My hubby and I were SO excited when she sent this.
We are planning to build a proper porch in a few years after we get the landscape in, so she drew that in. And she included some small trees to screen the neighbour’s houses and soften the edges of our little box.
The importance of a good foundation planting
One of my biggest garden pet peeves is a scraggly looking foundation planting in front of a light or white house, I had struggled with fixing this issue in some of my client’s gardens, and I was worried about how to create a more polished look. Mary Ann deftly planned for clipped hedges to run along the foundation for a polished and structured look.
And a clipped hedge like this doesn’t need to be too formal. Although I wanted the front garden to be more structured and formal than my back garden, Maryanne thought it would be lovely to combine the structure of the hedge with some of the softer, wispy textures I have going on in the back for contrast.
One of my favourite famous garden designers, Piet Oudolf, uses this strategy all the time (below).
And my back garden is a bit on the wild side. Here are some more images of it below.
I prune all these roses in the spring and then stay out of their way haha
Creating flow and connection
Mary Ann suggested that we incorporate some grasses to create a similar feel that will connect the front and back garden thematically.
One of the particular challenges is that we are in gardening zone 3, so we are quite limited in plant options. Even with hardy plants it’s not uncommon to lose over 20 percent of your perennials after a bitter winter. And good old classic boxwood won’t make it here.
Instead, for the foundation hedge, we decide yews would provide pretty evergreen structure.
I am so grateful to Mary Ann for providing me with a brilliantly structured plan and direction to reign in my rambling love of planting and all plants. Without her design I would still be spinning in circles trying to decide what to do. I can’t tell you what a relief it is!
At this point, the stumps are out, the concrete laid, and the ground has just thawed. The new lawn and beds will be installed soon. I’m so excited to get planting!
No matter how plain your exterior is, you can make it spectacular with a good garden design. No one will notice a plain house with all these gorgeous plants to look at.
Summer is short here, so the trees, evergreens and shrubs will provide structure and interest in the winter too, and that is an important aspect of Maryanne’s design.
Juggling layout, hardscaping, colour, texture, bloom times, structure and seasonal interest all at once is extremely complicated. With the cost of installing a landscape, it a bit crazy NOT to consult a professional.
And one more thing, there are a lot of hardworking landscape companies offering hardscape and “landscape” designs. However, it’s good to be aware that the plantings themselves are what provide most of the interest, so a professional garden designer is really best and truly the most inexpensive part of the entire project.
Once you have a drawing with the list of plantings you can start planting as fast or as slow as you like.
A beautiful landscape is more than hardscaping
Stone walls, planters and walkways are all fine, but you need someone who knows how to use plants themselves in an effective, architectural way. Trees shrubs and perennials are what give your yard life, structure and interest throughout the seasons.
So just like you can’t expect paint to do all the heavy lifting, don’t look only to the facade and hardscape of your house to provide curb appeal. A beautiful garden is the styling and decor of your exterior, the house itself can really just be a backdrop.
Here is where we are right now, just a pretty sidewalk waiting for the rest of the show (below).
Today is Day 3 of my colour workshop in Houston. There’s flooding happening in some neighbourhoods here, I can tell my family doesn’t watch the news because they haven’t called me in alarm to make sure I’m okay!
Houston Specify Colour with Confidence workshop!
One more thing, I was so exited to receive this email from the fabulous and talented Richard Rabel who was the Senior Vice President of Christies for 10 years and now has his own private art consulting and interior design business in New York City (below).
Back in October 2014, I decided to attend your Specify Color with Confidence course in Toronto. All that happened because I felt I needed a better way to see color for my projects, a key component for a young interior design practice.
I want to thank you for the opportunities this has opened for my business. This year I’m one of the designers who was selected to do a space for the venerable Kips Bay Showhouse in NYC. This was in part possible because of what I learned from you.
Here is his gorgeous room (below) I’m in love with the flowers!
In April my sister Lea (above left) turned 50. Since I was already going to be in San Francisco for one of my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops, I suggested my Mom and two sisters join me there for the weekend.
We stayed at the Westin St. Francis and this was the view from our room overlooking Union Square. My Mom took this photo, she’s such a good photographer!
When everyone arrived, I had arranged for birthday balloons in the room for the occasion!
My sister Lea Junttila | It was not too early for champagne that day!
While the sisters shopped on Saturday, my Mom took in the sights on a double decker bus (above).
I also saw one of the most beautiful hallways I’ve ever stepped into:
Gorgeous blue wavy, watery carpet surrounded by murals of the Golden Gate Bridge. Obviously my iPhone pics don’t do it justice, however it was just beautiful!
Also a great example of classic and timeless decorating! You would have no idea, just by looking at the colours, when this was installed.
Then on Sunday night, we had some photos taken by Catie from Flytographer and she was amazing!
Another pic by my Mom!
I’m so lucky to live so close to my Mom and sisters!
Terreeia and I leave for Houston before daybreak Monday morning! There’s still time to jump in, my Specify Colour with Confidence workshop starts Wednesday and there’s 2 seats left! New Jersey is the following week, register here.
In the 90s and early 2000s you would often see three or four earthy colours ‘coordinated’ in an exterior ‘colour palette’.
Paint stores are still filled with brochures that show this kind of combination.
Brown, with slate blue and a touch of muted orange. Or rust with olive green and beige.
But stick those colours on your house, and it is sure to look dated and disjointed with all the other colours and elements vying for attention.
To create a more current AND classic look for an exterior, it’s much better to go for a fresh and unified look. This means picking a colour for any siding that needs to coordinate with stone to provide some contrast, but still relate.
It’s not about choosing colours that are complimentary.
My lovely eDesign client recently sent this note and some lovely after photos of her exterior after completing an eDesign Exterior Consultation with us.
I just wanted to write and say thanks for y’alls help with picking the colors for my house! My husband and I had been going back and forth for MONTHS about what colors to pick and had driven through countless neighborhoods trying to see something that we liked.
Finding something that would work with the stone on our house was just giving us fits.
I had heard Maria on the How To Decorate Podcast from Ballard and I knew that if I came to her that I’d get the right answer. I debated spending the money for the consultation but ultimately, I’m spending thousands of dollars painting the exterior of my house; I need to get it right the first time. I knew if I spent the money to paint my house and hated the end result I’d be kicking myself for not contacting y’all.
I’ve been getting so many compliments on the house and how great it looks. The painters even said to me after they were done that they were nervous about the purple door (poetry plum) because usually the purple that people ask for is a red-y purple and they thought that it was going to look bad but the Poetry Plum looked great.
Thank you again!
Here’s the before photo
It’s a pretty and classic house with a timeless black roof and shutters. But the orange and pink stone is very very bossy. And the olive green colour on the siding was not relating to it in any way. If anything, it was making the stone look even pinker by comparison.
If this house had no stone at all, it could be virtually any pretty colour, greige, white, blue, yellow. But stone is bossy and the siding needs to coordinate with it perfectly or it will never look right.
Obviously, painting the siding a matching rusty colour would not be the most current choice.
Here is a close up of the stone with white paper.
How an eDesign consultation works:
For eDesign consultations, we request that you send photos of any fixed elements with white paper so I can accurately identify the neutral undertones. This is what makes my eDesign department unique. It is the only place you can come to get your colours right with the help of my System of Understanding Undertones plus my over 20 years of experience.
The overall read of this stone is orange. The siding needs to be as fresh and current as possible while still relating to the earthy stone.
In order to get the perfect creamy colour for the shakes that is not too stark for the warm stone, but fresh enough to contrast nicely with dark shutters, I go through a process of elimination of the possible undertones like this:
Process of elimination:
A pale Green Beige would read cream and could possibly work, but it won’t be perfect because it won’t look warm enough to relate perfectly to the orange stone. If this stone was only on the foundation, it would be an option, but the stone is right in the middle of the house, so the siding colour should relate as perfectly as possible.
A pale Green Gray would look too cool next to the stone.
A pale Pink Beige would not look quite right with the orange. Orange beige and Pink Beige together tend to just look like a mismatch.
A pale Yellow Beige would look too clean and yellow to work with the earthy orange stone.
Gold Beige, would not be warm enough to relate to the stone and would also be a dated choice because it would not look fresh.
A pale Orange Beige would technically coordinate, but being beige, it would read quite yellow so it would not look very current.
Violet Gray or Blue Gray would not relate in any way and would definitely look like a mistake, eek!
What’s left? Taupe. Taupe works beautifully to update peach and orange finishes. A pale taupe will read creamy and warm without looking too yellow.
Here are the slides we sent this client to help her visualize the colours I recommended.
I always give at least two options, where there are two equally viable possibilities. In this case, I recommended a both a lighter and slightly deeper taupe to test.
You can see in the picture below with white paper that the existing windows and trim are a deep almond/beige colour. I recommended that she lighten them up with a soft, creamy white to work better with the fresher new body colour without being too stark for the stone.
Here’s what I specified for the front door:
For her front door, I recommended a muted eggplant to compliment the orange stone for a sophisticated look.
I also included an option for a black door to match the shutters in case she preferred that.
So once again, here is the before:
And here is the beautiful after!
After: Body Colour SW 7034 Balanced Beige Trim SW 6105 Divine White
We’re off to Houston Monday morning very early! The course starts Wednesday and there’s 3 seats left! New Jersey the following week has 6 seats left. Register here.
After we left Toronto, we flew to Little Rock for a meeting and yesterday before our flight back, we drove around and I snapped this photo of this blue grey house with crisp white trim and a fabulous red front door because I love the way the homeowner planted matching Azaleas out front.
Nothing brings grey to life faster than a sticking colour like red! And red is trending again.
A new front door colour is the perfect update for spring
Spring is the perfect time to update your front entrance. To bring some new energy and curb appeal to your home after a long winter.
I suspect that people generally spend a lot more time spinning in circles deciding on the right colour for their front door than they do actually painting it. My front door posts are always among the most popular. People clearly shop for front door colours online, so I thought I would give you some new inspiration since it’s the right time of year.
You really do need to take the surroundings and the colour of your house into consideration to find the perfect colour. You can push the clean and dirty rule a little bit with a front door colour, but if you go too clean on a taupe, or beige, brick or stone house, it won’t look harmonious.
Some front door ideas if you have an earthy exterior colour palette
In general, it’s a good idea if you have an earthier exterior, to look for a much more muted or “dirty” version of the colour you like to test for your front door. Trending deep forest greens often work well for brick and stone houses (below).
Greens tend to connect readily to the landscape, so they tend to settle right in and look right at home. And different greens tend to play well together.
If you have an earthy house, often all greens and some white or cream looks best for plantings. But you can also use some richer golden yellows, rusty oranges, plummy purples and deep burgundy reds in your planters and landscape.
Muted eggplant is another good colour to try with any brick, stone or earth toned house. There are lots of pretty purple and violet flowers you can plant to coordinate.
And if you like blue, you may be able to go with a more subtle slate blue with an earthier house like this below.
Fresh exterior palettes can be accented with almost any colour you love
If you have a lighter colour on your exterior, with white or cream trim, you have a lot of options for your front door colour. Too many maybe, it can get hard to narrow it down.
One place to look if you want to spruce up your front entrance is to your interior palette for inspiration. But what if decorating your interior is the next project? And right now, your front entrance is really what needs love?
If you’re not sure where to begin, you can arrive at just the right colour by picking out some decor for your front porch first. A pillow for a chair or bench, or a colourful outdoor rug is a great jump off point for a front door colour.
Often, all it takes is repeating the colour with vibrant flowers in your landscape and planters to be able to pull in a fun new colour.
I had fun putting together some inspiration boards, complete with sourcing links below to help inspire you to refresh your front entrance for spring.
True blue flowers are hard to find, but there are some. Some varieties of delphiniums and hydrangeas are quite blue. But you don’t have to match them perfectly. Any flowers in the blue range will read as a nice repeat of this pretty blue.
This kind of clear blue happens to look lovely with fresh green foliage anyway.
Pink front doors are trending like never before. It’s so great how the world has opened up to this fresh and romantic colour. I would not be able to resist pairing it with old fashioned pink roses. Maybe climbing ones.
Purple is one of my favourite colours for a front door. It’s a decadent jewel tone that always looks rich and luxurious. This purple is pretty clean, but as I said, there are lots of muted, dirtier versions of purple leaning a bit more towards brown and grey that work beautifully with earthier palettes.
Having professional architectural and interior design training means that everyone expects you to just be good with colour. Yes we have an ‘eye for design’, but that doesn’t mean we get it right 100% of the time.
Thanks to this unique and totally original way of looking at colour that Maria teaches, I can now say that I can get it right every single time and I can confidently back up my argument with facts rather than fluff.
Thank you for helping me see colour in such a unique way.
This is a situation I see all the time. A perfectly timeless and versatile white kitchen with a bossy, earthy backsplash.
I’m convinced it’s because most people, when designing a kitchen, make the easy mistake of thinking of the finishes as the final product. And if your kitchen finishes are the end point, well then it seems extremely important to make sure you add something ‘interesting’ when it comes to choosing a backsplash.
This is why I see so many odd backsplash choices in otherwise perfectly versatile white kitchens. The backsplash is usually the last to be chosen and installed. And that is where people suddenly feel the need to make a ‘unique’ and ‘creative’ selection.
My suggestion is to avoid thinking of the installed finishes like tile, in kitchens, bathrooms and on fireplaces, as the final product. Instead, it’s best to think in terms of creating a fresh and versatile backdrop or CANVAS FOR DECORATING.
This is a much better goal.
If your home is a timeless canvas, you have endless possibilities for decorating with colour in fabrics and decor. You can make it as serene or interesting as you like. And you can change it up as often as you want.
My dear reader Amy sent in an email last summer when I was asking you all for examples of rooms that were bothering you, that you thought might be a case of “clean” colour vs. “dirty”.
I am a longtime reader and really look forward to your blog posts.
These pictures are of my kitchen/ great room. I’m starting to interview designers to help me divide the space into cozier areas, it’s big but not spacious once sofas & tables are added.
The wall color really bothers me, it is a north facing room, the kitchen is on the west side. The yellow cheers it in winter, but fights with the pink of travertine, though it coordinates with the ledgestone on the fireplace.
In the photo, the grey-green glass tile inlay seems to just confuse everything. Is this what you speak about clean/dirty on your blog or just fighting undertones?
We moved into this house 5 years ago and haven’t changed a thing, in some ways I feel the owner before me had a strong design sense and I didn’t want to mess it up.
Now after 5 years, I feel like I am living in someone else’s house. I’m planning some built-ins to the right of the fireplace and extending the wood flooring.
I’m wary of more white cabinetry, so probably some color there. I feel like the stone needs to relate to something in the kitchen but it doesn’t. All the white trim is 50% SW marshmallow– so a little orange and it seems to match the cabinetry. The walls are SW Blonde in this room.
Amy, your instincts are good. Your kitchen is very pretty and with a few tweaks it will be perfect. You’re right that the earthy stone fireplace and travertine backsplash simply do not work with your fresh black and white kitchen.
There are a few of issues at play here:
1. Accent Tile
The glass accent tile is completely unnecessary and clearly the result of assuming the backsplash should add ‘interest’. And as I’ve said often, does anyone ever love an accent tile they inherited?
You’re not alone here.
2. Earthy and Fresh
The earthy pink beige travertine is too earthy for your fresh black and white kitchen. This is closely related to the issue of clean and dirty, but it’s more about whites. Your nearly true white cabinets are simply too stark to relate to earthy travertine.
A good rule of thumb is that, your backsplash tile needs to relate to your cabinet colour. Travertine works with cream cabinets, not white.
The black countertop is also part of a fresher look, too fresh to be married to a travertine backsplash.
3. Conflicting Undertones
You’re right, there is an undertone conflict between your sunny yellow beige wall colour and your pink beige travertine.
Yellow beige always makes pink beige look muddy and dirty.
It’s common to see ‘yellow’ or ‘gold’ in pink beige, because all beiges are yellow based neutrals. They need to be compared one to one in order to see their subtle undertone differences (pink, orange, yellow, green, gold).
Yellow beige and pink beige are both creamy, yellow based neutrals, but the difference is enough that they don’t play well together.
4. The Stone Fireplace does not Relate to your White Kitchen
You are right that the earthy ledgestone fireplace does not belong at all, period. It in no way relates to your kitchen. It should be married to a deep brown wood stained kitchen from the Tuscan trend. Not a fresh black and white one. Again an issue of earthy and fresh.
So what’s the best fix?
The Investment Fix
1. Replace the Backsplash
The big fix would be to replace the backsplash with white subway tile that matches your cabinets. This will make your kitchen live up to it’s beautiful potential and give you the flexibility to decorate with any colours you want.
Replacing a backsplash does not have to be expensive. If you are handy, you may even be able to tackle it yourself. And classic 3″ x 6″ subway tile is not expensive. You can find good options at your local big box store.
Classic black and white kitchen with white subway tile via DecorPad
2. Renovate the Fireplace
Since you are considering adding built ins, you may be open to remodelling your fireplace in the process. I recommend a simple, classic white millwork fireplace with a black insert to relate perfectly to your black and white kitchen.
The inexpensive but very effective fix is paint. Did you know you can paint your backsplash? There are SO many kitchens out there that could be tremendously improved with a coat of epoxy primer and the right paint on the backsplash tile. It can look good for many years, or serve as an excellent interim fix.
It is often smart to go with the inexpensive fix and reserve room in your budget for new furnishings and decor. Too often homeowners invest all they have in renovation projects, and don’t budget for decorating, which is where all the fun begins, not to mention the look and the feel.
The stone fireplace can also be greatly improved with your fresh white kitchen with a coat of paint.
I don’t recommend latex paint for stone (although it can work for brick). For stone, chalk paint creates a prettier finish that looks natural and not plastic.
You can still add built ins with this super easy solution.
This is what will take your kitchen to the next level. While your island countertop looks like the right size for your kitchen (below), the best update here as your footprint does not need a re-design would be to have your island re-built to look like a piece of furniture.
Once the conflicts in your finishes are gone, you will have a great canvas for decorating. Depending on what you add with furnishings and decor, you can add some colour on the walls to brighten it up, or you can go with a serene neutral.
Thank you so much Amy for sending in your question and photos! You have a lovely home.
I’m always looking for good examples to use for my Ask Maria column. If you have a question about a room that’s bothering you that you haven’t seen covered on the blog, please clean up your room and snap the best photos you can, and
I just finished a fabulous 3 days with 36 True Colour Experts in my SOLD OUT Toronto live workshop!
There’s still spaces left in all 4 of my remaining Spring workshops: