The designer-client relationship is very similar to any other close relationship, in that it only works if there’s a certain amount of chemistry. If the chemistry’s not there, it’s just not going to work.

I can always tell when it’s not going to work with a new client, and fortunately, this is pretty much a rarity. As I’m leaving the initial consultation, I just have a bad juju feeling. This has only happened about three or four times in the nearly six years I’ve been in business, so I consider myself pretty lucky.

It happened last Wednesday.

But you know, I always hold out hope that I’m reading the situation wrong and that it’ll work out. So I was disappointed to receive a “Dear John” email today, especially since it included a bit of venom:

“The celery green, gray, purple are colors you have in every photo in your portfolio.
I need someone, who can, think outside of their, box.”

Celery green does appear often in my portfolio, but ironically, was not part of the final palette I selected for this client. There’s actually not a single gray wall in my portfolio. Purple does show up twice, but they are very different shades. (Here’s one…here’s the other one.)

For all of you who might hire a designer to help you select paint colors for your home, I think you should know this very important fact:

There are only about 10 colors in the world to choose from.

Ten? Really? But there are so many paint chips down at the paint store! Hundreds, in fact!

Yes, but it basically comes down to 10 different colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, brown, beige, and white.

If you paint your walls, I can guarantee you will pick one of these 10 colors. A designer’s job is to help you select the right hue and the right saturation for your particular space. In layman’s terms, the right “shade.”

But let’s get back to that “celery green,” thing, because I do concede that I use it a lot. Maybe you have noticed this before and wondered why that is the case. Here’s why I have and will continue to recommend this type of color, and even repeat the same shade on occasion:

1. As I told this client, it’s such a happy color. You can use color to transform your mood and/or broadcast your personality, so if I sense a client needs to liven their spirits (as I sensed with this client, who several times mentioned the death of her husband), and/or if I feel like the client has a warm and bubbly personality, I tend to suggest this color. But only if I think it will work in the space. Greens are technically cool colors, but in my experience, this particular type of green feels inviting and casual. And happy. I am all about the happy.

2. Time is of the essence. I charge by the hour, so the less time it takes to select paint colors, the less you pay. Consequently, if I have used a particular shade before, I might try that swatch before untested ones…if it works with your furnishings and the light in your space, it saves a lot of hemming and hawing over different varieties of the same color. If the “tested” shade works in your space, it also saves you the time, money, and hassle of trying a bunch of untested paint samples on your wall. I’m consistently asked, “have you tried this color before?” so I know my clients tend to appreciate colors that are tried and true.

3. I’m not going to take a color out of the rotation simply because I’ve used it before. Seems grossly unfair to the clients who come later.

4. I did not select the paint for every green room in my portfolio. Some of the rooms I’ve worked on were already painted before I came into the mix. Case in point: here and here.

5. Some of the green rooms in my portfolio appear in the same house. (For instance, this one and this one.) Whenever appropriate, I may repeat a paint color in multiple areas of the home. For instance, if we want to use green in your living room and also in your bedroom, I would suggest using the same shade of green in both spaces if it would work with the furnishings in both rooms. This creates flow and unity throughout the space and prevents your home from looking like a paint showroom. It can also save you a bit of money on paint.

6. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Where is the harm in reusing a likable color, especially one that appeals to both genders?

I say all this not to bitch and moan about a relationship that went south. Just thought it might be a useful tool for illustrating why I (or any other designer, for that matter) do what I do.