Home » Home & Garden » My quest: finding the perfect paint color

My quest: finding the perfect paint color

By Sandra J. Hutchinson

This story originally appeared in The Chronicle’s 2016 Summer Home issue.

I’m a woman on a mission — to find the right paint color for my kitchen cabinets. They’ve been a rich, barn red for about 13 years now, and I’m ready to lighten them up.

This endeavor — nay, obsession — has me poring over color charts, paint strips, paint chips, pictures in magazines and books, and wooden boards that have been painted as samples showing what a particular color would look like on a raised panel door, in my kitchen.

My friend Tim, who is doing the actual sanding, priming and painting of my cabinets, is a kind and patient man. Fortunately, we have a month or two before his schedule will open up and enable him to do the work at our house. But he’s also a meticulous craftsman who understands how important it is to select just the right color — one that’s not too…..too yellow, too grey, too green, too blue, too dark, too light. Because just about every raised panel door he has painted for me as a sample to see what the color looks like in my actual kitchen, has been too something.


After I finally decided on colors: my friend Tim, priming my barn red cabinets before painting them.

This decision is probably complicated by the main permanent fixtures in my kitchen — a dark green countertop and massive farm sink made of slate dug out of the hills on the Granville/Vermont border, by Peter Tatko’s crew at Sheldon Slate. It is most assuredly green, and it ain’t going anywhere. Ever.

I’m partial to Benjamin Moore paint, in terms of colors, which is probably a good thing, since Tim likes to use it because of the variety of sheens offered.

And I’m not alone, since many decor books, magazines and catalogs feature this brand of paint. Even the Pottery Barn catalog identifies the Benjamin Moore paint colors used in the rooms used to display their furnishings.

A kitchen corner: Benjamin Moore Historical Color #108—Sandy Hook Gray, with tiger maple counter.

A kitchen corner: Benjamin Moore Historical Color #108—Sandy Hook Gray— here, with tiger maple counter.

But looking at a picture, whether in print or on your computer screen, is no substitute for going to the store, buying a small can of a color, and painting a board to hold up in different parts of your room, at different times of day and different lighting conditions.

Thus it is that I’ve become very friendly with the  guys who work the paint counter at St. Andrew’s Ace Hardware in Queensbury.

They see me coming and say: “Didn’t work for you, eh?” (Important note: you can now purchase a pint of a custom color and no longer have to buy a minimum of a quart.)

It’s always a good thing when you see a color you like in someone else’s home and they can identify the color name and manufacturer.

Friends of mine who have the same slate countertop in their kitchen used a couple of shades of soft green on their cabinets and associated trim. They generously gave me the names of the paint colors, and off I went (this time to Sherwin Williams) to get a sample of one of them, called Jogging Path.

When I went into the store and the clerk offered to help me find the color on a sample strip, another woman who was waiting overheard us talking and exclaimed “That’s the color I’m here for!”

The paint man said, “Oh, that’s a very popular color.” So I thought to myself — it’s a sign! This is it! This is my color!

Sadly, when Tim painted a board with Jogging Path, and I held it up in my kitchen, it was too…… light.

So it was back to the drawing board. I’ve tried a lot of the “historical” colors from Benjamin Moore. I just love the idea of saying “Oh yes, my cabinets are Nantucket Gray!” or “The backsplash is Revere Pewter!,” as dumb as that sounds. But in my defense, the range of grays, greens and neutrals in that palette do tend to work well in my home.

As of this writing, I still haven’t made a decision. (Note: photos above are post-decision!)

You know when your doctor tells you to stay off the Internet to avoid reading about a medical condition? Well, that should be the rule when it comes to paint color as well. There are a bunch of blogs, believe it or not, about choosing paint colors, and countless photos on sites like Houzz.

You can spend literally hours looking up color combinations for various rooms.

But something that looks perfect on your screen is often a complete disappointment after you search out a real sample. There is some satisfaction, though, in knowing that the perfect color does exist out there somewhere — the trick is just in finding it.

Another nice choice— a soft yellow, lantern glow, by Century

A nice choice for this custom pantry— a soft yellow acrylic latex called Lantern Glow, from Olde Century Colors. Bantam rooster by West Pawlet, Vermont artist Roy Egg, on top.


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