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The Journey Back to Black: The Nuances of Dark Walls

There is something undeniably glamorous about a minimalist stance — the balancing act of reduction; the idea of “less is more”. But to eclipse color and blanket everything with black holds a magic of its own.   Currently, I am experiencing a great sense of relief and freedom with this intentional choice and, for the first time, refusing to get caught up in the drama and complexity that comes with layering color and forming harmonious, complimentary color palettes. As much as I love, adore and appreciate color — and its walk before me every minute of my day — there is something  currently refreshing and appealing in the choice to remove it all and surround myself with black, and the many discovering shades thereof. I see that I have always underestimated the value of black as an exclusive choice, perhaps fearing that this strikingly dramatic solo player might possibly overplay its hand.

Experimenting with varying shades of black.


For me, black has always played the supporting role in a production. Though a valued and highly regarded team player in my cast of colour, it was never center stage. However, while walking this path of new discovery (also partly inspired by the purchase of my new home that begs for the unusual), I realise that black needs no partners; it has a mysterious and secretive world all of its own. It contains and absorbs all colour.

This black gloss powder room delivers the drama.

Many of you stand alone in the darkness, with the self-bravery and courage to venture out into this world.  For me, I am faced with my memory and fear of dark lake waters and being told to ‘jump in’. They say the dark waters represent the unconscious mind and your fullest potential, which especially at a young age are unknown and intimidating.
I’m inspired by the “dark side” of my friend, London-based stylist, retailer and designer Abigail Ahern  a who embraces the dark colors and adventurous interiors.

Ahern’s signature colour palette is an array of intoxicating, dark, inky “bottom of the lake” hues.

As I open myself up to black in its quiet, reflective solitude, I am learning to focus on its nurturing qualities – the richness of good soil, the lone flight of a raven across a grey misted winter sky, the surface of a long road that supports me each day in travel.

In my design, black supports and almost demands a lack of clutter and the introduction of furnishings and art that allows these pieces to shine bright like stars in the darkness.

And, I confess to going to personal extremes in my new-found respect of black by eliminating the flavoured creamers in my coffee that lined the refrigerator door. I am now a coffee-drinking purist with no ten word order for my morning java.

Black paint is like the color of my coffee

Taking my new affinity toward black personally by removing the creamer from my coffee!

Today, there are so many variations of the standard black-black that instead of feeling mired in the darkness, they highlight the subtle undertones: bruised blue-black, deep amazon green-blacks, black with a warm red or umber influence that looks like dark roasted coffee beans — all rich and intoxicating. 

C2’s line of “near blacks” represents a full range of the dark side with colors like Aperture, Stout and Baritone. The saturation of C2’s finely ground pigments provides a “black” with undertones of dark greens and blues that have much higher resolution and an intense depth.

black paint with white is a classic combination

The eternal classic pairing of black and white (featured: C2’s Aperture + Architectural White)

Embracing black is a process that I welcome and embrace, even knowing the challenges it poses. On a recent design collaboration for a public Buffalo Showhouse event, I used my new ally partnered simply with white. The classic combination was chic, classic and sophisticated. I partnered with Traci Ackerman of Red Disc Design and created a schematic around her Burchfield Penney wallpaper launch with the ‘Flowers at Night’ wallpaper.
wallpaper painted with black paint

With the historic 1921 design by Burchfield Penney we selected a contemporary C2 color palette of esoteric midnight black – Aperture, with a calibrated measure of Seraph – a soft blue grey tucked into window niches and the hallway.

The black and white schematic navigated me into a more minimalist aesthetic, which, given that I have moved home four times in the past 19 months, definitely has its pluses. Everything becomes so punctuated against a dark background — and needs careful curation. It is a more definite and orchestrated production in furnishing the space with a need to view and understand all the nuances and subtleties of light, texture and the combinations of finishes.  The identity of the space becomes a place for self reflection and peace for me.
How long this will last? I have no idea. The beauty of our homes is that they allow us to create a refuge that represents that particular chapter of our lives, and can change just as easily with the ebb and flow of time.For now, I’m enjoying and embracing “the dark side” for now, and all the teachings that came with this new direction.

Top 10 Tricks the Pros Use When Choosing Paint Color:

It’s always fun to pop into the paint store and check out the latest color trends, imaging the magical transformation a new paint color creates. There is no other tool in the designer’s kit that brings a bigger bang for the design buck than fresh paint.

There’s nothing worse than a near-miss when it comes to color. Sure, the all-out color disaster would qualify, but how often does that happen with paint? Not nearly as often as those near-misses. We see them often.

To keep you from heading towards disaster, keep the following tips in minds as you dream of stunning new color…

When choosing paint color, always try before you buy


Top 10 Tricks the Pros Use When Choosing Color:

  1. Do not choose your color in the paint store without taking it home for a test run.
  2. Pick up a wet paint sample and a mini roller (foam brushes don’t lay enough paint for an accurate color reading).
  3. Paint a minimum sample size on your wall that’s at least 24” x 24”. Bigger is always better.
  4. Test your color in three areas: in the corner, the wall opposite the largest window and the window wall itself (this way you can see the color on the lightest wall, darkest wall, while the corner will show you the most intensified color).
  5. The best time of day to choose colors is between 10am to 2pm – when the sun is highest in the sky.
  6. Take step #5 to heart, but make sure to analyze your color with your morning coffee and with your evening cocktails. Your color will look different during each time of day.
  7. Color is all about relationships. When it comes to choosing paint, make sure you have assembled all the important elements that will be in the room; sofa, carpet and tile, cabinetry, etc. The color of your paint is a lot easier to adjust than anything else in a design scheme (and even easier if you haven’t painted yet!)
  8. When comparing more than one color, make sure you can view your samples individually, otherwise the different colors will influence each other.
  9. Consider using a color professional. This is what they do, and you can save a lot of time and effort by heading in the right direction from the beginning.
  10. Give yourself enough time to find your perfect color. Taking your time minimizes the stress of making the ‘right’ decision, and you can make sure you’ve got it nailed down before the painter gets rolling!

Consider hiring a professional color expert. Here, interior designer Paula McHugh is working with Daly’s Dan Cookston.

How Color Effects Mood

Did you ever walk into a room and feel instantly calm? Often times it’s more than Yanni on repeat that generates that sense of calm. Much of that feeling is attributed to the paint color they chose, and more specifically the undertone of the paint color they chose.

When discussing paint color, we usually think of how the shade will look in a particular room. Did you know that color can also affect the way we feel? The philosophy of color explains how color is directly tied to our emotions. Everyone understands what it means to be “red with anger”, “green with envy”, or what it is to “feel the blues”. When it comes to color for your home, you can control how your home ‘feels’ by the artful – and strategic – use of color.


Color is connected to the light spectrum, and therefore affects our bodies physically, even when our eyes are closed. For example, you could walk into a freshly painted white room and feel how cold it is, but enter a different white room and it might feel fresh and lively instead. Much of this is accomplished by the undertones and formulation of the color itself. That’s why full-spectrum paints are so compelling.

Full-spectrum paints, like every color in the C2 Paint palette, are formulated using multiple pigments that represent more of the color wheel than traditional paint formulas. Additionally, no C2 Paint color uses any black pigment in their color recipes, so you never have a color that looks lifeless or dull. The beauty of full-spectrum colors is that regardless of the current light condition, the paint color interacts with light in a compelling, luminous way.


Beautiful full spectrum colorants

Combining full-spectrum paints and armed with a little knowledge about specific colors and how they make you feel, you can create an environment that really makes you feel good. Really good.

Here is a brief explanation of each color and how it affects you:

Yellow – It’s virtually impossible to be cranky in a yellow room. Using yellow, anything from palest creams to deepest golds, is like capturing the sun in a jar. Yellow is an energetic color, so use it where you want to bump up the joy.

Lightning Bug, BD-71

Lightning Bug, BD-71

Orange – If you’re looking to stimulate the appetite and add spice, orange is the perfect choice. It also symbolizes change when it’s bright and lively, and represents stability when muted and quiet. In design, energetic orange is a great color to excitement to a neutral space.


Bittervine, BD-45

Red – Ready to romp? Yup, forget those 50 Shades and use red instead. Red raises your heart rate and time passes in a blur. Take it a little more orange and it’s the perfect color to increase your appetite.

Plum Tomato, BD-62

Purple – Interestingly, purple is a combination of hot to-trot-red and cooler-than-cool blue, so it brings both elements to the table. Purple can make your feel very meditative and intellectual or vivacious and royal.

Tamarind, C2-505

Tamarind, C2-505

Blue – One of  the most popular and reassuring color used in design, blue communicates stability and safety, as evidenced on this chic office wall.

Espionage, C2-742; Whistler White (ceiling, walls, trim), C2-756

Espionage, C2-742; Whistler White (ceiling, walls, trim), C2-756

Green  If you want to create a soothing sense of calm, green is your hue. Soft colors, like green sea glass all the way to rich, deep emeralds and olives; green is a great choice.

Posh, C2-934

Posh, C2-934

C2 Paint Fall 2016 Color Trends

While still popular, the softer tones that headlined seasons past are moving toward more adventurous colors in deep and mid tones. Reflective of a strong desire for confidence and stability, blues are the lead trend for fall 2016 – ranging from light, milky tones to more robust, stately hues. We anticipate one of the most popular being deep, near black blues (like Espionage, C2-742 and Brigand, C2-757). Other more vibrant colors like emerald greens, green-based yellows and purples are also becoming more popular, while earth tones remain a steady favorite.

Watch the video of our fall C2 colors below!


Another current trend that is growing is the “finish of the moment”  – gloss. Using this beautifully reflective sheen with deep tones on walls results in a high fashion, high design feel. It’s also being used more regularly on ceilings to create polish, interest and a touch of glamour.

Tell us what color and design trends are inspiring you this season!


Behind the Scenes with an Architectural Color Specialist

daisy yellow

I am an Architectural Color Specialist. I do not follow trends.

Color is communication. My first step when meeting clients is an interview. What do you wish to express in terms of style and mood? How do you want to feel? How do you want others to feel? How is this space used and navigated? What flaws are to be hidden and what treasures to be illuminated? Once we establish these, it is my responsibility to create the most beautiful (and I would say, original) iteration of said goal(s) by picking just the right colors that satisfy both you and the space. I want my color work to be beautiful, surprising, innovative, and in complete collaboration with the user.  I attempt to extract the kernel of what is desired and germinate it. I do assert myself: I have strong views about what will be successful yet these are always in service to the design goal, which is yours. Aesthetic beauty is important but this cannot be the only consideration. The effect of colors, or what they communicate, is a function of our humanity (biological and otherwise), culture, and individual subjectivity. Radiant Orchid is not right for everyone everywhere. Nor is Acme Beige.

I let you paint your bedroom red.

What we find beautiful and crucially for residential color, liveable, reflects our interior state. Humans (like much else) seek homeostasis: we make constant systemic adjustments in response to external stimuli so that we remain stable. For example, an introvert, someone who gets  stimulation from his or her interior world, will favor subtler and softer colors and color relationships; an extrovert, who gets juice from the external world, the reverse. And every degree along the spectrum (pun intended). Equilibrium between me and my environment creates that perfect balance of both alive and peaceful. This is neurological excitation without enervation.

The other variable in this equation is time. The areas where you spend the most time should best reflect that baseline. Wall color, because it usually covers the most surface area in a space, drives your systemic response. On a recent full interior job, the mother was excited but slightly trepidatious about our choice for her daughter, Lucia’s, room. Lucia is eight years old and loves India: the sights, sounds, and colorful hubbub. She is a very energetic child, willful and artistic. We chose five colors for the room: four pinks of various kinds for the walls and a shocking green for the closet doors. Her mother was concerned that the vivacity of her environment would make Lucia even more energetic (i.e. extroverted). As I explained, because Lucia spends a great deal of time in that room, the more it mirrors her interior world, the calmer she will feel. This exemplifies the tonic effect of color.

My bedroom, on the other hand, where I spend very little time is white with a pale chartreuse ceiling. I enter. My nervous system immediately plunges into quietude. I fall fast asleep.


I do not have a “go to” white.

I have an obligation to your building. I want it to be as beautiful as possible and this means that your design goal, what you want to express with your colors, must be tempered by the architectural space itself. This is the key to a successful design that you, the client, will appreciate and adore. Surface material, line, form, and proportion strongly determine the choices I make. Different latitudes reflect different colored light. What is outside your window reflects onto the interior. The color you love on your neighbor’s house will not look the same on yours. The couch in your living room effects your perception of the wall behind it, the pillow upon it, and the trim work around it. This is relative perception. Color is always relative.

If the same colors look different everywhere then why do I rail against “go to” colors? For similar reasons to why I disfavor trends in architectural color: they are two sides of the same coin. Trends serve only aesthetics (and mercantilism) in complete disregard for the effects of color. So do “go to” colors, because they are used without thought. Such stock colors might look different and decent in a lot of places but their effect will also change: does this color achieve what I want in this specific environment? And just as important, is it the most beautiful choice I could make? Creativity by definition cannot be rote. Mimicry of oneself or others is unartistic and mindless repetition is unnatural. Every daisy in the chain is unique, if you look close enough to see.

Learn more about Nan on her blog: