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How to Work With a Color Consultant

How to Work With a Color Consultant

By: Lisa Frederick

If you were building a new home or remodeling an old one, you'd probably rely on a bevy of professionals to get the job done right, from architects and contractors to interior designers and artisans. But would you think to hire a color consultant? These pros, who help you choose a color scheme that creates the mood you crave, can be vital in making your habitat feel like home. They also have a finger on the pulse of happening colors and future trends.

Here's how to find, partner with and benefit from a color consultant, start to finish.

Find reputable sources. Color consultants don't always have formal training, though some have completed a certification program. Most have a background in the visual arts, graphic or interior design, or paint manufacturing. Browse the directory of professionals on Houzz or your local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. Some home stores and paint retailers, particularly higher-end ones, have color consultants on staff. Once you have a handful of names, contact them to assess which one seems to suit your needs and personality best, and ask for references.

Determine your color preferences before meeting the consultant. Even if you're not sure exactly which hues you should have in your house, odds are you've formed some opinions about colors that attract and repel you. This information gives the color consultant a good starting point and helps her or him get an idea of your general color personality (bold, quiet, bright, neutral). Begin by listing your favorite and least favorite colors, then make a third list for those that fall in the middle ground.

Next, compile examples. Create a Houzz ideabook of your favorite inspiration photos; take a peek in your closet; go to your local home center and pull paint chips. Sort your samples into the same three piles as your list: like, dislike, neutral.

Even if you're 100 percent sure about the colors you do and don't want to live with, a consultant can help you combine your favorite shades in unexpected ways, or juxtapose them so that they complement one another to maximum advantage.

Set up an initial consultation. The consultant will probably want to visit your home for a walk-through. He or she will make notes on details such as furniture placement, floor plan, architecture and other elements that influence color options, in addition to talking with you about your goals and desires. Because natural sunlight will have a significant impact on the way your colors read, consider scheduling the consultation for a time of day when the light is at its best.

After the meeting, the consultant will put together a proposed palette, with ideas about placement, finishes and other factors. She or he will suggest specific paint colors — even some to be custom mixed — and options for other surfaces.

Budget ample time and money. To budget costs for the job, ask the consultant for an estimate of the hours needed for your project, then give yourself a cushion of 10 to 15 percent more in case complications arise. Rates vary widely according to location and other factors, but in general, color consultants earn anywhere from $75 to $200 per hour. Some also work on a flat-fee basis.

Be open to suggestion. Your consultation will go more smoothly if you place your trust in the pro you've hired. Convinced that bright tangerine won't work in your guest bathroom? Not so fast. If the consultant encourages you to try a specific hue, follow the advice, even if you're on the fence. Odds are you'll end up loving it (and if you don't, paint colors are a snap to change).

At the same time, if the consultant is enthusiastic about a shade you really can't abide, feel free to stand your ground and find a compromise. After all, you're the one who has to live with it.