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Picking Paint Colors - Scott Adams' Blog

Picking Paint Colors

People warned me, but I didn’t believe that picking paint colors would be the hardest part of building a home. For the exterior color, we drove around until we found a new home that was exactly the color we wanted. We queried the owner about what paint he used and asked our builder to duplicate it.

Easy, right?

That’s when we learned that paint changes color if you put it on an “imperfect smooth” stucco versus the original home’s bumpy stucco. With the bumps, the color becomes subtle and textured and beautiful, albeit different, in every light. On our home it turned canary yellow. When darkened slightly to get the harsh out, it turned green. On the fifth try, we got something that didn’t look so much like a practical joke on the neighbors and decided to go with it. Five tries isn’t so bad, right?

Tragically, our house also has an interior, and apparently it’s a tradition to paint those walls too. I have been informed that many of our room colors need to be different from the others for reasons that my boybrain cannot comprehend. And maybe we need some accent walls. And it all has to match the baseboards, counter tops, cabinets, floors, drapes, area rugs, and furniture. Okay, that seems doable, sort of, until you toss in a few more
variables:

1.    The paint has to be zero VOC (little or no off-gassing). It’s my own requirement. That severely limits choices, and faux glazing is impossible.
2.    We don’t have furniture picked out. Or drapes. Or rugs.
3.    We have only tiny non-representative samples of counter tops.
4.    The paint color changes dramatically in every type of light.
5.    The paint color changes dramatically depending on what it is near.
6.    Every family member has a different opinion.

Does it sound impossible yet? Wait, there’s more.

The city doesn’t allow builders to hook up to both gas and electricity prior to government approval to move in. You have to pick one or the other, to keep you from moving in before the home is deemed safe and ready. We needed the gas hooked up first, to test some other systems, so that means we will never see the interior walls in any light approximating our future normal light until after the walls are painted.

It gets better.

When you see a color on a tiny swatch, it might look tan, for example. But when you paint it on a wall it turns yellow or green or red. And not just a little. The wall color will have almost no correlation to the sample you picked. It is pure randomness.

In a few minutes I will call the paint store for my 25th paint sample. (Not an exaggeration.) Some of the choices are colors that are clearly grey on the sample but have names like “Flaming Orange.” WTF????

So it’s a bit like the game Battleship, where you drop random depth charges on the color chart and see if you can narrow down a zone where the good color is hiding. Except in this case the person you are playing against is both blind and lying.

All I know is that if we find even one color that doesn’t look like a jaundiced albino rat when applied to the wall, I’ll be lobbying hard to paint all the rooms that color and buy only black furniture, black drapes, and black rugs. I hear black goes with everything. Wish me luck.