Monday, February 23, 2015

Entry Hall Color: Choosing the Right Red

After settling on red as the color for our entry hall, it was time to decide exactly what shade of red we wanted. Did we want a brick red? A Pompeian red as Eastlake described? Something with orange undertones, like a vermilion? Or something with magenta undertones, like a garnet? We knew this could be a tricky decision. Obviously, red is a bold color choice that requires a certain level of commitment. If we select a shade of red, paint the entry hall, and later decide it's not quite right, changing the paint to another color could be quite an endeavor.

To help narrow down the type of red we would use, I fiddled around with Benjamin Moore's virtual room painting tool. The Benjamin Moore tool is incredibly helpful; I found it intuitive, easy-to-use, and versatile. Several other paint companies offer similar tools. Admittedly, these online tools have their limitations: they can't account for things like changing lighting conditions and the colors are likely to appear different depending on one's monitor settings. However, the Benjamin Moore tool is useful for determining things like "Do I want a red that has magenta undertones or orange undertones?"

After playing around with the online tool, we decided that a vermilion red would be our best bet. This is our entry hall, virtually "painted" in Benjamin Moore's Cochineal Red from the Williamsburg collection. We're considering green paint for the dining room and used Benjamin Moore's Colonial Verdigris in this image to simulate the color combo. So, the goal is for our entry hall to look something like this: 


Once it was time to purchase paint samples, I picked up a quart of Codman Claret, a deep and elegant red from the Victorian Collection of Historic Colors of America. I like HCA paints because each color is researched and authenticated in collaboration with Historic New England. Historic New England describes itself as "the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization" in the United States. In other words, I trust their info.  Several other paint companies also have historic color collections, but thus far, we've used exclusively HCA paints since we appreciate their collaboration with Historic New England and their focus on authenticating actual historic colors.

But once I tried Codman Claret on the wall, I was having doubts. This is what it looked like, after three coats:

Terrible, right? The color is pretty, but those are some major drips. I've never experienced paint that drips quite so easily as this Codman Claret. I'm not an expert painter by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm certainly more meticulous than these pictures would suggest. After the first few tries, I attributed the bad result to user error. Perhaps I had soaked up too much paint on my paintbrush and/or the wall. So I tried once again, applying a minimal amount of paint to my brush, and a very light coat to the wall.

I walked away, and returned twenty minutes later to this drippy, streaky mess.  See the bottom right corner?  That paint did not start to drip until after I finished the wall and walked away.  Hands down, this was the most finicky paint I had ever used.

I consulted with the paint store owner, who explained that red colors are often less viscous and have a tendency to develop drips and streaks more easily than other colors. Apparently, the drippiness relates to the size of the red paint pigments, which are smaller than other colors. The paint store guy is always happy to share his knowledge and I learned a lot about the chemical composition of paint (interesting stuff!), which I won't repeat here since I'm not sure I would explain it quite right. Long story short: HCA has a coverall paint and primer that they developed especially for use with their red paints; it is "thick as mud" and eliminates the problems with drips and streaks. It's slightly more expensive than traditional paint, but it sounds to me like it would be worth the investment.

In the meantime, I decided to try a second shade of red from the HCA collection, Stagecoach. In addition to the consistency issues, Codman Claret had turned out slightly more pink than we wanted. Stagecoach seemed like the next closest shade, nearly as rich as the Codman Claret, but with more orange.  Here are the two colors side by side.

On this section of wall, I had applied three coats of Codman Claret and just two coats of Stagecoach.  Even though I only applied two coats of Stagecoach, it already covered the wall better than three coats of Codman Claret. And best of all: no drips! Even without trying the coverall product,which we're still planning to use once we're ready to paint the entire hall. I think Stagecoach is our winner.

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  1. Sorry about all the drips! That is frustrating. I am looking forward to seeing the finished project! The red is beautiful.

  2. Thanks, Stacy! Those drips were definitely frustrating. I'm anxious to get this entry hall painted. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the finished product will be similar to how I see it in my head.