the best $300 I ever spent

Okay, well maybe not EVER. And, maybe it ended up being a little more than $300. Still, it was pretty darn worthwhile.

One of our little “top priority” house projects is painting. As in, pretty much every surface of the entire house is in need of a redo. Which is a lot of paint. Along with a lot of sore muscles. But first up is, of course, the dreaded selection of paint colors. It wasn’t all bad – at least I knew one thing: I definitely want a gray-ish theme for the house. (And let me mention that I’ve been a fan of gray tones before gray became the “it” color for paint, shoes, shirts and everything else.) Beyond that, I was clueless.

A trip to the paint store over the holidays where I spent a good couple of hours pouring over gray paint only resulted in more confusion. First of all, there are just WAY too many paint colors in this world. And, since companies like Benjamin Moore have to keep the bankroll a rollin’, of course they find ways to come out with a hot, new “must have” color palette every few years. You know, just so they can leave innocent homeowners like myself wanting to run screaming from the paint store straight for the nearest psychiatric ward.

That said, I did manage to leave that day with a few – or maybe 10 – samples to slap on the wall. Before I knew it, I was standing my hallway, opening up little paint samples and smearing them on the wall. A half hour later, with three samples up, one thing was clear: I had no idea what the h-e-double toothpicks I was doing. This was going to take FOREVER. UGH.

Enter my husband, who every once in a while is known to have a good idea or two. A few days earlier he had commented, “Do you think this is worth talking to a professional? I know it would be some money, but this seems like a big enough project that it might be worth it.” At the time, I dismissed the idea, as I “sometimes” do. No way, I’ve got talent! I could do this on my own. For free. Well, the morning after I put up those samples I was Googling something that resembled “Portland” and “paint color consultant.” It took approximately 2.7 seconds to come up with my answer: Nancy Alwin, a certified architectural color consultant who specializes in Benjamin Moore color palettes. In two more seconds I was on the line with Nancy pouring my color heart out and scheduling an appointment for her to pay a little visit to our home.

Nancy came knocking the very next day, rolling suitcase in hand, chock full of paint color sheets. She was like a mobile paint store! (Minus the actual paint, of course.) Nancy knows all the guys at our local BM store and works with them often. We started with a tour of the house and our thoughts on each room before we (Jeff was there, too) sat down at the dining table. Two hours later, we had selected colors for a decent chunk of the house. She seemed to know every BM color like the back of her hand. We’d start talking about a room, she’d immediately pull out a couple of suggestions, we’d go and put the large sample chip on the wall – sometimes in combination with a coordinating ceiling color suggestion – and bam! It looked beautiful. Decision made. Then on to the next room we’d go.

She took what was about to become a completely overwhelming, nightmarish process and made it easy and fun. By the time she rolled her suitcase back out the door I was left with samples of all the colors we had discussed, along with a follow-up email report detailing all of our decisions. Seriously, that same thing would have taken me HOURS. Weeks, maybe. No, make that months.

One of the things she did for us was select a unifying color for the house, one that would show up in areas throughout (like the hallway) and be our primary neutral that connects all other colors. For us, that color is going to be Wish, a soft, gray neutral with a slight hint of lavender. In fact, that’s a running theme she selected through the whole house, even with some of the dark colors.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to select everything before she had to depart for her next gig, so we arranged for a time for her to return, which was this past Saturday. This time we were able to finish up the main floor of the house (which is most of it) and also match up the paint we had selected with a few wallpaper samples I had received in the mail.

Yes, we are mixing it up a bit with some wallpaper accents in this house. We’re ordering from a British company called Graham & Brown that sells the most gorgeous papers. You can’t truly appreciate the textures until you see them in person. I was definitely wowed when the samples arrived. Which might explain the price tag. Which is one of the reasons we’re using it sparingly. There are three choices: The first choice, Darcy, will line the back of the formal living and dining area along what is nearly a wall of windows with plantation shutters. Though it’s a dark brown, it’s a versatile dark brown and we’re pairing it with a dark brown/gray paint called Castle Gate from BM’s new line coming out next month (?) called “Color Stories.” The second choice is Grid, which will be on the largest wall in Ian’s room and paired with a dark gray paint. (It’s probably not hard to figure out that I’m going for a mid-century theme in his room.) The third choice will be for the main wall behind the bed in our bedroom, and for this one I’m going back and forth between two selections. The first is this Trapeze, which is a really cool art-deco style with a lovely texture and a bit of silver bling to it. The second is called Tattoo, which is a contemporary floral. Jeff and I both typically shy away from florals, but we like this one. That said, the longer term fear of florals does have me leaning toward the Trapeze more – but we’ll see. Either choice will be paired with a paint color called Stormy Monday and a lighter shade of gray on the ceiling.

Back on the paint farm, Nancy was also great at recommending some painters who we could call for estimates. The first bid is in and well, let’s just say that we’ll be spacing out the work and doing some of it ourselves. Still, I can’t wait to get started! We really think it’s going to transform the look of the house. Three cheers for color consultants!

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