When it comes time to select paint colors on a project, upscale remodelers Cress Carter and Chris Withers do what they've been doing for years and what others in the industry have recently begun to offer: they bring in a color consultant to help clients choose the right hues for their homes.
Carter and Withers own Old Greenwich Builders in Denver. In addition to new construction, they do a lot of “classic renovations,” popping tops or adding on to some of Denver's older and finer homes while preserving the homes' historic character. One of the key components of a well-integrated addition, they believe, is its color scheme.
Color consultations have been gaining popularity, and many paint stores now employ or can recommend consultants who are available for on-site visits. Painting contractors — whose jobs have been made easier by the growing number of professionals who pick colors for people but don't actually apply the paint —can often recommend consultants as well.
Colorful Advice — Inside And Out Though not all clients want advice when it comes to color, Carter and Withers encourage it. “Color selection is a specific thing,” Carter says, noting that while a client can often pick out hardware or bathroom fixtures without having trouble imagining how they will look, paint colors are a different story.
“You can't get a true sense of a color from a small paint chip,” he adds, and testing with wet samples can stall a job. You might end up with 50 shades of off-white patchworking a wall, a client who can't make up his or her mind, and a painting contractor who can't get to work until a decision is made. One of Old Greenwich Builders' recent jobs involved a palette of 35 colors. “Choosing all those colors without a consultant would have taken much longer,” Carter concedes, “and would have involved a lot of trial and error.” For interiors, Carter and Withers have a list of local color specialists who they can call.
For exteriors, they bring in The Color People, a company that provides color design services to builders, architects, and homeowners throughout the U.S. The company is unique in the color business because it works only with exteriors. For renovations, it charges a flat fee of $650, whereas most color consultants charge by the hour, with rates typically ranging from $75 to $150.
In Denver, where the company is based, The Color People provides on-site visits. Out-of-state clients use its mail-order service by sending pictures and blueprints and by completing (or having the homeowner complete) a color questionnaire. The questionnaire helps The Color People determine how a homeowner responds to certain colors and what architectural features they should highlight. Since they help select the colors for all exterior elements of a house — paint, roof material, masonry, etc. — it's best to bring them in soon after the drawing stage of a project.
Interior consultations can happen later in the game once a renovation is far enough along that the consultant can walk through the rooms and get a sense of the space and lighting. Although color consultants don't help with all aspects of interior design (they won't show up with fabric swatches, for example), they will help coordinate wall colors with other interior details, such as cabinetry, flooring, and window treatments. If relevant, they'll also take into consideration a homeowner's personal belongings; for example, they might choose a color scheme based on a favorite painting that will be prominently displayed in a remodeled room.
Despite the added expense, both clients and remodelers benefit from bringing in a color consultant. Clients end up with custom colors that reflect their personality and the style of their home. Remodelers can bow out of the color-selection process to focus on more pressing aspects of the job. And best of all, according to Carter, hiring a specialist saves both the builder and the client “a ton of time.” For that alone, it's well worth the cost.
Jennifer Vacchiano is a freelance writer in Denver.