When a customer browses through the many paint swatches in your paint department, are you able to help them decide which color to choose? Ultimately, the final decision is theirs, but with some knowledge from a color expert in your back pocket, you may be able to help guide them to the right choice for them and ultimately a sale for you.
In the March issue of Hardware Retailing, we share tips and tricks for establishing a successful paint department. Educating customers, employees and yourself is one of the five areas of focus. To build upon this, we spoke to architectural color consultant Amy Krane of Amy Krane Color.
In this Q&A, you’ll learn Krane’s thoughts on everything ranging from trends, the biggest mistake made in choosing paint colors and how she thinks a paint department can improve the customer experience.
Hardware Retailing (HR): How did you become a color consultant? Can you share your knowledge on the topic?
Amy Krane (AK): I studied fine art, painting and drawing as a young person then pursued a business degree. A love of film turned into a decades long career as a television commercial producer. Later, I studied Landscape and Floral Design and supplied floral arrangements for film shoots while still producing.
Always interested in interior design and architecture, I followed both devotedly through magazines. One day, I had an epiphany and realized the common component that ran between my interests in fine art, architecture, interior design and horticulture was color. I had been helping friends and family with paint color decisions for eons and was known to be skilled at creating beautiful and effective color combinations.
I sought formal training with the International Association of Color Consultants/Designers. It is one of the world’s oldest color based educational organizations, providing classes in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Their focus is the practice of environmental design that is not only beautiful but functional as well and strives to support the health and well-being of human beings in an architectural space. It is a science-based education as opposed to decorating based.
Locally, I serve residential and commercial property owners. I also service clients nationally, providing virtual color consultations.
HR: What do you think is the most important thing about color in regards to paint and the design of a home?
AK: Color is reflected visible light. As the light changes so does the appearance of a color. Always factor light conditions into your color palette choice.
HR: What color or colors do you see growing in popularity in 2016?
AK: I see a continuing interest (still) in grey as the go-to neutral. The choice of white as color of the year by Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams will probably resonate with those who prefer a light neutral, so there will likely be an uptick in that choice.
But for those who want to be surrounded with more color I see an increase in deep choices, like charcoal and almost black, watery blue-greens, teal and honey tones.
HR: Are there any particular finishes you like right now? Any you recommend customers skip?
AK: I really like a very matte, chalky, almost suede-like finish. But I’m seeing a fair amount of high gloss surfaces in magazines. I think that level of shine is a nightmare in terms of visual ergonomics and living with glare. The truth is, almost no one has walls in fine enough condition to pull that off, if one even wanted to.
HR: What is the biggest mistake someone can make when selecting paint colors? How can they avoid it?
AK: The biggest mistake, I would say, is ignoring one’s own taste and preferences and choosing a color palette based solely on trends. Trends are fun to follow, but by no means should they be the sole or even major factor when making color choices for your home or business.
For interior color, one should take into account design goals, how and when the space is used and by whom, the function of the room, the amount and kind of light (natural and artificial) present and the ambiance one is seeking. Then factor in the decor and choose a color which fits.
For exterior color, elements like region, climate, orientation to the sun, architectural style, building materials and neighborhood norms should factor into the decision as well.
HR: Once a customer selects a paint color or colors for a project, what is the next important step?
AK: A color test! While paper samples are fine to start the evaluation process, even large paper samples can’t approximate how a color will look on 4 walls. Painting 2 foot swatches in a number of areas around the room, including areas of direct sunlight and shadow, then living with the test for a few days will be the best way to understand a color’s effect on the space. If painting directly on the walls is a problem, painting tests on large portable boards and moving them around the room is the next best thing.
HR: How do you think a retailer can best help customers who have no idea what they want when they’re browsing paint?
AK: That’s a great question. Have enough staff who are versed in the language of color and are skilled communicators to service this department. Many retailers have just enough staff to be kept solidly busy mixing paint. There is simply no one available to help a customer who doesn’t know where to start.
HR: How can a retailer continue to enhance the experience for their customers in the paint department?
AK: Having at least one person available who is dedicated to the department to help with color choices will go a long way. Also, investing in some consumer outreach is a great idea.
I lecture about color for residential interiors around my region and get a wonderful response from the public. Many people who are ready to redecorate want to learn some fundamentals about choosing colors and color combinations. A little educational outreach goes a along way towards engendering the public to a store.
HR: Would you recommend retailers consult with a color expert or someone with design expertise to help bolster sales?
AK: I think hiring skilled color people on staff AND being able to recommend freelance color consultants which can consult at your customer’s home is the way to go.
Working with photos which are not taken by professionals can lead to mistakes. An on-site consultation is the most accurate way to help a client choose color.
HR: Do you have any other tips or tricks you’d be willing to share with our readers to help their customers in selecting paint and choosing color?
AK: Here are some of my tips:
- Don’t attempt to match wall colors with furnishings or artwork. One element of a well-balanced room is creating some level of contrast between all of the colors and the tones. Matching is boring and usually leads to bad choices. Artwork is meant to stand alone in its coloration, not match your walls.
- Colors which are appealing in clothing or printed matter, like magazines, will look very different scaled up to wall size. Bright colors can quickly overpower a room, so be careful.
- Remember, the floor is a color too, even it’s hardwood. Watch the undertones and make sure the colors all work together.
- When color testing paint samples, pay particular attention to how the samples look during the time of day you most often will use the space.
- When painting an office, pay attention to the type and placement of your light fixtures. Be careful about glare created by windows, desk color and wall color vis-à-vis computer monitors.