Paint Paralysis is Real & You Might Have it!

Scared of Picking a Paint Color? You're Not Alone.


Published on 28 Nov 2017

Paint Paralysis Syndrome

All of us have done it—picked a paint color we thought would change our world, only to find out we were mistaken. No big deal right? Not exactly.

“It changed our world alright, but not for the better. With that little (feels big) failure tucked away, we hauled that experiential luggage along to our next paint project only to find ourselves inexplicably paralyzed from being able to pick a color,” explained Shannon Scarrella, Hirshfield’s color expert during our latest Lunch & Learn presentation at Murphy Bros. this week.

Shannon Scarrella presents "Paint Paralysis" to the staff at Murphy Bros.

“It truly is a fear of failure mind set that makes people indecisive, stressed out and in some cases literally incapable of choosing a paint color. They just can’t afford to be wrong again,” Shannon explained to the Murphy Bros. team.

“It’s true,” commented Marianne Balousek, Murphy Bros. Paint & Fine Finishing Coordinator, we’ve had clients go through literally dozens of different samples of “white” paint and still couldn’t find the right one. Of course we didn’t tell them there are more than 1,000 shades of white to look at, which would be like saying here’s 1,000 ways to get it wrong.”

From Left: Shannon Scarrella, Design/Build Consultants Nadia Glynn & Courtney Cartee.

Guidance Wanted—Permission Too

Scarrella went on to explain that what people want is basically two things: guidance and permission.

“They want someone they can trust to narrow the focus down to a manageable group. Hirshfields has narrowed it down to the 100 most popular paints. They are popular because they work over and over again. Start there and you’ll probably end there,” Shannon explained. “The second thing they want is permission to be wrong. I remind customers, that we have all done it, selected a color that wasn’t perfect. The good news? It’s just paint and we can fix it. In most cases if they are using a consultant, like someone at Murphy Bros. or Hirshfields, we are going to guide them in the process to selecting a color that works well in their space, Shannon concluded.

Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year, Caliente AF-290, is strong, radiant and full of energy.

Color of the Year? Whose?

Whether you talk to Dan Flaherty, paint guru at Murphy Bros. or Shannon at Hirshfields, there is only one thing to really remember about the “color of the year”. It’s marketing mostly. The last thing in the world you want to do it try to be trendy by rushing out and painting your living room say, Caliente, which is the 2018 Benjamin Moore color of the year.

"Caliente is the signature color of a modern architectural masterpiece; a lush carpet rolled out for a grand arrival; the assured backdrop for a book-lined library; a powerful first impression on a glossy front door. The eye can’t help but follow its bold strokes. Harness the vitality.”

Shannon shows a half dozen paint manufacturers and their "color of the year" selections.

“Pantone used to determine the Color of Year, but now EVERY paint manufacturer does it. If we actually took everybody’s color of the year and used them in our homes we’d have a three ring circus,” explains Scarrella.

So, what do these colors all have in common? Someone did research on it of course, made a decision and then explained why they chose the color. Customers want the same thing: a decision and an answer as to why the color works.

How do we take the fear out of selecting color?

We asked Scarrella to provide us with a short list of things to consider as a way to take the fear out of selecting color and make the process easier.

  1. Start with what’s already in your home. Your home is filled with things you love, right? Create a grouping of your favorite items and use that as a potential guide to the color parings you already like.
  2. Use artwork and furniture as your pallet. Surprisingly, most artwork has many neutral colors. At the very least it represents colors you’ve already picked. Your Furniture can indicate the mood or the look you are trying to achieve. Is the furniture large or oversized? Chances are you are looking for comfort, which we associate with warm and inviting colors. Is your furniture tailored? Clean lines might be where you should be heading.
  3. Fixed Features as indicators. Flooring, stone, tile, cabinets are items that aren’t going anywhere and are unlikely to change. That’s why they demand major consideration in color choices. Ignore them at your peril. This is true for exterior as well. Use fixed features to narrow down color selections.
  4. Use large samples. What may look good small does not always look great large! First, narrow down the color selections to 2-3 choices—anymore and the decision becomes even unnecessarily painful. Then use a large white tag board and paint out the colors you are thinking about to see the undertones.

Why not sample colors in the middle of the wall that you are going to paint? Because color will look different depending on what color you surround it with. It begs the question, why surround the color with something you are planning on getting rid of or covering up, let alone stripes of several other colors you are considering? Using large samples or painting the colors on tag board allows you to move color considerations next to fixed features as well as different light sources, during different times of the day, which can dramatically change the impression and tone of almost any color.

Murphy Bros. 2017 Fall Remodelers Showcase Home—Benjamin Moore 1056 Edgewood Rocks.

Paint Color—The Sleeper to Success

Paint is often seen as the finishing touch to a room, but while often one of the lesser expense aspects to a remodel project it can literally make or break the overall aesthetic of the home.

“We’ve have all gone into someone’s home and felt really good about it. Why? It is usually a combination of color that makes you feel good. Whether it be warm or cool, it just feels right. This is usually a sign that the color was done right and there is good balance. But we’ve also gone into a home where something is just off. It could be that the undertones of the paint colors are incorrect. It could also be an accent wall was painted, but it was the wrong wall creating conflicting focal points. Or it simply could be that the color was wrong to start with,” explained Scarrella, “It’s okay. It can always be fixed.”

Hirshfield’s offers a host of “how to videos” and an in-store free service as well as an In-home Color Consult for a small fee.