Paint Tips From My 1850s Renovation

Apr 25, 2018

I wish I could tell you that since we are professionals in the home design industry, things are easy breezy with this renovation project!  I knew it wouldn't be the case.  Everyone warned me of the woes of home renovation while living in the house.  (Did I mention WITH KIDS??!!!!) It has been a test of our marriage and parenting-- and we are only a few months into it.  My parents came recently and immediately checked themselves into the nearest hotel.  (The paint fumes and dust are no joke!)  We had no kitchen at all for so long that our young daughters were starting to think that their bedroom is actually our dining room and their bathroom is our kitchen.  Not even a microwave for a while!  PB&Js made over the kids bathroom sink and cold pizza leftovers from yesterday's delivery went from charming to tired very fast.

Can you tell I'm already kinda over the chaos?  Ok, but here is the good news:  It is already looking beautiful!  After a teensy weensie (ok enormous) fit I threw over paint color (ok 2 fits... over 2 different rooms), we have arrived at some excellent decisions.  Our daughters' shared bedroom is now a beautiful Sherwin Williams Alyssum, our livingroom/kitchen is now SW Iron Ore, our dining/playroom is going to be Behr Superior Blue, our trim is going to be SW High Reflective White, and most of the rest of the house will be SW Toque White.  Whew!  Did you count all those?  That is FIVE different colors that my husband and I fought over agreed on!  So, here are six tips for painting we have learned so far.

PRO TIP #1: Stick with same brand of paint!

My parents had a little "slumber party" at the hotel for our kids so we could get some work done.  We had spent all day painting the kitchen/living room and were so excited to admire our work and just relax.  Until we got home and my husband said, "Ummmm.... babe.... why is there a splotch of gray over the mantle in the middle of our black walls???"  

In our attempt to buy a higher quality paint, we switched midway in the room from Home Depot paint to Sherwin Williams.  Same color, just different brand of base paint.  Results = horror.  Don't. Ever. Switch. Brands.  Once you start with one, you must remain loyal.  Home Depot-- we are basically married to you now. 

PRO TIP #2:  Paint Against White.

Most of the walls in our home are a beige, fleshy color... popular in the early 1990s when the home was last painted. Where the trim isn't a chocolate brown, it is cream. If I painted my swatches for color selection directly onto the old peachy paint, the peach would skew my perception of the new paint color. Even if I painted up against the cream trim, the yellow in it would change the way the new paint color looked. Since I knew I was changing the trim to a more true white, I painted a very large patch of primer on the wall before I tried my new colors out. For example, in the dining/family room, I wanted something inspired by Sherwin Williams 2018 color of the year, Oceanside. Blue is on the opposite side of the color wheel from orange, so if I had painted my blue color swatches directly against the peach/orange walls, the colors would have intensified each other -- and I wouldn't have been able to get a true read on the different blues I was picking from.

PRO TIP #3: High Reflective White

Picking colors is so hard and recommending them is even harder.  We can tell you what we used, but after photo editing, different lights, even how dirty your windows are.... every color looks different on every wall.  Even in the same room! But the one color we love and can recommend is Sherwin Williams' High Reflective White.  Use it in satin finish on trim and matte/flat on the ceiling.  We are using it on trim, doors, cabinets, and built-ins.  It is beautiful, clean, and a true white that looks great with everything we have tried it next to so far. Big caveat, though...We have only been looking at 'cleaner' colors, without any yellow undertones. With 'dirty' or muted colors (with more than one undertone), the pure white will make your paint selection look dingy. You will learn all about undertones and choosing color in the Staging Design Professional™ courses.

PRO TIP #4: Add light.

Our house was built in 1852-- before the invention of light bulbs.  So there are no overhead lights in the whole house.  Although we have been working on adding lights to our ceilings, we have been picking paint in the dark.  Don't do this.  Paint looks soooooooo different in different lights.  We ended up resorting to the flashlight app on our phones and every lamp we own. Let paint sit a full day and check it in different lights before you commit.  If you are in the Northeast in winter like we were.... well, you pretty much just pick the color on a wing and a prayer until the spring-- and on our favorite recommendations.

PRO TIP #5:  Don't Fight Over Paint

At Staging Studio, we believe in transforming lives, not just houses. Good design, furniture placement, and color can benefit relationships. There are a zillion colors to choose from and it can be overwhelming.  Don't let the decision be something to fight over with your partner. Instead, see it as a way of finding harmony in the home you share. If your partner loves color and you crush on neutrals, consider going with neutral paint and adding color in decor accents and pillows. And if you are fighting over which shade of black (like we did), take a step back and remember that your relationship is so much important than the difference between Iron Ore and Tricorn Black. 

Pro Tip # 6: Decide!

If you are living with 6 different paint colors on your walls because you had to find the perfect one and test them all in every corner and in every light... It is time to let go of perfection and just decide.  Trust yourself.  You know which one just makes you happy. Living with paint swatch chaos on your walls is just no way to live. Pick one so you can start enjoying your beautiful space! 

Written by Andress Eichstadt, Creative Director for Staging Studio.

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