Open plan house poses paint color problems

Joan Fieldstone

September 13, 2013

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: PaintingInterior Design

I came of age in a colorful era. Tie-dye, love beads, Peter Max psychedelic posters, and bold Marimekko fabric designs are indelibly stained on my memory. So when it comes to walls, I've never seen a plain white one I liked. Don't bother to remind me that white is trending and home-buyers demand it when it comes time to sell. While I occupy my home, color is crucial.

A whiter shade of white?

all white paint in house

When I bought my new-construction duet home two years ago, it was painted builder's white from top to bottom -- a blank canvas -- one that made me yearn to pick up a paint roller the way a graffiti artist itches to pick up a spray can every night. But the last time I did my own house painting, I suffered a repetitive-motion injury -- my wrist has never been quite the same.

Fortunately, I have a very handy next door neighbor, otherwise known as my BFF. Or at least she is until she figures out I suggested we buy adjoining homes so I could access her skills as I feed my obsession for more and more home improvement projects.

While she prepared to clear her calendar to help me, she asked only that I have the colors picked out by the time she was ready. That was easier said than done, and she has since suggested the decision-making part of my brain is, perhaps, somewhat flawed. I agree there could be a touch of cognitive dysfunction involved, but there's another very good reason why paint color selection took me weeks.

Color me confused

The Problem: In my open-plan, two-story home, one space becomes another and another, eventually spilling into the second level. I was faced with mind-bending questions that reminded me of the baffling college course in topology I had to take for math credit: where do the kitchen walls end and the living room walls begin? What color should I paint the two upper sections of living room walls that are also part of the second floor hall?

I wanted to give each space its own identity in the open downstairs living area. That further compounded the color conundrum, which is probably part of the reason why neighbors with the same model house as mine left the interior of their homes all-white.

The Solution: I think I eventually collected every paint chip Behr produces. The guys in my Home Depot paint department must have thought I was flirting with them because I kept coming back and I bought at least 20 miniature cans of sample colors. At one time my entire first floor living area reminded me of a paintball mishap. In the end I chose a retro-inspired palette of variations of the four primary colors. You can see them on Behr's web site -- Bagel, Moss Print, Marina Isle and Spicy Cayenne.

The kitchen is ocher-tinged yellow, Eastern Amber -- one shade deeper than the yellow-beige Bagel on the next two 20-feet-high living room walls. The two other adjoining living room walls opposite the yellow ones -- the upper halves that become part of the upstairs hallway -- are Moss Print, a velvety-soft shade of green that sets the tone for a tranquil second floor retreat. The dining area and one wall that wraps from the dining room into the front foyer are Spicy Cayenne, a tasty reddish brown.

three paint colors palette

The rest of the foyer and the walls surrounding the stairway are Marina Isle, a light blue, the color of Caribbean seas. It pairs surprising well with the cayenne red adjacent to it.

foyer color palette

All the colors play nicely with the furnishings, which feature an antique 1960s' green Naugahyde sofa, and aqua and turquoise accent pieces in the kitchen, living and dining rooms.

With additional help from my friend I created a vertical mosaic that pulls the colors together on one narrow wall that belongs to both the kitchen and living room -- but didn't look right painted the color of either one. What do you think?

mosaic on column

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