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May 14, 2019

What’s in a Name? With Paint Colors, a Whole Lot—Here’s Proof

Picking a paint color to slap on the walls of your home can be tough—so many hues to choose from, so little time! And it’s not just about the color. A paint color’s name matters, too.

Much like naming anything, a lot of thought and deliberation go into picking the right name to describe each hue. It’s serious business, in fact. Paint companies employ color specialists, and pore through studies and test group results to craft not only the shades they make, but also the names they bequeath on each hue.

“Many labels play on emotions, usually unconsciously, because these feelings get consumers to purchase the product,” notes Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

For example, it tends to be Sumptuous Red, rather than just red. You almost feel richer reading the name.

But a paint name can also backfire. To combat varying reactions, some designers do a delicate dance when it comes to dealing with clients.

“I always hide the paint chip name when I create palettes, because naturally folks want to read it and then they’d often dismiss it right away,” explains Darla DeMorrow, author of “Organizing Your Home With SORT and SUCCEED.”

The take-home lesson? Don’t let a paint name alone color your decision too much.

“If you love a color and you connect with the name, then that’s a bonus,” says Dee Schlotter, paint company PPG’s senior color marketing manager. If you’re torn between two shades, pick the odder name—you’ll recall it instantly when asked.

To give you a taste of how much a paint color’s name can matter, here’s a sampling of seven that stand out to paint specialists and interior designers as particularly memorable, bizarre, or encapsulating the color they represent to a T—and the best places to use them in your home.

Funky Frog

It's Granny Smith apple with a dose of lime—in one
It’s Granny Smith apple with a dose of lime—in onePPG Paints

This amphibian name means it’s in the green family, but it’s far from dark and slimy. Funky Frog might be a tough sell, as chartreuse shades aren’t usually at the top of homeowners’ lists, but Schlotter feels it’ll create energy in a room, especially on a ceiling. Or maybe a door?

Elephant’s Breath

Photo by Lucy Harris Studio

The Brits have a lock on way-out names, especially the folks at Farrow & Ball. Animal references play well to their audience, including Elephant’s Breath (seen above) and Mouse’s Back.

“Farrow & Ball names are esoteric, with lots of references that we don’t necessarily understand, and Americans find them attractive in the same way they’re intrigued by a British accent,” says Debra Kling, a professional color consultant.

And their tightly edited collection makes it easier for consumers to choose one quickly, rather than sift through 50 shades of greige. Kling has used Elephant’s Breath in two different living rooms, including the recessed panels of a coffered ceiling. She’s used Mouse’s Back in a boy’s bedroom and on built-in cabinetry.

Arsenic

Photo by Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Poison’s never easy to love, even if Farrow & Ball describes Arsenic (seen above) as “a lively mint green.”

“This name feels risqué, and I personally have an aversion to pistachio-type colors,” notes Kling. But other pros believe it’s absolutely stunning on kitchen cabinets, on the inside bookshelf bays, or in a powder room.

Creme Brulee

Photo by Canyon Creek Cabinet Company

Is it dessert or the solution to your butler’s pantry? Creme Brulee by Behr(seen above) joins other fun foody names, including Glidden’s Applesauce Cake and Butterscotch Sundae by Valspar.

Carole Marcotte, an interior designer with Form & Function, raves about Marshmallow from Sherwin-Williams.

“It’s a creamy all-over white or trim color, and while it doesn’t really resemble an actual marshmallow, the name does give you that soft, squishy, satisfying feeling,” she explains.

Chaise Mauve

Photo by Tobi Fairley Interior Design

Lilac and its related tones are the girliest of colors, and one of the best expressions is the crazily named Chaise Mauve by Sherwin-Williams (seen above).

“It sounds so regal, and it’s definitely made for lounging,” notes Marcotte. She’d pair it with two others from this same company, including the dark, saturated tone Brevity Brown and a splash of Ancient Marble for a winning color combo in a dining room or bedroom.

Teeny Bikini

No polka dots here, just azure skies for days...
No polka dots here, just azure skies for days…PPG Paints

Teeny Bikini (seen at left above) sounds like a vacation in a can. What’s not to love about that? A deep, dark blue with lavender undertones, this hue works great as an accent wall, particularly in rooms where you want a fun, casual vibe.

Dilly Dally

Good day, sunshine!
Good day, sunshine!PPG Paints

You’ll need sunglasses to face this color in the morning, but according to Schlotter, Dilly Dally (seen above) is one of the top favorite names at PPG.

“And this citrusy yellow will brighten up any space,” she points out. Extra vivid hues also work well on accent walls or interior doors for a punch of color.

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