Paint the lockdown blues away: How to get a professional finish

From preparing the room to picking the right colour for inside and outside your home

Paint an A4 page to test colours in different parts of the room, where the light may vary

Paint an A4 page to test colours in different parts of the room, where the light may vary

 

Homes are seeing a lot more wear and tear at the moment and, if yours is anything like mine, there will be more than a couple of walls that need a refresh.

Paint is such an easy and inexpensive way to completely transform any room, and it’s also something you can have a go at yourself. Cora Collins is a colour consultant with Weathershield and has some good advice on why some colours work and others don’t and how to successfully tackle a paint project at home.

Picking the right colour

Choosing colours is where many people struggle and it’s something I am asked about all the time. Start by figuring out the kind of atmosphere you want to create. If you’re painting a kitchen, for example, you might want to create a fresh and inviting atmosphere. So brighter colours will be ideal. If on the other hand you’re painting a bedroom, you will want a calm and restful atmosphere. So softer, more muted colours that create a tranquil feeling are an excellent choice.

The next consideration is the orientation of the room. With north-facing rooms it’s best to make them feel cosy, and warm earthy shades work best. In sunnier rooms you have more options and can play with both dark and light tones.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice it’s important to test out a colour in the room you intend to paint. “Testing a colour on an A4 piece of card is ideal,” says Collins. Some paint manufacturers sell A4 sample cards meaning you don’t need to paint one yourself. 

“A tip I always give is to fold the card in half as though you are looking at the paint in the corner. This shows the colour at its most intense as it reflects onto itself,” says Collins. Doing this will give a strong indication of how the colour is going to perform under different light conditions, but always ensure you carry out the test in the room you intend to paint.

Finish like a pro

When it comes to achieving a proper finish, preparation is critical. “If you want a professional finish and you are doing the work yourself, don’t be in a hurry to put the colour on the wall,” says Collins. “Choose good-quality products,” she says. Cheaper-quality paint often means you need more coats, which means more paint, more work and not much of a saving. The choice of finish is important too. Collins recommends eggshell for woodwork and matt for walls.

“If you spend the first half of the day preparing you will make the job look better and make life easier for yourself in the long run,” says Collins.

“Start by putting a drop cloth on the floor. Mask the skirtings and architraves and clean down walls with sugar soap,” she advises. Cleaning the walls is one step you might be tempted to skip but “it is especially important if you have a fire or a stove in the room,” she adds.

“For woodwork, I always suggest water-based as it is so much easier for the amateur painter. You can clean your brush with water and you can do two coats in a day. Leave it till last and always lightly sand before and between coats.” 

Exterior painting

Because of the soft light we get in Ireland choosing exterior colours can be particularly challenging. Strong or vibrant colours that look fantastic in sunnier countries are too strong here and tend to look garish. Whereas paler shades can look clinical and cold. 

“People probably need more help when choosing exterior colours than in any other area of colour selection,” says Collins. “It is a big commitment. On average people paint their exterior every five or six years. Because of the quantity of paint needed and cost of labour, it is an expensive mistake if you get it wrong,” she warns.

“I recommend colours that tend towards grey or have grey in them. For exterior paint, if you were looking for a duck-egg colour, for example, I would suggest a predominantly grey shade but that has enough blue and green in it to be recognised as a duck egg.”

To help you select your perfect exterior shade Collins advises looking at the colour card in natural exterior light. This is an important tip as the colour will never be in artificial light.

Secondly, you should “test the exterior colour on the house and view it at different times of the day”. A colour can look completely different at midday from what it does in the evening, and it’s important to also test any trim or plinth colours.

“Even if you think you don’t need to test the trim colour you will only be using a tiny bit. That one element not marrying in with the other main colour could take from the whole scheme,” Collins warns.

Test all colours before committing and leave nothing to chance. 

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant @optimisedesign

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