Designers’ Favorite Paint Colors……….

I never turn down paint advice, no matter how good we are, until that paint is on the wall – there is always room for surprise! Usually it’s a small one and easily corrected. There is NO way to have tried all the thousands and thousands of paint colors out there. I find I usually stick to Benjamin Moore as I’m most familiar with their colors and the paint behavior but I always appreciate other designer’s take on paint colors as all this information just adds to our collective paint wisdom :)


24 Great Colors

Photograph by Chris Leaman.” src=”” alt=”Great Home Design Guide

Here’s another great article on Paint:

Great Home Design from the Washingtonian

Bar Harbor Beige? Oval Room Blue? Green Tea?
And 30 Other Colors That Interior Designers Like

To get an idea of designers’ favorite paint colors, look around your grocery store. “People are into all these really nice vegetable colors,” says Zoe Kyriacos, an interior designer and architectural color consultant in Takoma Park.
Consider a few current favorites: Duron’s Roasted Red Pepper and Benjamin Moore’s Chili Pepper, both deep reds with yellow undertones that have replaced burgundy in libraries and dining rooms. Then there are Farrow & Ball’s Radicchio, a bold radish, and Brinjal, a deep eggplant.
In the ’90s, clear colors—such as lime green and tangerine—with contrasting white trim were all the rage, says Mary Douglas Drysdale, a designer in Northwest DC. “They were bright, strong, optimistic colors.” The new colors are more muted and earthy, with stronger brown, gray, and yellow influences. Many coordinate better with cream than with white.
Strange as it seems, the turmoil of the past few years has affected which colors are in style, says Dawn Stoecklin, who works on Benjamin Moore’s color strategy. Shades of blue, the most conservative color, are popular.
Colors have a longer life span in interior design than in fashion—about ten years—so it’s safe to embrace trends. Just remember that the lighting in your home can change how a color looks on the walls. Before you paint, test the color on a wall or a piece of poster board and make sure you like it in daylight and artificial light.
“Never paint anything that you have not lived with for a couple of days,” says Nestor Santa-Cruz, a partner with SKB Architecture and Design in Northwest DC.
Some brands offer sample pots or large sheets coated in actual paint, like a giant paint chip.
Warm colors—shades with lots of yellow or red—can make a room cheerful or cozy. They’re believed to stimulate conversation and appetite, and they brighten spaces that don’t get enough natural light.
Warm colors can make a room feel too hot, though, if it gets lots of sunlight. They work better in north-facing rooms than in those with southern exposures.
Red is a traditional choice for dining rooms and studies. In addition to the pepper colors mentioned above, designers like Duron’s Cochineal. “It’s the kind of red you’d expect to see in an English library,” says Mathilda Cox, a Northwest DC designer.
Dining rooms don’t have to be red. Farrow & Ball’s Cooking Apple Green, a soft, yellowy color—not sharp like a Granny Smith—got raves from many designers as a dining-room hue. “It’s absolutely yummy!” Cox says.
Forget the idea that small rooms need light colors. A dark, rich color—like chocolate brown—can make a room seem less confined. Because it’s so dark, chocolate works best where you won’t spend too many daytime hours—powder rooms, dining rooms, libraries, and bedrooms. Two favorites: Farrow & Ball’s Wainscot, a true, rich brown, and Mahogany, chocolate with a purple tinge.
Gold is another hot color, in subtler shades than the harvest gold of the 1970s. Eric Crowe, director of home decor at the Color Wheel in McLean, says his customers have been pleased with Benjamin Moore’s Concord Ivory and Straw. For a more saturated color, try Benjamin Moore’s Dorset Gold.
Yellows are inviting and work in big spaces, but “be careful of the lemon factor,” says Victoria Neale, a designer in Northwest DC. Farrow & Ball’s Hound Lemon is a soft, safe shade. Christopher Nutter, a designer for McDonald & Associates in McLean, loves Farrow & Ball’s Citron, a stronger yellow that needs a big, open room with lots of contrasting trim.
The same goes for Farrow & Ball’s Orangery, a brownish mustard that several designers praised—with a word of caution. It works best when broken up by built-in bookshelves or used on an accent wall, which is one way to introduce a strong color without overwhelming the room.
In light shades, blues are airy and serene; in darker hues they tend to be moody and dramatic.
Deeper blues such as Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue—a dark aqua—and Benjamin Moore’s Providence Blue and Westcott Navy—both slate blues—are stylish choices. Although conventional wisdom says to avoid blue in kitchens because it isn’t appetizing, these shades look great against white cabinets.
Nestor Santa-Cruz recommends these colors in a lacquer finish. “A sheen makes a darker color appear lighter,” he says.
Sheree Friedman, a designer in Potomac, likes to balance Benjamin Moore’s Down Pour Blue, a crisp sky blue, with the warmth of Berkshire Beige. She uses White Diamond for trim.
Light blues create a peaceful mood in bedrooms, but beware clear blues—even in very pale shades they can look institutional. Blues with some gray, yellow, or red undertones work better. Try Benjamin Moore’s Windmill Wings, a periwinkle, or Crystal Blue, a light blue-green.
Blues also make interesting ceiling colors. Try two designer favorites by Benjamin Moore: Morning Sky Blue and Beacon Gray, a sky blue with a tinge of gray.
Neutral colors—which aren’t too warm or too cool—can be soothing. They make great backdrops for colorful art, rugs, or fabrics, and some designers recommend using them in living rooms and other public spaces because everyone likes them.
These shades are deceptively tricky to work with because many have undertones that are hard to see on a paint chip but become dominant once the paint is applied to four walls. Without intending to, you can end up with a pink or green room.
Benjamin Moore’s neutral beiges include Bar Harbor Beige, Stone Hearth, and Alexandria Beige. For a safe taupe, try Farrow & Ball’s Old White, a light shade, or Mouse’s Back, a true, deep taupe.
Sage green is another nice neutral. Cox recommends Duron’s Green Tea.
Most designers say white is too cold and impersonal to use on walls. But Darryl Carter, a top Washington designer based in Northwest DC, says he uses white on walls when displaying art or when painting small spaces, especially if you can see from one room into the next. It’s serene, it reflects light, and it can hide imperfections.
Carter used Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White, a very warm white, throughout his house and recommends Benjamin Moore’s Simply White in a satin finish for trim.
Premixed whites and creams from Benjamin Moore are a good bet for trim and ceilings because they’re true neutrals. Designers also recommend Duron’s Shell White. Another strategy is to use the palest possible version of your wall color on the trim. It will appear white.
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Denise Kersten ( is a writer in Annapolis.

24 Great Colors

By Denise Kersten Wills

Sunshine on the Bay? Cooking Apple Green? Here are paint colors designers love.

When it comes to getting the most bang for your decorating buck, nothing beats paint. It’s the most cost-effective way to change the look of a room.

But with thousands of color choices—you can even mix colors to create custom shades—paint may be one of the toughest design decisions you make.

Not surprisingly, designers have a lot to say about paint. We asked them to name some of the shades they like best.

Not Afraid of Color?

“One of my all-time favorites is Farrow & Ball’s Cooking Apple Green,” says DC designer Victoria Neale. It’s not quite as yellow as real apples, she says. She likes it in kitchens, sunrooms, bedrooms—almost anywhere except a living room, where it might be too strong.

Barbara Hawthorn, an interior designer in McLean, is a fan of Farrow & Ball Orangery, a bright shade that would warm up a living room or dining room—“if you are not afraid of color,” she says.

Gaithersburg designer Samantha Friedman used Farrow & Ball Hague Blue, “a rich, decadent” shade, to create a striking dining room in the Washington Design Center’s Spring Design House. “It’s such an intriguing color,” says Friedman, who thinks it would also look good in a powder room, on a ceiling, or in a living room below a chair rail.

Rockville designer Sandra Meyers likes Benjamin Moore Umbria Red, a bright red with purple undertones that would look especially good in a kitchen. “But you could put it almost anywhere,” she says. “It’s a happy red.”

Nestor Santa-Cruz, a design director with Gensler, an international design firm, suggests another cheery color, Farrow & Ball India Yellow, which he describes as “a mango color that makes me smile.” He especially likes it for dining rooms, either on all the walls or one accent wall.

Pale Glow

“This year, what’s interesting to me is yellow,” says Reston designer Susan Gulick. “I’ve never been a yellow person, but I’m liking it, especially with gray and white.” She suggests Benjamin Moore Sunshine on the Bay—a very sunny color—with River Reflections, a warm gray. The combo would work well in a bathroom, laundry room, study, or kid’s room.

Jennie Curtis, of the design firm Material Differences in Potomac Falls, likes Farrow & Ball Borrowed Light, a subtle duck-egg blue that she uses on ceilings or mixed with tans and whites.

For bedrooms and bathrooms, DC designer Liz Levin suggests two soft Benjamin Moore shades: Palladian Blue, a pretty spa blue, and Celery Salt, “a very pale color that gives off a hint of green and cream.”

As a backdrop for bookshelves, Santa-Cruz is fond of Farrow & Ball Terre d’Egypte. “It reminds me of an Hermès box but with a terra-cotta twist,” he says.

At the DC Design House this spring, Draza Stamenich of McLean won lots of praise for the laundry room, where he used Farrow & Ball Teresa’s Green. “I’m in love with it,” he says. “It’s a very refreshing minty green.” He says it would be just as nice in a family or living room.

Getting Cozy

In the Design House, DC designer Iantha Carley achieved a cozy sitting room off the master bedroom with Farrow & Ball Dauphin, a deep taupe. She designed the master bath too, using Mouse’s Back, a lighter Farrow & Ball taupe.

Chevy Chase designer Sue Burgess likes chocolate browns but says they’re tricky because many have red undertones; she prefers bronzey versions such as Benjamin Moore Middlebury Brown.

Goes With Anything

For living rooms, dining rooms, and spaces where you want to highlight art, Curtis favors Pastry and Sesame by Pratt & Lambert. “They’re bronze creams, so they go with many colors,” she says. Another favorite is Benjamin Moore Barely Beige, a true beige that’s easy to coordinate with other colors.

Hawthorn recommends Benjamin Moore Straw, a neutral with “a touch of yellow, but not so much that it takes over.” It’s a safe color you can use in any room.

Neale likes two by Farrow & Ball: Farrow’s Cream, “a beautiful warm beige,” and Dorset Cream, which has a terra-cotta undertone.

Burgess is happy with Benjamin Moore Putnam Ivory, a not-too-yellow beige she recently used in a living room, library, and sunroom. “It’s warm and easy and pretty with whites,” she says.

Levin is a fan of Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray, a pretty gray with lots of blue in it that looks great in Craftsman houses and other homes with lots of trim.

Meyers recommends another Benjamin Moore neutral, Bleeker Beige, which she says goes with anything: “It’s like an amoeba. It adjusts and can be more gray or more peach. It really blends.”

This article first appeared in the August 2009 issue of Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

Print | 01. Aug 2009 | By Denise Kersten Wills
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