Friday, February 24, 2012

Cosmetic Solutions for Low Ceilings

If you want to make a low ceiling look and feel taller, which in turn can make a small room look larger, there are several simple cosmetic measures you can take, and they cost little or nothing.

In this room you see decisions that lowered the ceiling. Read about the solutions, then see how many issues you can identify. The answers are at the bottom.**

Solutions with Paint
Improper Accenting Lowers the Ceiling
  • Don't accent the crown molding or the baseboards. Paint them in the wall color, using a satin enamel for durability, or to add a subtle difference in texture.
  • Use the wall color on the ceiling; or
  • Use a much lighter version of the wall color on the ceiling.  Many designers will spec a quarter or half formula of the color; however, I often prefer to look at a paint strip to get an idea of what several lighter versions will look like, before making a choice. Always make a large sample on foam core and tape it to the ceiling to see how it works. Color will change, depending on the orientation in which it's viewed. Never choose a ceiling color holding the sample board vertically!
  • Use a light color on the ceiling that's in low contrast with the wall color. Avoid stark white which will  make the room feel cold.
  • If the room has a chair rail, paint it the wall color to avoid cutting the wall in half.

Window Treatments

  • Hang window treatments at the top of the wall, whenever possible, never at the top of the window
As you see in this sketch, the difference is dramatic. Notice how much larger the right window looks, and how much more light can enter the room.


Decisions that Lowered the Ceiling:

  • The ceiling is darker than the upper section of the wall. 
  • Skimpy crown molding and baseboards have been painted in a high contrast accent color.
  • Chair rail in a high contrast accent color is cutting the room in half.

If  Roger had been asked to paint this room, I would have done a (free) color consultation and suggested:

Option #1 - A Single Wall Color
  • Use a single, warmer wall color to complement the wood floor, and 
  • Paint the skimpy crown, chair rail and baseboard in the wall color. 
  • Choose a lower contrast trim color that complements the new wall color.

Option #2 - Two Wall Colors
  • Use different colors on the upper and lower walls, but choose ones with a similar Light Reflectance Value (LRV) for low contrast.
  • Paint the chair rail (and possibly the ceiling, depending on how light the colors) in the upper wall color.
  • Paint the wall register and baseboards in the lower wall color.
  • Use a lighter color on the ceiling.
  • Choose a lower contrast trim color that complemented the new wall color(s).
If your house has low ceilings and you'd like some expert help, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a paint color consultation. If we do the painting, my guidance is a free part of our services. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Right Color in the Right Place - Interior Strategies

The Accent Color Problem

Many people use an accent color on everything that's not a wall, whether or not it deserves the attention. The result is that the eye goes to the wrong places, often focusing on unattractive details instead of seeing the room as a harmonious whole. Improper accenting also can be detrimental to the architecture when it detracts from the intended focal point in a room, makes the room look smaller or makes the sceiling look lower.
Poor Paint Color Accenting
In this picture you see what usually happens. It's the "before" picture in a house where I was asked to do a staging consultation to advise how to get it ready to go on the market.

The ceilings are eight feet high and they'd originally been painted stark white in an attempt to make them seem taller so that the rooms would look more spacious. Unfortunately, that particular white didn't work well with the taupe walls because of both the color and the high contrast. It also made the rooms look cold and uninviting.

In addition to the color issues, improper accenting put the emphasis on the wrong things, like the skimpy stair railing and baseboards, the vents and switch plates, as well as several doors. Note, too, how the white baseboards cut off part of the wall, making it seem shorter and lowering the ceiling.

There were other color placement problems in this house that this picture doesn't show:
  • When I opened the front door, I faced the white door to a badly placed coat closet directly opposite in the very small foyer. That glaring white door was a shock and an unintentional barrier, not a welcome, so I suggested it be painted in the wall color so that a visitor's eye would travel to the living room on the right, instead of stopping abruptly at the closet.
  • The long wall to the right of the stairs in the picture has three doors that also were painted white, turning them into still more undesirable attention-grabbers. I recommended that two of the doors (one to a storage closet and one to the utility room) be painted in the wall color to make them look like part of the wall, so the room would look less "chopped up". The door to the powder room was left white.
To create a warmer, more elegant (and photogenic) interior, I also suggested that
  • the ceiling be painted a near white version of the wall color, instead of stark white, to add warmth and coordinate better with the walls.
  • the baseboards, vent, railing cap, door bell chime and switches be repainted with the wall color. Painting the baseboards in the taupe instantly raised the ceiling.
  • the narrow white stair railing and faux gold brackets be painted black to look like wrought iron, and make them appear more substantial.
  • a small wrought iron chandelier be moved to replace the flush mounted, builder grade light you see, and two small, inexpensive coordinating lights be used in the stairwell.
When I discussed these ideas with the owners, it was as if a light bulb went on and they could see the room for the first time. They agreed with the recommendations, gave us an enthusiastic go-ahead and Roger got to work. The house was to be listed the minute he was finished, but it looked so good in progress, a buyer snapped it up and immediately started moving in. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to use your imagination about the finished product, because the house quickly filled with their belongings and I wasn't able to take "after" pictures.

This small project illustrates the power of color selection and placement to solve design problems and change an ordinary result into one that transforms (and sells).

Have A Plan for Accenting
When you're planning a painting project, analyze the good and bad features of every room, and develop a plan. Make certain that everything you choose to accent truly deserves the spotlight, and use this list to help identify things you might want to camouflage.
  • Vents
  • Switch plates, unless you have special ones
    Vent and Hallway Door Painted in the Wall Color
  • Plug plates
  • Crown molding three inches wide, or less
  • Crown molding in rooms with low ceilings
  • Baseboards three inches wide, or less
  • Baseboards made of a plain board
  • Baseboards made of quarter round trim
  • Baseboards in rooms with low ceilings
  • Closet doors in small hallways.

Our Free Color and Detailing Consultation
When you hire us to do your painting, we include a color and detailing consultation at no charge. This unique service, along with Roger's exceptional workmanship and the use of premium quality materials, transformed the house in this story. We can do the same for your house.

If you have an interior or exterior painting project in mind, call me to talk about it and schedule an estimate.  828-692-4355

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Right Color in the Right Place - Exterior

My approach to working with paint colors is simple:

Where you put color is just as important as finding colors that work.

An Easy Fix With Color
Far too many exterior painting projects turn out to be unattractive and disappointing, sometimes because the colors are unsuitable or lack harmony, and sometimes because the wrong things were accented.

Misguided accenting
  • Creates undesirable focal points.
  • Distorts proportion and scale
  • Results in an overall impression of bits and pieces, instead of a unified whole.
The house in this picture illustrates what I mean. If we'd done the painting, the owners would have received a free color and design consultation. I would have recommended several color and cosmetic fixes, including the following:
  • Paint the large garage door in the wall color instead of white so that it doesn't detract from the entryway and make the house look lopsided.
  • Paint the Palladian window above the front door in the wall color. The window may be an attractive detail when viewed from the inside, but from the exterior its shape and multiple panes conflict with the front door below it, which also has multiple panes. Painting the window in the wall color would reduce the busy look and negative impact. 
  • Paint the downspouts and banding boards in the wall color to simplify the look of the facade and eliminate the "bits and pieces" problem, which is more noticeable in person than in the picture. 
  • Paint the front door, including the grid, in a single accent color to create a strong focal point that adds pizzazz and provides a warm welcome to visitors.
Once the painting was done, I would have suggested other cosmetic fixes, like adding a trellis to fill the large, awkward space above the garage, using one style of light instead of four and replacing the three lights over the garage with two slightly larger lights. The landscaping also needs a little help, including new foundation plants of varying heights, shapes and textures, and a vine, perhaps a clematis, to grow across the new trellis. Don't forget to factor in the color(s) of flowering plants when choosing exterior paint colors!

Better color placement alone would have made a significant difference in the curb appeal of this house and wouldn't have cost one cent more than the misguided color decisions you see. The other fixes could be done as time and the budget permitted.

What You Should Accent
I believe that you should accent only those things that truly deserve the attention, and that you should consider scale and proportion when you decide what to do. Don't automatically accent something because it's there. Garage doors like the ones in this picture are a prime example of a detail that's usually accented, when they should be painted with the wall color instead. Think about it. Why would you want to draw the eye to where your cars live, instead of making your front door the focal point?

Deciding what to hide is simple. Camouflage everything that's strictly utilitarian or that doesn't contribute to a simple, harmonious impression. Paint it the color of the surface on which it sits, or that it adjoins. Here are some examples:

Exterior Details to Hide, When Possible
  • Construction banding boards (They are there as joinery, not as decoration!)
  • Garage doors, if they can be painted. Read your door warranty.
  • Utility boxes, wires and pipes
  • Downspouts
  • Gutters, if they can be painted, and the colors don't work with the roof or the paint colors
  • Deck undercarriages and support posts, in some situations
  • Roof jacks and vents
  • Foundations
  • Small vents in gables
  • Small scale trim pieces used to create outlines
I can't help it! I have to get up on my soapbox now to rail against the unfortunate common practice of accenting banding boards. Seldom, if ever, is it desirable to create the impression that a building is an assemblage of segments, rather than a unified whole. Accenting banding boards creates visual confusion and detracts from the architecture. Drive around and look at examples in your neighborhood, then picture how much better those houses would look if those boards blended with the wall.

How in the world do these mistakes keep happening? I'll tell you. Unfortunately, most painting contractors, builders and homeowners aren't trained in color and design, so they go on automatic pilot and accent everything that's not a wall, or don't even think to hide those distracting pre-finished items, when it's possible.

I'm very proud to say that Roger and I are different. We combine knowledge and skill based on formal training and over twenty-five years experience as professional painting contractors, with color expertise and a concern for aesthetics.

If you're planning an exterior painting project, remember the house in this example and the power of color placement to change an ordinary outcome into one that adds beauty and value. 

Call me at 828-692-4355 to talk about what you'd like to accomplish, and to schedule an estimate. If we do the work for you, a color and design consultation is a free part of our service, a value-added approach you'll really appreciate when you see the results.