Monday, February 20, 2012

Picking Paint

Back when I got my hands dirty (I worked briefly as a painting contractor), the other tradespeople always joked about their mistakes “don’t worry, the painters will deal with it.”  These days I am often in the business of choosing paint colors for projects, always an interesting exercise if only because it often happens near the end.

In Medford, where I still function as the designer for the Medford Urban Renewal Agency’s Façade Improvement Program, I’ve chosen paint schemes for dozens of buildings over the years.  Sometimes I am accused of being overly consistent (i.e “boring”) and of picking colors from a limited range.  That’s probably true.  Painting a building, particularly a commercial building, requires a certain amount of restraint.  I tend to strike Neon Yellow off the palette without much thought.  Plus, when you are painting a building, a little color goes a long way.  Which isn’t to say everything has to be tan or grey, but hey, bright colors are why they invented accent strips.  So yes, I tend toward various shades of tan, and cream, and brown, and green, with the occasional red, yellow or even orange (and once violet) highlights.  I will admit it, I don’t like blue, at least for buildings.  I just don’t.   And when a client insists on painting their building the wrong color (sea-foam teal, or the proverbial diarrhea brown), I just cringe every time I go past.  But yes, Virginia,  there are even buildings out there with blue trim that I’ve spec’d, sometimes because that was part of the corporate logo, or what the customer wanted, or who knows why.  There is no accounting for taste and after all is IS just'll wear off and be re-done in ten years anyway.  But blue?  Ick.

Picking colors usually starts with the limited option items; the awnings, the tile, the metal elements (if there are any).  Those products don’t come in a wide range of tones and so you build your palette around the fixed elements first.  PAINT is easy.  Heck, you can bring in Aunt Sally’s favorite vase and match that if you really want too.  Look at those fan books…there is a color that is right for almost every project (and usually more than one).  In fact I think all those colors are exactly why so many people get paralyzed when they have to decide (and why they are so grateful that I just pick the colors for them).  There are too many choices.  Besides, if I pick the colors they can always blame me if they don’t like them!

I don’t always get it right.  Sometimes the building limits my choices or forces a certain decision that I wouldn’t otherwise make.  Mostly, at least to MY eye, the colors come out pretty well and, every once in awhile, at least I think they come out great.

Today I am picking the exterior colors (or, in truth, more of the exterior colors) for the Holly Theatre.  The painter is nibbling at my heels for a decision.  Perhaps the sun will actually break through to make my life a little easier.

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