Paint: Vivid Dialogue Pops Up Across the Blogosphere

The baffled father posted a simple question online. "Any idea what color would be great" for the bedroom of his guitar-playing 13-year-old son?

Kate Smith's answer, posted on her blog at, pulled no punches. Many teen-age boy rockers "tend to want black, white, gray with maybe some red, and while this may work for album covers and stage costumes, it can be unattractive and certainly unimaginative for a bedroom."

A color trend forecaster now working on her own paint line, Smith suggested a deep blue-gray, such as Valspar Paint's Dark Night. "If the room is small," she wrote on the blog, "I'd use this same hue but go a few shades lighter."

There are hundreds of blogs about furniture, design, decorating trends and must-haves for the home, with new ones launching nearly every day.

They are written by experts and amateurs alike who happily dispense their opinions with varying degrees of authority.

In the past year, a few design blogs that focus heavily on paint and color have been started. Paint is universally considered one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest ways to transform a room. But it can also be the most difficult, with consumers overwhelmed by choices and hungry for advice. This is where the Internet comes in.

Blogs are "such an easy way for people to get hold of information. They don't have to have stacks of magazines and books. I really thought there was a gap that needed to be filled," says Rachel Perls, 33, of Baltimore. A former pet portraitist who attended seminars at the International Association of Color Consultants and now advises residential and commercial clients, Perls started her blog, at, more than a year ago.

"Mostly people are asking about color courage and color confidence," says Smith, 51, who lives in Lorton, Va., and began writing her blog last fall.

People "come to my blog with an idea and ask, 'What do you think?' ... They don't have the time or energy to make a mistake."

Both blogs offer a highly accessible, personal dialogue on color, with conversation peppered with news from the fashion, art, entertainment, architecture and marketing worlds.

When a reader of Smith's blog asked for ideas about painting an accent wall blue, she posted Behr's Mexican palette, complete with photos of vivid interiors and exteriors and a link to Behr distributors.

"I'll get a product, use it and talk about it," she says. "I recently used Valspar's Brushed Pearl paint and thought it was the most forgiving faux finish I've ever used. I am so OVER faux finish, but it was perfect for the guest bathroom." She got 13 responses to her upbeat assessment of this paint.

Perls says her blog queries cover the spectrum from where to find a "yellow that doesn't look strange" to " 'Do these colors go together with these fabrics?' They want a right-and-wrong answer. There is no right-and-wrong answer. It's a reflection of their personal taste."

When "reader Christine" asked Perls for her most frequently recommended paints, Perls cited two "high-quality" brands: Benjamin Moore (for its color choices and "beautiful, long-lasting surface") and Sherwin-Williams. She also gave Pratt & Lambert a shout-out as "awesome for deep base colors like navy and deep, rich reds. BM reds tend to be pinky. And SW has a significant problem with their deep base, and reds tend to run and streak."

She and Smith know well the limits of the Internet, including imprecise color and misinformation.

"It's hard to discern the professional from others who have cut-and-pasted," Perls says. Blogging "has turned everyone into an expert because there's no way to prove and disprove."

Each mentions the same old wives' tale that appears on design blogs advising against painting a nursery yellow because the color will make a baby cry. Nonsense, they say.

If credibility is one problem, color variation is another. This is why cyber-surfing for paint is only step one, warns Smith, a recent speaker at House Beautiful magazine's Color Institute at the Washington Design Center. Given the way computer monitors can distort color, she sees no substitute for painting directly on a large piece of poster board or a Tru-Hue color test board, which mimics a wall surface, then studying it in natural and artificial light.

"A computer can do a lot of things better than humans," Smith says, "but matching color is not one of them."

Washington Post staff writer Terri Sapienza contributed to this report.


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