50 shades of grey: Choosing colours in a new home

Dec 17, 2015 | 0 comments

I bet every first-time buyer’s house has a box in the garden shed, or under the stairs that looks a bit like this:

Hundreds of pounds spent on 50ml pots of fractionally different shades of essentially the same colour. A rummage through our box reveals: Natural Calico, Hessian, Buttermilk, Field Mouse, Soft Stone, Barley White, Antique Cream. It reminds me of Mugatu’s quote in Zoolander: “Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They’re the same face! Doesn’t anybody notice this? Am I taking crazy pills”.

There is, of course, an obvious reason for this. Rented flats are, more often than not, entirely covered in wall-to-wall magnolia which is cheap and easy to touch up with every new tenant. So emerging from years of rented accommodation into your own place – that you can paint any colour you want – it’s no wonder people go tester pot crazy. So it was with us, hours spent carefully weighing up the merits of various shades of green, whose differences were barely perceptible to the human eye; painstakingly whittling down a shortlist of pale blues, consulting friends, trying them in light and dark spaces. Kill me now.

And then finally you have your colour. Finally. But wait a minute, will that be in matt? eggshell? silk? soft-sheen? trade strength? We spent far too much of our lives on these decisions, time we will never get back, and rather than bore you to death by reviving them here, I’ll just give you the results of our deliberations. I should add that we were working to a tight budget. We tried the old Farrow & Ball colour match trick, but the cheapo copy-cat version of Elephant’s Breath simply didn’t compare with the real McCoy. When you are doing a whole house, paint adds up, so much as we loved the posh brands, we tried to stick to the cheaper end of the market.

First up, the front room, where we opted for walls in Leafy Cottage in Matt from the Dulux Authentic Origins range. We painted the coving and skirting Brilliant White eggshell, and the ceiling in Barley White, both Dulux.
Beano Lamp
Next up the bedroom where Matt Duck Egg was the order of the day. There was a sale on at Laura Ashley so we got a good deal on their own brand stuff. We used the same combo of Barley White and Brilliant White for the ceiling, coving and woodwork.
Let’s take a stroll to the Nursery – Soft Apple from Dulux, but in the anticipation of mucky paws and crayon abuse the more robust silk finish was opted for.
We went for a safe neutral in the dining room, mainly because the room has little natural light and we wanted it as bright as possible. Our choice was the massively popular Timeless by Dulux. The picture above is awful, but there are plenty more examples of rooms in this colour on pinterest.
Finally, in the kitchen we got Illusion from Dulux mixed up at the trade centre. A sort of bluey-grey number. I love that we contemplated about 20 shades of grey before picking exactly the same paint my mother-in-law has in her kitchen.

That’s the end of the tour – for now- but a couple of things I would add. I would always go for a matt finish where possible. In retrospect I’d even do it where it’s going to get rough treatment, like hallways and children’s bedrooms, and touch it up when necessary. My exception to this rule would be the kitchen and bathroom where you need something a little more wipe friendly.

I would also recommend Dulux Diamond Trade paint. It is a little more expensive, but it is lovely to use, goes a long way, is super tough, and is water-based, so easy to clean up. One final nod – my favourite paint discovery in the new house – Zinnser 123 Primer. The fact that this undercoat paint has snuck itself into a post on room colours is a testament to how much like it. I’ve used this on just about every DIY furniture job – priming kitchen cupboards, painting over ikea furniture, a base coat for mdf. It is top quality stuff and it lasts for ages. I finished my first pot of this the other day and was genuinely sad to see it go – like saying goodbye to an old friend. My wife would call that an unhealthy attachment.

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