Much More Than a Sample: Paint Cards and Their Purpose

Beneath the Paint Chips: A Sample of Their History

We often think of home decorating starting in a some airy interior design office. There's a mood board on the wall and books stacked neatly with a terrarium on top. Perhaps a display or two of personal artifacts acquired during world travels. An actual scene or not, one thing is for sure: a trip to the paint store is still a must. 

Image: Decor Pad

Image: Decor Pad

 

The Ends of the Rainbow

Ah, the dizzying, inspiring, and—let's just take a moment to tip our hats to the merchandiser who set this up—impeccably organized paint sample display.

 

As someone who might have enjoyed arranging her crayons as much as using them, the ordered spectrum of paint chips has always been a restorative sight. Surely I'm not alone in collecting these cards for fun. And attendant to my appreciation is curiosity. Unsurprisingly, delving into the history of paint cards necessitates a look at Color Theory's own lineage: the origins of house painting. Yes, I actually did this Google search:

The short answer is sometime around the Industrial Revolution. The long answer, which I found here, is certainly worth the read. (Did you know there was, effectively, underground paint mixing? Me either.) New, efficient systems of manufacture, along with advances in the chemical formulations of paint, dovetailed with a growing rail industry in America. Put simply, more paint could go more places. A growing middle class had access to a product which allowed them to have their own slice of luxury: a home that was not merely functional, but stylish—even enviable—as well.

Paint companies began investing in the potential of this emerging market by developing new methods of promotion. The advertisements below date from the 1880's. What I especially love is how they glued on actual samples of paint. Restrictions in technology (mass-produced color printing had a ways to go at this point) ultimately resulted in a very real, physical presence (rather than an image) of the paint in the consumer's home via "color chip cards." I like to imagine that, not unlike us, those 19th century home-owners held teeny-tiny examples of paint up to the wall, attempting to envision it covering the entire surface. And, not unlike us, I imagine they struggled a bit as well.

Check out Architect Magazine's article, A Colorful History of Paint, for even more information and images. They also have a link to this veritable treasure trove of historical home decorating and improvement books. 

 

What's In a Name?

Another thing I noticed about the early paint samples is the color names. Apple Green, Pink Tint, Flaxen Yellow: The 19th century names are distinctly descriptive, definitely a far cry from more, um, poetic, names used by contemporary paint companies.

Today, our homes are more than reflections of class; our personal spaces communicate who we are as people—our personalities, preferences, and histories. In addition, we consider these rooms as intimate enclosures. Mood and ambience are no longer decorative by-products; They are structural and functional in the most definitive sense. For a sensitive, and perhaps transformative, meditation on our collective notions of home, Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space is a great read. And for a lighthearted take on paint color names, check out this Reddit thread

So now you know: A paint card is much more than its name. Beneath its seemingly disposable purpose it is actually something of a relic, a modern-day descendent of the complex—and ultimately, deeply human—desire to carve out a piece of the world that is truly ours.

Souces: Architect Magazine, The Magazine Antiques, Shearer Painting

 

Do you find yourself gravitating towards a particular palette when decorating your own home? What do you want these colors to say about you? If you ever want to discuss these questions further as you undertake the task of re-doing your own home, drop us a line. Color consultation is one of our passions!

Colors of the Month - A Sophisticated Winter Palette

Winter time colors should evoke a sense of dignity and warmth. They must combat the dreariness of everyday winter and yet make it look like a dance.  

Source: Benjaminmoore.com Color Stories Collection

Source: Benjaminmoore.com Color Stories Collection

With the trees now bare this light forest-sage green brings the foliage back into your home. It echoes the pine of the Christmas tree and would be great in a kitchen, family room or bathroom. 

Summer's Day CSP-780

Summer's Day CSP-780

Golden hues are the epitome of elegance. Golden garland and warm lights feed into this color. Use this as the backdrop to your fireplace and hearth or in the entire living room. A home office would also take to this color well with mahogany built-ins. 

Gilded Ballroom CSP-980 Benjamin Moore

Gilded Ballroom CSP-980 Benjamin Moore

Here is your neutral color used in transition spaces. Large open rooms and hallways, rooms that are connected to other rooms need a palette cleanser. As we move into 2016 you'll see the return of the off-white as neutral. 

Ice Milk CSP-1025

Ice Milk CSP-1025

Lastly, our statement piece. The only color that says, "yes, I am brooding winter, what about it?" It's dramatic and wonderful. Paint this color in a formal dining room and use your holiday decorations of warm white lights, silver and gold and spruce to make it charming and cozy. An off-white table setting will bring back your neutral into the room taking off the edge.

Windy City CSP-150 Benjamin Moore

Windy City CSP-150 Benjamin Moore

Would you like to see these colors in your home? Give us a call! 812-219-1537  Estimates are always free! 

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This is part of a growing trend in color decisions where there is a concern about putting pressure on kids from an early age to be or act a certain way.  The challenge is, how do we incorporate a child's taste without it overwhelming the room with that one color?  The latest answer is to use a light neutral gray and fill the rest of the room with as many colors as possible. 

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Featured Color - Chopped Dill 496 Benjamin Moore

The great thing about the Color Theory process is that it's built around the lives of our customers. We specialize in residential interior repaints and are accustomed to painting for folks in various stages of living in their home. From new move ins, to getting ready to sell; or even if it's the house your kids grew up in and it hasn't been painted since the 80's. We have the solution to providing a comfortable and easy painting service.

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