Decorative Paint Finishes With Barbara Jacobs
Color and interior finish specialist Barbara Jacobs talks about the exciting world of paint finishes.
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As a color consultant and interior finishes specialist for more than 20 years, Barbara Jacobs has helped clients throughout the country bring together their personal design objectives and aesthetics to achieve unique and harmonious surroundings. She is a member of the Color Marketing Group that makes color trend predictions and of the International Association of Color Consultants.
What does a color consultant and interior finishes specialist do?
My job is really about helping people enrich their lives with color design and imagery. I have a variety of clients. I work with builders who are doing a whole community by suggesting the exterior colors for the whole neighborhood. I’ve worked on a project where a bunch of existing attached buildings were being rehabbed. In that case color was used to differentiate the buildings from each other. Color can do so much, from making a whole neighborhood feel more appealing and inviting to increasing pride in ownership.
In an office environment my job has to do with creating healthy spaces that help people feel more productive, more relaxed or more aware. In those cases color goes beyond what looks good to its function. You don’t want people dozing off on the assembly line because everything is painted gray.
Sometimes interior designers bring me in to help make color decisions. I also work a lot with homeowners' exterior colors. They’ll be building a house and already know their shingles and stone. They’ll show me photos or samples and ask my advice about the roof or exterior color. We’ll talk about color combinations and may test a lot of the ideas.
Inside the house I do everything from flat paint to decorative finishes. I gather information about people's homes and lifestyles and help them visualize a final color palette and combinations. The overarching connection among everybody I work with is that they want an experience or have a desire to express something, and I have to help them get that.
What do people say when they come to you?
Sometimes people have a painter coming in a few days and they just want help with colors. Or they want "something special" but they just aren’t sure what that something is. That’s when I introduce them to the variety of decorative finishes available, and many end up choosing finishes because that's the best way to express the feeling that they’re going for.
People will usually say, "I saw something in a magazine that I liked. I have a picture of it and this is what I want." Or they may remember a vista they saw and loved and want to re-create that feeling. Or they say, "I love the Tuscan look. Can we do that?" I try to make things happen for them either with straight paint or an interesting finish.
Do people know what they’re talking about when it comes to artistic finishes?
If somebody says "I want a rag look," I say "I’ll keep that in mind." But I focus on questions like "Do you want more pattern or less pattern?" not on what kind of technique they want. Some clients don’t have the ability to visualize what they want or articulate it. So part of my job is educating them and then going through the steps of figuring out what they really want.
So paint isn’t just paint and color isn’t just color?
There are lots of ways to think about color. There is solid color, then there’s broken color, which is using multiple colors together, and there are a lot of ways to do that. You can put two or three colors on one layer and use a pattern. When it comes to pattern, the more contrast you have in the colors you use the more the pattern will show up. Put black on a white wall and that’s high contrast. The smaller the pattern—the smaller the little pieces, like in a kaleidoscope, for example—the more uniform the effect becomes and the more subtle it is. Then, of course, there are metallics and pearlescents and a variety of finishes that let you add texture. It’s not just the color that creates the look; the finish is as important as the hue.
How do you develop or find the right color?
You can use a couple of different colors on the color wheel, or use a transparent color or a layered color. This is when people learn that color doesn’t have to be flat. I do optical color mixing where you may have more of a shimmering color. I can include a lot of colors and have an overall plum, but in that plum there might be some ambery-orangey and there can be greens. All that can be worked in subtly so it doesn’t look splotchy and messy.