Design Chick  

Pick the perfect paint palette

It's time to paint: you're staring at a table cluttered with multiple paint chips and fan decks.

How on earth do you narrow it down?

Luckily, there are numerous tools and tricks that can help make the decision-making process easier, and perhaps even put the fun back in picking paint colours.


Created by Jessica Colaluca as a unique approach to exploring her passion for colour through design blogging, Design-Seeds.com is a terrific website for those looking for colour inspiration and design-savvy ideas.

Jessica creates paint palettes that include an original concept image (usually from objects and scenes found in nature or still-life landscapes), and four or five directly correlated paint colours derived from the original.

If I need a boost of colour inspiration, her blog and Pinterest site are where I know I will find it.


A super website with a focus on colour trends pertaining to atmosphere and mood, voiceofcolor.com (affiliated with Pittsburg Paints) shows users how to pull and combine paint hues in real-life environments.

Browse the trends section for rooms with multi-views, or click on their digital colour section to upload photos of your own then envision new and exciting hues with the help of their Color Visualizer. Super easy!


Never pick your final paint colours in a paint store, but definitely seek out amazing ideas and colour combinations there.

The perfect place to find success is at your local paint store: all paint brands spend copious amounts of money on colour research, branding, and marketing to better serve you — their paint-happy consumers.

Pick up a variety of brochures and samples showcasing their star colour palettes and trends for the upcoming year. Once you're home you may find the perfect palette that works for you.


It's a bit of a no-brainer — the colour combinations and palettes you see in nature are fool-proof…. 

if Mother Nature has created it, you know it's absolutely going to work. Think of the shades waltzing through a wheat field in the middle of August; the myriad of silvers, grays, creams, and burnt ochres you find in river rocks lining the edges of any shoreline. The possibilities are endless, and plentiful.

Take a hike, look back through favourite destination holiday photos. We don't always realize it in the moment, but finding beauty in the palette nature provides will always produce a stunning combination.


Hang art like a pro

This week's column is short and sweet; it won't take long to find your perfect picture hanging combination after you read this.


I often suggest to clients that they follow the line of the stairs when putting up pictures along a stairwell wall. If you keep with the diagonal flow of the stairs, you'll have a fluid grouping that looks great in no time.


This trick works great for over fireplace mantels as well: layer your pieces. Include tall and large, and small and wide frames or canvases, and work from back to front... keep the big guys in the back and slightly off centre, then layer in your other frames.

Leave a little space in between each piece; every composition needs a little white space as I like to call it. It's exactly like writing a resume; the reader (or viewer in this case) needs a few visual pauses, otherwise everything looks cluttered and messy.


Creating grids of pictures is extremely impactful and very contemporary.

If you're needing a modern kick, line your pieces up in a row of three, and add two or three additional rows beneath for your very own graphic-looking grid. If you're tight on wall space, line them up in a row of three or five, spaced a few inches apart from one another.


Take one central image or frame (it should be the largest one you have), and hang it in the middle of your wall, or over the middle of your sofa. Next, take four identical-sized frames and split them on either side of your middle picture.


I really like the look this combination makes: take two large images of the same size and space them out approximately 36-42 inches apart.

In the middle, add either four smaller frames in a grid, or hang one panoramic frame along the inside at the bottom, then hang two square frames above.

Ikea is a great place to find all kinds of fairly inexpensive wood, metal, and glass clip frames.


There's no rule that says pictures have to line up in a straight row, or need to be along the same plane. So consider creating a few separate groupings on a large wall with high ceilings... stagger the planes that each group runs along.

Be sure to keep the top and bottom group light (use smaller looking frames), and the middle group grounded (add your heaviest and weightiest looking pieces here).

Think outside the box. That's such cliché sounding advice, but it’s always true when it comes to art: a single print over a sofa won't cut it any longer now that you have so many other options to choose from.

Use your (design) words

I spot decorative letters and sometimes random numbers on store shelves or tucked in a sale corner, and I grab them with the hopes of finding the perfect little spot in a vignette or wall collage somewhere.

Letters and text feel sculptural and geometric — slightly industrial and yet there's something oddly charming and familiar about the scoops, dips, and dashes in everyday lettering.

And based on the amount of design swag out there emblazoned with text, people everywhere are embracing their inner wordsmith and incorporating bits and pieces of it into their spaces.

Soft Goods        

This one is a cinch: adding a few toss pillows covered in lettering or decorative phrases is the simplest way to have some fun without going too far.

Smaller accents can handle a bit of wordy charisma too: take an older ottoman and have it recovered in a punchy fabric, for example. A custom roman shade over the kitchen sink, a sassy shower curtain, a funky area rug, or even a pair of fable-inspired window panels in a child's room might just be the perfect little added literary touch.

Wall Art

I'm pretty sure you've seen these everywhere by now, but the classic subway sign roll is a favourite of minimalists and nostalgia lovers alike.

Random alphabet letters grouped together, large and small, make a lyrical and abstract statement down hallways, in stairwells, or in a nursery. And although typically you'll find monograms reserved for children's walls, there's nothing stopping you from finding an over-sized letter or two and leaning it on a shelf with other unique decor.


An iconic and classic staple, the Ingo Maurer Zettel'z five-light fixture, consists of love letters written in different languages, encouraging the user to interact with the lighting fixture by arranging the sheets of paper to form a chandelier.

A blend of art, sculpture, and light, and secured to stainless steel wires with paperclips, half of the papers are pre-printed, and the other half blank so you can create your very own custom masterpiece.


For something totally out of the ordinary, there's always a chunky piece of furniture out there that will fit the bill.

If I ever track down the source of this dresser I may just have to throw it in a bedroom or front entry at some point. Whimsical, graphic, bold, and playful — statement pieces like these are for every inner-child... forget your real age.


Crispin's top design tips

For those of you that have ever attempted a design project and felt that you'd failed, this week's column is especially for you.

Clients sometimes say 'I could never do what designers do, I would screw it all up!' But remember these tenets the next time you're about to tackle a project, and hopefully you'll feel more confident in your choices and design direction.

I definitely don't claim to know it all, but what I do know for sure is this:


Take the time to measure — more than once. Nothing's worse than going to the all the trouble of designing and fabricating a custom piece (be it millwork, drapery, or a detailed tile design) and coming up short in the end.

If you're measuring for floor plans, a lot of detail and attention is required, and over time it becomes easy to get distracted. No matter what you're measuring for, make it a habit to go back and double (even triple) check.


Who would have thought that new sofa was a few inches too wide to fit through the front door?  Be sure to take the measurements of your entry ways with you when shopping for new furniture. In some cases a window can be taken out if the doorway won't cut it,so have a plan just in case. 

The same can be said for purchasing new furniture without having your room dimensions; over sized pieces will swallow up small spaces, and under sized pieces will seem puny and out of place in large spaces. Be sure you know exactly what your rooms can and can't handle before you go ahead and swipe the credit card.


This applies to almost everything: paint, fabric, flooring… you just can't rely on the lighting of your favorite shop to give you the same result as the lighting in your home. And what that can mean is mismatching colours or undertones once you get something home and have it installed. A lot of heartache can be avoided by signing out a sample to test out at home first.


Picking paint is best during the middle of the day - your daylight will be bright and soft, exactly what you want when choosing paint finishes. But don't stop there.

Clients sometimes forget that evening light can drastically change a paint colour, and are shocked and even disappointed when the silvery gray they thought they were using turns a dull green at night.

Tape your paint swatches up in a few spots within your room, and check on them during different times of the day, and with different lighting sources.

Better yet, buy a small test pot and paint a large swatch for review. And remember: don't buy paint before fabrics and finishes are determined. Paint is usually the very last element to all my designs. Everything else comes first.


If I'm hanging a large piece over a sofa, I will measure up 8"-12" from the top of the back cushion to mark where the bottom of my piece should sit. Smaller items can sit higher, but typically this combination works for large and oversized art.


Don't underestimate the disappointing esthetic cheaply made products have when grouped all together in a room. I'm all for shopping smarter and finding ways to mix inexpensive filler in my designs, however, every space needs to have a number of good quality pieces. Period.

In the end you'll actually need less items to make a room feel polished, refined, and tailor-made to your design personality.

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About the Author

A graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Crispin Butterfield launched Urban Theory Interior Design in 2003 and has since been featured in Canada’s Style At Home magazine, Covet, Canadian Retailer, and the National Post.

She’s a master in designing residential and commercial soul-hugging spaces clients relish showing up to, socializing in, and especially love coming home to.

She and her team work with clients from conceptualization to completion, providing full scale service with authenticity, innovation, and lots of personality.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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