Friday, April 25, 2008

Neutral It Is!

Inspiration rooms on my way to finding a "perfect" neutral wall colour:
After months of serious deliberation, I’ve finally decided on a paint colour for our main floor. And I better be sure because we have painters arriving on Monday! It might seem like I'm playing it safe because I've chosen a milky beige called Soft Chamois OC-13 from Benjamin Moore. But it was an all-consuming internal debate and the choice was anything but obvious!

I've been on the fence about a colour for our main floor. We live in a 35-year old four-level split where the main floor living and dining rooms are one continuous space, together with the kitchen (which is all cupboards and has almost no wall space). Because of the layout, the front foyer and two stairwells (to the upstairs bedrooms and downstairs rooms) would look best painted the same colour (instead of having an ugly and obvious colour change on a corner). The upstairs and downstairs hallways would ideally be the same colour too!

In other words, I needed to find The Perfect Colour. In the beginning, I was insanely smitten with a heavenly stormy blue from Farrow & Ball called Skylight. This is a next-to-perfect blue in my opinion, but blue just won’t cut it.

First of all, it’s a huge space to paint blue and I'm afraid I’ll tire of it. I love blue, but do I want a whole blue house, considering that my office is already blue, we have a blue-grey powder room and various green rooms already?
And our living room furniture is sage green, so the blue wasn't an obvious complement. The dining room rug is rose (which looks gorgeous with blue!), and our living room rug is a multi-colored blend of cream and sage and rose and blue (which looked good too). But as much as I coaxed myself to think it might work, the reality was that blue walls introduce yet another pure colour to an already cacophonous mix of shades. Besides, our dining room chairs have blue and pink stripes, the kitchen counters are olive green, a downstairs floor is brown, and the kitchen valance is burgundy! I want tranquility, not chaos!

So I started to think about green. I really wanted a “colour” on the walls, if you know what I mean, since I love the way white lampshades and table linens and white accessories look against a coloured wall. Plus, I love white things. The walls are currently a chartreuse (yellowish) green that isn't so bad, but each alternative green I considered seemed wrong. Pale sages work the best, and look lovely, but the fact is, I'm no longer crazy about my sage green furniture, and the room is sage overload with both furniture and walls in the same colour!

So I settled on a neutral palette. It feels like a cop-out going neutral, especially since it felt that with all my decorating knowledge acquired over the past year, I should be able to pull off a complex palette. But the truth is, I want a calm and collected palette. And a pale, creamy colour seems like the only choice to pull the disparate elements together.

In the past weeks, I’ve painted endless sheets of Bristol board with various Farrow & Ball and Benjamin Moore shades. I've taped these samples to the walls, moved them countless times as the light changed, and stared at them each for hours on end, trying to find the colour equivalent to *Mr.Right*. In fact, I think finding a man is much, much easier than choosing paint colours!
Since greys are all the rage, I looked at a number of grey and greige shades, but they all seemed rather cold to me, even in my south-facing room. So I kept coming back to the warm pale beiges, especially in the evenings when the light fades and the greys become rather dismal and chilly.
My final choices came down to (1) Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin, a creamy pale beige that seems to glow (2) Benjamin Moore’s White Down CC-50 (an antique white/ivory which I have in my bedroom and adore), (3) Benjamin Moore’s Seapearl OC-19 (a grey-toned oyster beige, pale), and (4) Benjamin Moore’s Soft Chamois OC-13 (a pale milky beige with warm-tones).

Then yesterday, I decided (or so I thought). I chose the Farrow & Ball Slipper Satin and excitedly checked with my painting contractor to see if he minded using it. He was amenable to the idea, so I phoned our (only) local F&B supplier to see if they had enough product on hand. To my dismay, they only had 2 gallons in store ($69.50 per gallon, FYI) and I’d have to wait a couple of weeks until the next shipment arrived!!
Since I’m going on vacation in 3 weeks, already have painters booked, and find myself utterly fed up with paint chips, I decided to switch to Benjamin Moore's Soft Chamois just to get this over with! Soft Chamois OC-13 is a nice, soft, quiet beige that I can best describe as “milky beige”. It will look lovely with the sage furniture, the olive countertops, and our dark wood furniture. It'll work especially well with both rugs, which was my main concern since they add the most colour to the rooms.
Just for information, I noticed that the actual Soft Chamois paint (from the sample pot) seems darker on the wall than on the paint chip, whereas the White Down I used in my bedroom is much whiter on the wall than on the chip (where it's rather beigey). So I really hope the colour works out once it's on all the walls because these sample chips seem so unreliable with darker colours looking lighter on the chip and vice versa!
I feel like the consummate bore doing a beige room - but being unable to start from scratch and having to tie everything together – gave me little choice in the end. Eventually we want to replace the furniture with something more elegant and lighter coloured (like the sofa below) and then I can consider changing to my coveted blue walls! But until then, this is my transition colour to make sense of all the bits we’ve already got.
This summer I intend to replace the drapes in the living and dining rooms (I have some favorite sample fabrics, in linen) and eventually I'll replace my student-days coffee table with something more elegant. I have a cool grey leather armchair that needs re-upholstering and another I want to slipcover, but those are eventually. For now, getting these walls painted thrills me!

Once the painting is done next week, I'll post some before and after photos to show the progress...

More inspirational neutral rooms:

All Photos House to Home


  1. We have a very light coloured love seat and sofa....cream on slightly darker tones of cream type of damask... and have gone dark beige for walls (actually it is Fawn's Leap; suede look).... with some med beige silk curtain panels that have a darker border....... medium colour on the hardwood and a rug that is dark burgundy with some beige, light sages and some tiny bits of teals and turquoise... sage and burgundy in other areas of the seemed no matter what we liked it turned out to be various shades of burgundy and sage... and now have painted the downstairs Carriage House Green... a fairly dark taupish green. We love it. Got tired of the lighter colours after years of light... Linen, Tumbleweed, we are painting in colours with a lot more depth. I wasn't sure at first..but I like it. Hope yours turns out just how you want it.

  2. Terri, you were the one to say that when it gets right down to it, choose beige. Life's too short to agonize over wall color. That was you, wasn't it? I think that you will use all manner of beautiful colors to play off that beige wall. It might have been the safe choice, but it is also a wise choice and there. is. nothing. wrong. with. that. Nothing!

  3. Hej Terri!
    U always shows so great picstures of nice homes and furnitures, I get very inspired and dream of my grandparents big house from 1700.

    Hope u are ok
    Many hugs from a all weekend working Katarina

  4. Hi!
    Wow, lovely pictures!! Sounds like you have found a color that you will like! And beige is never a disturbing color either so I wouldn't worry! Your pictures of your home breathe tranquility and peace, wonderful!
    Have a nice evening!

  5. Love all the inspiration photos! You've been busy and I've missed a few posts, but everything looks gorgeous! Can't wait to see how the room turns out. It will be FABULOUS, I'm sure!


  6. You cannot consider beige as a cop-out. In decorating your home it comes down to what makes you happy. And if you wall color choice will make you happy then that is all that is necessary! :)

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, and completely related! The year before last, I purchased the most beautiful antique Italian sunburst mirror, and hung it above my fireplace. It just did not look good with the paint color that I had on the walls. I had been thinking of painting anyway, so I went on the search for the perfect Benjamin Moore paint color. I painted samples on the wall, and I decided to go with Pale Almond. The Pale Almond looks great with the mirror, as it provides a warm, rich backdrop. However, since my living room and front hall have somewhat continuous walls (with corners, but no true break), I had to do the front hall in the same color, and I am not as pleased. I wonder whether I should have gone with Ben Moore bone white, which I deemed to be too light at the time.

    I just went to a showhouse on Thursday, and Benjamin Moore elephant tusk was on the wall of my favorite room. It was beautiful, but definitely had more of the gray with a bit of green in it.

    Great post!

  8. Popping in to wish you a happy painting week! How long will it take the professional painter, I wonder. I think that they are pretty quick.

  9. Ur right, Indeed! It's isn't easy to find the right paint for whatever part of your home. We have to live in there for awhile before we can re-paint, or NOT!

    Ur great! ur worth it! having the best of color.

    I will follow your blog, i might get some tips from you. We're moving in 3 weeks. Suppose this week-nd but we're going to NYC for a conference, so it move till we comeback.

    Have a wonderful day to you,
    Pls check my swedish link ( started traslating to english) as i receive lots of mails asking me to write some lines in english.


  10. Your lifestyle or taste determines what the focal point of your living area is. If you have a fireplace, you can rearrange your furniture around it. Or if you have a piano, and this is the focal point of your living area, your furniture could be set around it. When rearranging your furniture, also consider traffic in your Living Room Decoration area. It is always good to arrange furniture in off-square angles. This makes the room warmer and more casual.

  11. Rustic Living Room Furniture sets augment the overall beauty of any room. With various room decoration items and gadgets flooding the market, it may sometimes be very confusing as what furniture’s to select for your living rooms - furniture’s which suit your tastes, match your room's environment and of course meet your budget! However, rustic furniture sets have an all-time appeal because of their simple yet versatile designs and light-weight (can easily be shifted from one room to other).

  12. Did you end up liking soft chamois? I've been considering painting my house this color.