Color Strategy

In 1,220 words I’m going to tell you about the color consulting experience. Since I know one of the most favorite parts of our podcasts is when we talk about actual experiences — case studies if you will — I thought the best way to share what it’s like to work with a color consultant would be to tell you a story.

As soon as I got home from this appointment, I chronicled the conversation. I wrote it down because how it unfolded is typical of how initial conversations with clients start, evolve, and end.

Color Strategy StoryA Color Story

Client: I don’t know what to do with my house. Look at this pile of paint chips and there are more in my car. I’m so confused and I’m lousy with color. The last time I picked out a paint color it was for my guest room and it came out looking awful. I hate the color! I choose to live with it because the whole ordeal wore me out and I got tired of messing with it. I just keep the door to that room closed all the time.

Me: That happens to many people but life is too short to live with paint colors you don’t like.

Client: Yeah, I know. I agree and I’m freaking out because this time I have to choose colors for the whole exterior of my house. If I make a mistake, there will be no hiding it. I can’t just close the door. Painting is going to be a hassle and cost a lot of money. I can’t afford any mistakes.

I think I want to paint my house blue but I’m just not sure and scared to pick one. Can you help me?

Me: Totally understand and I can totally help. Why do you want to paint your house blue?

Client: Because blue is my favorite color and I know I like it.

Me: Just because blue is your favorite color doesn’t mean you’re going to like it as an exterior color. To be honest, I don’t think your house will wear blue very well. It would look better in another color.

Client: How do you know that?

Me: I know because of its architecture, style, and the color of the permanent elements like the roof. Also, because of all the colors around your house. I can virtually paint a digital picture and show you how it looks painted different colors. That will help you see what I’m talking about. I’ll include a blue color scheme so you can compare.

Client: What if I decide that I like the blue best?

Me: Then we will find the best blue that will look the most fabulous and we will paint your house blue.

Client: I feel better already. When can I see digital pictures of my house painted in different colors?

Me: Usually five to seven days.

Client: Then what happens?

Me: Well, you’re sure you don’t want to purchase prints of the virtuals so this is how it will work: I have large paint chips of all the colors we’re considering delivered so you have over-sized examples. You’ll need to refer to those big paint chips as you view virtuals on your computer monitor.

Client: Why do I need the chips, how will they help me look at the virtuals?

Me: By glancing from paint chip to the virtual, you get the best possible preview and sense of the colors.

After you have had some time to ponder the virtuals, we will discuss each color option.  I will explain in detail the color strategies behind each color palette suggested and answer any questions. Then, we’ll talk a bit more and identify what we want to sample.

Client: What do you mean by “sample”?

Me: We get sample quarts of each color we like best and set up a time to apply those colors on the house. We’ll paint some big patches on each side. Over the following day or two, you can evaluate the colors as you come and go.

Client: Can’t we just paint the samples and then pick one?  Why do I have to look at them for a couple of days?

Me: Two coats of each color will need to thoroughly dry. When paint is wet, you can’t tell what the color looks like. It has to be completely dry to reveal all the details – like nuance.

Client: Why on each side of the house?

Me: Each side of the house gets a different exposure of sun light. That light changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. Light affects the appearance of color. You want to observe the color samples at different times – morning, noon, and dusk – so you can see how each of the colors morph and interact with the light. It’s the only way to make sure you will love and enjoy your new colors all day, every day.

Client: I’m not sure painting big splotches of paint on all four sides of my house is a good idea. Won’t it show through the new coats of paint?

Me: If we’re neat and careful painting them so the edges are feathered out, no, they won’t show through. Two full coats of quality paint over test spots render them invisible. We can also schedule a color test appointment for the same time your painter is here prepping and have him roll on the paint if that would make you feel better.

Client: What happens after we decide on the colors and are sure we’re ready to start painting?

Me: That’s when I put into writing your custom Color Strategy. Your Color Strategy will have all the paint color names, numbers, sheen levels, and paint brand names clearly listed and it will indicate what colors go where. Remember, you can also refer to the virtual that I’m going to email.  The Color Strategy will be everything you need to take to the paint store or give to your painter.

Client: This sounds easy! I could probably just do this myself.

Me: Maybe you can. The guest room didn’t work out so well but maybe this time around it’ll be different. Do you want to try? You can always call me to come back if it doesn’t work out.

Client: But I can’t afford for this to NOT work out.  I can’t make a mistake.

Me: I can’t guarantee that there won’t be any mistakes. All we can do is fully understand the intricacies and nuances of the colors we like and then comprehensively preview the colors so we can make our best guess.

Client: Guess? I’m not going to pay you your fee, which is kind of high to begin with, to just give me a guess! I need to know this will be perfect. Maybe I should do this on my own.

Me: Truth is… ultimately everyone guesses when it comes to paint colors. They just won’t tell you straight-up that’s the way it works. But keep in mind that some people are better color-guessers than others. At this point, I’m pretty good at predicting what colors are going to *do* and look like once the painting is finished.  I can help you achieve what you envision for your house.

With that said,  no one can know – for sure – what a color is going to look like once it’s out of the can and on structure.  All you can do is put in the effort to make informed choices and the best guess possible.

The last stab you took at choosing a paint color was the guest room. Are you sure you want to try this one on your own?

((short pause))

Client: When did you say I’ll get those virtuals of my house?

Me: About five to seven days. I’ll call to let you know when I send ’em.

9 thoughts on “Color Strategy”

  1. Paula Doelling-Lynn

    Okeedokee Lori. This is only one of the many talents you expose to us. HUE know color and reveal a compelling yet sticking “processs” story!! LOVE IT!!

  2. There’s something very familiar about that conversation, I’ve had about 1,000 of them too! You handled it like the pro you are Lori. As many questions as our clients have, they find reassurance in our confidence and you made it look easy! 🙂

  3. Byron B Blake

    Lori, this was hilarious to those of us that have had this discussion hundreds of times, but also VERY insightful and instructive. I can certainly learn from your calm, professional demeanor 🙂 Love this website!

  4. Great post Lori! Thank you for sharing! I’m a bit of a newbie and posts like these help me to refine and learn more about what to do when I am one on one!

  5. “This sounds easy!” -my favorite line from your recent discussion with your anxious client. Ha! The fact is Lori, you make it sound easy with your thorough and stategic approach. Also, I’ve heard you say it before, “we all guess. Some of us are just better at it than others.”

    Thanks for sharing this experience.

  6. When clients use words like ‘I hate the color’ and ‘ your fees are high’ it feels and sounds like she’s trying to minimize your talent. Yes, it’s harsh, but sometimes it feels like clients think we ‘play’ at colors. This is also an insult and could have a tendency to change the consultation. Just because a consultation does not include a lot of decorative or colorspeak doesn’t mean a thing. Color is plan and simple, or is it, obviously you did a great job of staying professional. I would like to find out if she was happy with the colors you gave her.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone!


    Yeah, it worked out. SW Sycamore Tan – body, SW Indian White – shutters & trim, she had a choice of SW Classy Red or Prairie Red for the door. Never heard which one she went with…

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