Colour me beautiful

In Decorating, Home on January 6, 2014 at 10:28 pm


There’s a spot of redecorating going on at Style Notes Towers, which means I’m getting to do one of my very favourite things – mess about with colour sample pots.

I have two paint colours to choose. The first one is fairly easy, it’s for the small room which used to be my daughter’s bedroom, but which has now metamorphosed into my boudoir/a spare room.

I’ve had a door put in leading from it into my walk-in wardrobe (which I wickedly created by stealing one third of the space of this room from my then infant daughter, when we moved into the house).

The wardrobe used to be accessible only from the other room – once the spare room, now my daughter’s new bigger bedroom. But as she’s nearly 12 and becoming increasingly interested in my shoes, it’s better she doesn’t have direct access to my closet, don’t you agree?

As the room I’m about to get painted is now a boudoir with my dressing table (and a single bed with a blue and white toile de jouy headboard), I want a very feminine feel, which will also reflect warm flattering light onto my ravaged old mug while I’m applying make up (with a trowel ha ha ha).

The colour I’m going for is Cheap Foundation. Not a real paint shade – although it should be – I mean I want the walls to look like make up. Something with this kind of warm feel, but not so true peach…


I’ve picked up sample pots of four possibilities and now I’m using a brilliant tip that a clever friend (with two DIVINE houses) once told me, which has become one of my decorating commandments:

Never paint your sample pot paint colours straight on to the wall.

 If you do this – and I’ve seen twelve different colours daubed onto one small patch of wall – all the colours interact with each other, making them look subtly different.

Your eyes will get jumbled and you simply won’t be able to get a clear impression of what the finished effect of each shade would be over the whole room.


What that friend – Jane – advised me to do is to paint separate pieces of cartridge paper (at least A4 size) with each of your possible colours and then look at each of them, one at a time, masking taped to the wall.

Using this technique, you can also see how each colour looks on all the different walls of a room. A shade of grey that looks quite pastel opposite the window, can look grimly dark on the window wall itself.

And obvs you also need to look at your possible colours in daylight and whatever artificial lighting you will be using in the finished room.

Jane – a very practical Yorkshirewoman – also reminded me to write the brand and name/number of each colour on the back of the piece of cartridge paper in pencil, before you start painting it.

I’ve been doing this for years now and have built up a very handy library of painted sheets to refer to, so it’s worth keeping even the ones you don’t choose to use right away, as they may work for another project.

One more tip I would add, is to try and be more patient than me and let the pieces of painted paper really dry before you start leaping about with them… Slightly wet paint on soggy paper is quite a lot darker than the actual shade.


Having done all this earlier today with my four pots I don’t think I’ve found the right colour yet. One of them is too similar to the corset pink I already have in the closet, one is too subtle, another veering towards deliberate apricot and even the one that’s closest doesn’t have the slightly ‘wrong’ feel I want. It needs just a little more brown in it.



So I’ve ordered another couple of colours from the wonderful London paint shops Papers and Paints and when they arrive I’ll go through the process again. (I think the one right in the centre below, or top right above, could be the go…)


When I do find the right one I’ll have it painted over the walls, skirting boards and the door into my closet – but I’ll leave the window and window sill white. I just don’t like the idea of the 12 panes of glass intersected by the orangey-browny-pinky colour. I think it would look odd.

I’m going to decide whether to paint the main door Maybelline Coral Concerto, or leave it white, once the rest of the room is painted. All of which is very pertinent to the other paint colour I need to choose – more of which next time…

Meanwhile, tell me – how do you choose paint colours?

  1. When deciding the outside colour of my newly built house (now nearly 5 years old) I did a similar thing to you. Only instead of using A4 paper I grabbed a few off cuts of the wall planks. Then I gazed at them in morning light, under the midday sun, and in the late afternoon. Eventually I chose the one on that was also featured on the cover of the Dulux brochure. The young builders all raved and said the house looked awesome and just like a beach house. Which it does even though I don’t live by the sea; Northern Beaches hinterland but it’s nice to pretend.
    I love the blue and white toile de jouy on your bedhead. It looks to be a particularly nice one. Toile de jouy always strikes me as deliciously feminine but in a chic way. It’s never prissy or silly.
    Best wishes for the New Year.

  2. White. Always. Cannot be arsed with fancy paint colours. Love ’em in other people’s houses though.

  3. Oh the very thought of decorating fills me with horror! I have a huge posse of gay friends who are ultra critical each time they visit my house….

    • Perhaps we could do each others house ?

      • Ha ha!

        if I had the money I would pay a colour consultant to come in.

        I do know what I’d like in my bedroom, a feature wall in pale green, with birds & plant, etc, I have seen this is some of the interior mags – look ultra glam!

      • DOn’t do that – trust your own taste. Interior designers can be very helpful because they know what’s out there and little tricks (like the painting bits of paper tip) that civilians like us just don’t know, but the actual colours must be your personal choice.

      • Thanks for your tip Maggie. I have also sought advice from my brother (yes another gay man! One who does not know how to cook nor how to dress without looking like a hobo – but he does know about interiors!) He has told me that I have chosen the wrong wall and which one it ought to be and that it needs to be rendered/plastered due to the cracks before the special wallpaper goes up.

      • All the preparation stuff is so BORING, but makes all the difference…

      • ha ha you’d probably hate my taste. I like to mix it up… a LOT!

  4. Hi there Maggie,
    What fun! I vote the colour top right hand side (gorgeous) – the others a bit too “Sienna” / terracotta for an interior in my book. Still, so much depends on the amount of natural light/artificial lighting/mood you are trying to create doesn’t it? My personal standard approach is to have airy bones in any room = lighter walls etc and to add intensity via furnishings, art, etc. I am sure you will create a beautiful environment regardless of the colour choice and after all, its only paint and there is so much more to any room than the colour of the walls, non? (Having said all that I so love the drama of intensely coloured walls in the homes of others, especially in colder climates, just don’t ever want to live with such full time).
    Yesterday was 6th Jan – two of my fave British well-knowns shared it as a birthday – the lovely Nigella Lawson and the too, too gorgeous Eddie Redmayne. Hope they both had a wonderful day and that N especially has a better year than her last one about to start.
    Happy painting; hope we get to see the “after” pics. BX

  5. PS I’m with Annabel – the bedhead looks HEAVENLY. BX

  6. Love that colour with the bedhead! I don’t have a method yet as we’re yet to paint our first house. I will definitely try your method, but have no idea what colour to paint our bedroom. It’s full of colour already. I love white and colour I just can’t choose.

  7. I unashamedly & blatantly copy my sister who has impeccable taste. Simple.
    By the way, I have a room in a similar colour to the one I think you’re trying to achieve in your boudoir.. It’s Farrow & Ball ‘setting plaster’ & is fab.

    • I looked at Setting Plaster, but it’s much too pale for what i wanted. Do love it though. I have now found the perfect shade: Papers & Paint’s colour Gobelin (after the district in Paris, not the elf like mean creature…). It’s exactly the same colour as my foundation and I’m thrilled with it. Will post pics when it’s finished.

  8. You have a boudoir. Sigh. I so long for a boudoir/dressing room. I am waiting for a child to leave home to put that plan into action. There will be no coming back when they move out, I will have re-purposed the room before they’ve got out the front door! No useful tips on choosing colours, I break out in a rash if I have to think about decorating.

  9. Choose paint colours ..the thought sends me into a very anxious place

  10. I love your friend’s idea – I have struggled with little paint chips, not having the (Northern) nous to go bigger!

    Choosing decorating colours paralyses me. My husband is mystified when he watches me pore over samples. “They’re all bloody cream! Just choose one.”. And he continues to taunt me about the “French Blue” I said I wanted to paint on our external doors and walls. Now everything blue is called “French Blue”. Sarcastic git.

    I feel more confident when mixing my own colours. Back in the 90s when painted finishes were the go, I fancied myself as Jocasta Innes. My daughter’s first bedroom was muted yellow and blue ragrolled and stencilled walls; her second bedroom was soft candy pink hand painted stripes on one wall; the same colour ragrolled into clouds on another wall, complete with tarnished gold stencilled stars.

    One thing I have learned, though, is to avoid mixing colours at night time, whilst drinking champers. Nothing like waking up hungover to confront a hallway ragged in an aggressive stomach acid yellow.

    PS I do love your intriguing combination of the blue toile and terracotta. I should send over my fab new vase that I picked up at an auction – it would look perfect (huge baluster shape, handpainted blue and white). I thought it was Italian majolica but after researching it, yeehah, have found it to be 18th century Dutch Delft. All for $12.

    Happy New Year!XX

    • Wow – the vase find!!! The thing about choosing paint is it’s not just the colour as you see it on the little chips, it’s also the amount of light reflector in it, rather like make up. So one cream will be very flat, whereas another – ie Pointing, by Farrow & Ball – will bounce light around in the most amazing way, making a dark kitchen like mine, much lighter. Tell your sarkie chap that colour is a science, an art and a huge global industry!

  11. These are the colours of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon…

  12. Hi, be careful and brace yourself with what I am going to say about the first pic (the first four colours). My office was painted awful colours by alleged colour consultants. We call the paintwork ‘hospital grey’ and the walls…wait for it…  ‘foetus pink’. I’m afraid the first four of your colour chart have a touch of the foetus about them.

    I’m in love with Shell White (Dulux)

    • Eek! I’ve found the perfect colour – it’s exactly the same as my actual foundation! not too orange, not too brown. I think it’s going to look gorgeous and will post pics when the room is finished.

  13. I did a short adult-education interior decorating course. It was 2 Saturdays only but was a brilliant help when we extended our house. The tutor also said paint A3 sheets and move them around the room / lighting areas etc. and I used Kevin McCloud’s marvellous “Choosing Colours” book to find the look I wanted and choose the sample pots (I needed to find Aussie versions as his were all for UK paints of course). Great fun, and I love what we chose.

    • It makes such a difference. I’ve got various shades of taupe taped up on different parts of my hallways and one which looks perfect in one spot looks vapid in another. Still haven’t picked final, but we;ve got it down to two.

  14. Ha ha – love this topic! Happy to talk hues and tones all day [which i won’t] but i can endorse the paint-to-paper method vs paint-onto-the wall. I did this with A3 sheets of heavyish card [300gsm minimum] – both had the exterior wall colour, the same in 1/2 and 1/4 strengths for trims [all sandy-creamy-beigey], charcoal iron lace, and then a block of either a red or blue to see which front door worked best. [Answer, RED!! Love it.]
    [Come back to Sydney Maggie. 😉 We miss you.]

    • Glad to hear it worked for you too. I’ve chosen for the boudoir, but so much harder for the halls as there will be so much of the one colour. I have thought about using different colours, but over four floors I think that would look tricky. Where do you stop one and start the next? (and thanks for kind end comment… I’m in a constant turmoil about it, but can’t leave my darling mum…) xxx

  15. pls delete my surname. tks

    • Thanks for lovely comment Helena – don’t think I can delete your surname from it, as I can’t change what people say in comments, so I won’t put it up, but I did enjoy reading it xxx

  16. Had new floor tiles put in a beach house bathroom , sandy colour, thought it would be easy to match the walls for a fun beach look,( small 2nd bathroom). Using my laptop to search colours with a tile on my lap too, found a good match. Painter put it on and sent me a photo uggghh, egg yolk yellow. Not even similar shades or tones, must never use the computer screen for colour choosing. Decided to live with it, lots of fun pictures and hangings over it and will paint a beach scene using yellow as a sunshine background.

  17. Maggie hello! Last saw you in Bowral, must be well over a year ago, just read your book finally during a few days camping on the river in Kangaroo Valley (gorgeous, rope swing, canoes etc) and I did love it. So many snap moments, being married to a pom, having worked in magazines, knowing sydney east subs well – and that bit about what a pain the gluten-free girlfriend was! So funny, my m-i-l does exactly same. Flour is sacrosanct in England. Sorry to appear randomly in a paint discussion (though I do have squares painted all over my living room right now, if only I’d seen your A4 paper tip, bugger it!) Too lazy to join Twitter and I remember you saying “Facebook, FacePAIN!!” Someone told me the other day about your blog, so wanted to say hi there. Hope all well with you xxx

    • Hey Caroline, was so lovely to see you that day. Such a surprise at the end of a book tour to see your face again. All fine here and hope to chat with you more on here

      • oh, I forgot to check back! Didn’t tick the notify box. Not much of a chatter, me! Just read the dancing between raindrops comment – yeah, go girl. Goodness, how rude people can be, bloody hell we can’t all take The Chomsky Reader on our camping trips! x

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