How To Draw A Golden Rectangle (For interior designers and architects)

In my last blog post, we went through what the golden ratio (or as I’m using here Golden rectangle) is and why it is important to a designer. This week, I will show you how to draw one for yourself.

Firstly, you will need a few bits and pieces for drawing (or drafting):

  • Set square
  • Compass
  • Pencil
  • Drafting pen
  • Paper (& tracing paper if you prefer)
Step 1

The first step is to draw a square. It is really important to get the square to be perfectly square or else you will have problems later. If you don’t know how to do that, just try to measure from each edge of your page (assuming you are using a fresh, straight piece of paper!)

One thing I like to do is to extend the lines farther out so that I can use them as guidelines for the rest of the exercise, (see all of my working out liens underneath my tracing paper?)

STEP 1

Step 2

Once you have your square drawn, measure and mark the centre of the bottom line of the square. This gives you the point at which you will draw your arc from.

STEP 2

Step 3

Adjust your compass so that it meets the top right edge of your square from the centre-point line that we measured in step 2. Now draw an arc all the way down past 90 degrees so that you definitely cross the horizontal lines.

STEP 3

Step 4

Now you can see the relationship between your rectangle and square. Pretty right? So now all we do is draw the lines to extend your square into a rectangle using the extension we just worked out and voila!

STEP 4

Step 5

Here it is, your perfectly proportioned rectangle that is in harmony with nature and all things beautiful. I like to draw it on tracing paper so that it is more usable, although I also work heavily with Photoshop these days, so I just have a copy saved as a layer so that I can use it as a guide when I am designing.

STEP 5

Now you can create beautiful interiors, architecture, presentations, spaces, websites, logos and graphics that are in perfect harmony!

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The Composition Rule For Designers

The Golden Ratio What is it and why is it important to a designer?

At the moment I am mentoring my first round of amazing interior designers who are setting up their businesses. I realized when I was writing this section of my program, I needed to go deeper, but it was also an opportunity to give my blog readers a bit of a lesson on proportion and composition.

What my aim is to help us as “non-academics” in architecture to understand something quite fascinating that is actually very relevant to our lives. As many of us seek beauty in either the work we do or the things we create there are a few secrets that the ancient designers knew about that have been forgotten or are unknown to many a modern designer, which could help in creating well-proportioned spaces, designs and buildings.

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians had knowledge of a mathematical equation which is visible in nature (sunflowers, shells and pineapples to name just a few), and they used this mathematical equation to create perfectly harmonious structures, paintings and art.

If you ever read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code then you would have heard of the Fibonacci sequence (a number sequence which adds the two before it 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13, 21 and on). This is closely related to the Golden Mean although Fibonacci didn’t know it if you divided the numbers that make up the Fibonacci sequence they also oscillate around phi or the Golden Ratio.

For the geeky of you who want to know just a little more, the golden ratio is equal to approximately 1.618 (or the Greek letter phi – not to be confused with pi). So very simply, the golden ration (or golden mean or Golden Section) is a mathematically worked out rule of harmony. But for us as humans, it is easily understood by figuring out what the most harmonious and beautiful rectangle looks like (thanks Jo for totally destroying the mystery).

This is why it is important to designers, photographers and architects or anyone in a creative industry because it gives you a rule of thumb for creating beautiful pages, compositions, designs and in my case, fenestration which is in harmony with the other parts of a building.

So here it is (the purple outline):

The Golden Ratio

You can see it here, this is the perfect rectangle. Great huh? Pleasing to your eyes much?

It isn’t that relevant looking at it on the screen like this so I went for a walk through London and took a few photos of some classically proportioned buildings to demonstrate this example for you.  We will work out how to create it next time, but for now, let’s just see how it is used in these buildings to create pleasing harmony.

Perfectly proportioned rectangle (Golden Ratio)

 

So what are you looking at here?  I just superimposed our perfectly proportioned rectangle (Golden Ratio) onto this lovely London Regency style terrace to see if it had been designed with the golden ration and yep, there it is, sure enough, this designer knew how to create some pretty proportions.

Again perfectly proportioned rectangle (Golden Ratio)

I just played around with the proportions and tested how it could relate to other parts of the buildings.

 

The small parts are related to the whole composition

 

And as you can see the relationships are pretty unmistakable, which means that the proportions of this building were designed around knowing this pretty cool composition rule. Even to those of you who don’t love these terraces (do you exist?) At least you can see that they were thought out in a way that made sense mathematically and subconsciously as they are inextricably linked to nature and our daily lives.

 

As you see nothing has been left to chance

 

In my next blog post, I will show you how to create a perfect rectangle, so that you know how to use it yourself.

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When Should I Hire An Interior Designer?

My clients always ask, when is the right time to hire an interior designer? Funnily enough, pretty much 99% of the time, clients want and need you to start their project ASAP.

Its funny, you can’t imagine how many phone calls and emails I get from prospective clients who say, “we need things to be complete next month when we move in”. To be honest these days my tradie contacts mixed with my online service and the awesome addition of assistants means that I can deliver great results in such a short deadline.

The reality for most interior designer’s however, is that, like a good builder, we are booked up months in advance because we need to be to ensure good cash flow for our businesses. Unfortunately for designers, clients, want you and your attention on their dream home and they want it now, not in a month’s time and DEFINITELY NOT in two (are you crazy!)

So even though I want to write to every client saying, hire your designer as early as possible, that still will never “feel” early enough for the designer, because early enough for our client’s means, you get one week to measure and draw up the house (because you start tomorrow right?)

…and then you have one week to come up with the best designs in the world and then present them to us in the most easily understandable and beautiful way possible that is awe-inspiring and worthy of a gold medal and make any updates and changes we request and reissue right?

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…and then you have one week to order, organize and call, find, agree on a fee for all of the finishes and tradesmen.

…and then your guys (and gals) have a week to lay the floors and paint the walls (at the same time) in a 4 bedroom house and then they’ll be moving in when everything has dried (another day after that right?)

I’m joking, well actually no I’m not.

So, when should I hire an interior designer?

My message to clients:

  • Please give your designer as much time as realistically possible to provide you with the best service that you deserve. Hire them as soon as you find the house or if you trust your designer’s opinion, get them on board when searching for the right house.

My message to designers:

  • Keep yourself 80% booked, not 100% so that you don’t have to say no to a wonderful client that you really want to work with.

 

The Skills You Need To Be A Freelance Interior Designer

A couple of years ago I was invited to a local school to talk to students about their careers. I was astounded at the reasons why people wanted to go into a certain career and I couldn’t believe the misconceptions and preconceptions some had about what skills were required and the ways to qualification for interior designers, building technicians and architecture students.

For clarity, here in the UK you do not need a formal education in interior design to become an interior designer.  There are many skills that are required and lots of experience, but these are not things that should hold you back from pursuing a career if it is something that you want to do.  My advice is to find the right teacher and start getting as much experience as possible.

Across my career, I have mentored and taught interior design, architecture and construction detailing to colleagues, workmates, students and assistants.  In my opinion, the only other important thing required other than a great teacher and experience are the following personality traits:

Problem Solving Skills & Creativity

These are probably the most important skills because they not only relate to every project (there is always a point on a project where you need to be creative and sort out a way to provide a solution to a problem), but creative expression has to be a passion for you, or else it will exhaust you.

Good Design Knowledge & Intelligent Flexibility

Knowing when to give up on an idea but still being able to make something intrinsic to a design work, is a key skill to anyone in a creative field.

Your initial ideas need to withstand physical alterations or value engineering by a builder or client. This is where I see many a designer turn to blaming others for the failure of a “great idea”.

You need to be able to see the opportunity to better your design when something gets in the way, not just give up and blame someone because they inhibited your project from succeeding. Being flexible but also having the skill base to support your decision is really important to success as a freelance interior designer.

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Excellent Communicator & A People Person

This relates to anyone running a business but is even more important in a service based industry where you are translating peoples desires into reality. Your clients will be revealing many of their lifestyle choices to you and you need to be mature and intelligent enough to deal with all situations that arise either with your clients, suppliers and other consultants including builders.

Communicating ideas and speaking clearly about your project are absolutely critical to your success as a freelance interior designer.

Organization and Management Skills

You are your own boss, so it makes sense that you need to run your own business. You will need to organize your invoices, client communication, taxes, furniture and fitting suppliers, builders etc. You will be in contact with lots of people on a daily basis on any one project, so it will be important that your digital and hard filing are completely in order.

Losing information or misplacing things is simply not an option.

Tenacity and Motivation

There is a reason why some interior designers become successful and others don’t and I do believe it has more to do with tenacity and motivation than any other skill. You don’t have to be the best to be the best. You just have to put your hand up and be ready to take an opportunity when it is presented to you and don’t give up when things get hard and don’t be afraid to take on a project that seems a bit of a push. Get help if you need it, don’t give up.

Want to know what it is like to be an interior designer?  You might like my blog post called My Life As An Online Interior Designer

How To Get Your First Client

How to get your first client and specifically How To Get Your First Interior Design Client – Without a portfolio of work and without a long list of contacts.

When I started my business as an online architectural and interior designer, I had been living in the UK for about 10 years. Anyone who moves away from home, even to another city, knows that meeting new people and creating a network isn’t quite so easy.  I had no idea where to start to get my first client.

By my age, people have families and they don’t go out as often as they used to, their sports have taken a back seat and their priority are their children. Most of the women I know who are architects or designers get most of their work at the “school gate”. Its like an abundant place where friendly people speak to you knowing who you are and seem to trust you straight away.

But what if you don’t have kids, family, friends and a great network of supportive, like-minded people who are willing to help you out?  How do you get your first client?

Getting clients doesn’t have to be hard. I slowed my progress to having a successful business because I didn’t do these things to get clients and once I did… they started rolling in (literally).

Tell Them All About It

You can’t be the world’s best-kept secret. You have to talk to literally everyone you know about what you are doing – repeatedly. You have to keep reminding people that you are around and that this is what you do now. It may take some time, but someone you ultimately know or know through someone else will think of you when someone needs you as a designer.

Word of mouth (or even word of social media) is so strong, but you have to remind people ALL THE TIME. No room for being shy or thinking “oh they know”. I didn’t get any clients for years… yes I was trying to start a business for years… and I didn’t tell anyone… because I thought they all knew…

As soon as I announced that I as finally working full time for myself, I got 4 referrals straight away. All of which ended up being my clients.  Job done and I got my first client.

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Share Your Knowledge

I used to believe that without a gorgeous portfolio of projects to show your clients there was no hope of ever getting a client. To me it was like this chicken and egg scenario, but I need a client first before I can get some photos of my work!

I know that isn’t true now… at all. If you check my website, I still don’t have a vast portfolio and I have worked with well over 30 clients this year! (My projects are only just now coming to completion and we will be photographing them soon, so stay tuned), but this isn’t an excuse either.

The way I started to get respect for my expertise is by giving by knowledge freely. I helped people out on any forum I could find. Interior design and architecture historically are not those kinds of professions where people share their knowledge too freely, so getting real help (for free) was my way of getting some street cred.

Speak To Someone New Every Day

This was the hardest for me. When I was low and all poor me about my work and life situation, the last thing I wanted to do was to speak to anyone about my loser life. But I put in my diary that I had to speak to someone new every day. Whether it’s the post man, tell him what you do. If it’s the local shop, put a flyer up and speak to them and tell them what you do. You this on social media too, but don’t just type, set up a meeting or a call, because you cant click with a person as well (in my opinion) with just typing, especially if you feel a bit weird at the beginning just trying to meet people.

Oh and this is a bonus one…

Leave Your Dignity At The Door

Oh man, yyou can’t imagine how many bruised ego’s I had. Again, it took me a super, duper, really long, long time to get that you have to toughen up and be confident about what your skills are and what you can do. People will say no.. that’s ok and sometimes that’s actually a blessing!

Don’t get upset if people ignore you, (because they will), don’t worry if people think you are a freako (because they will), if you are passionate about what you do, even those people who were non believers will come back, so never give up, keep going and every time someone knocks you down, you can find ingenuitive ways to keep getting back up (with some or no class.. your choice).

And if you want to know what its like to be an online freelance designer, you can read my blog post here

5 Ways To Update Your bathroom

Bathrooms can be rooms that get overlooked in a house and they shouldn’t. These spaces are nearly always the first place we go to when we wake up and the last room we leave before we go to sleep, so they should make us feel great.

I’m one of those “bath lovers” so I can really spend hours in my bathroom as its the place I actually go to to try to relax.  Below are a few ways you can update your bathroom to give it a fresh finish.

1. Add plants

There isn’t a single room in your house which won’t benefit from housing a plant. Not only are they so varied and beautiful, they are also proven to help reduce stress and create a sense of well-being. Plants can also help to reduce noise and improve air quality! Ok I’ll stop singing plants’ praises, but now you know, you have no reason not to add some greenery to your bathroom!  This is one of the fastest, most fun and easiest ways to update your bathroom.

Bathrooms aren’t always filled with lots of natural light so choose plants which require low lighting to thrive. Humidity and temperate levels are also important as hot running water and lots of steam can cause these levels to increase, and some plants are not happy about this.

Most bathrooms aren’t huge in size either, so opt for plants which can sit on a shelves and windowsills, trail down walls and hang from the ceiling. My favourites are aloe vera, ivy and the cast iron plant, which lives up to its name. Not even I can kill this one!

Image source http://www.housemixblog.com/2017/03/28/plant-wall-in-the-bathroom/

2. Add art

Art work is another way to update your bathroom. If you think your bathroom or downstairs toilet is too small for art work, it isn’t! Artwork comes in every form and size these days and you may be surprised at what works in this space.

Seascapes and beaches are a great go to for bathroom art work but really anything can work. Nature is another art subject which sits well in a bathroom as it will help to bring the feeling of the outdoors in to your space. If you want a cosmopolitan feel printed typography and graphics are a fun way to freshen up the room.

3. Updating shower curtains and screens

Refreshing your bathroom can be as easy as changing your shower curtain. Long gone are the days of plain white shower curtains which stick to your wet body whenever you try to move!

The High street and lots of online retailers offer various colours patterns and designs which can be suited to any style. I would suggest opting for something fun and patterned or colourful to really add some life to your bathroom. The best thing about shower curtains too is that they can be changed easily and as soon as you think it has had its day. They are also great if you like to change your style from time to time and can be a cheap way to update your bathroom.

Another option is to invest in updating your shower curtain to a glass screen. This option will help to modernise a bathroom space, possibly making it feel lighter and arguably even cleaner.

Image source – https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/saskia-pomeroy-plants-shower-curtain-001?category=A_NEWARRIVALS&cm_mmc=social-_-pin-_-562016-_-plantsshowercurtain

4. Updating Towels

Updating your towels is also a really easy way to freshen up your bathroom. Adding luxurious towels in contrasting or complimentary colours will make the space look nicer, but importantly when you get out of the shower or dry your hands, they will feel nicer on your skin.

There’s nothing better than placing your towel over the radiator before washing and then stepping into a warm fluffy towel!

image source https://www.wayfair.co.uk/textiles-bedding/pdp/behrens-zen-hand-towel-brns1033.html

5. Window furnishings

Updating your window furnishings is another great way to bring your bathroom to life. Blinds don’t have to be extortionate and colourful prints or designs will help to instantly uplift the room. As with choosing art work and shower curtains, you can have lots of fun with choosing patterns and colours for blinds. The designs are endless and there is a design out there to suit everyone.

So I would suggest keeping in mind the other elements of the room. A patterned artwork, blind and shower curtain will probably be too much for one space so choose one element and make it work for you. As for me, I would be heading straight for a safari patterned blind, to give my bathroom a real tropical feel. (I’m still in the middle of my safari craze and am loving it!)

image source http://wadeweissmannarchitecture.com/

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How To Solve A Zoning Issue At Home

Zoning issues arise from the way we use our homes. It could be that you bought a home that was in the right area but the house itself never really worked for your family. It can happen if your family grows and changes and your home cannot be altered to deal with those changes (I.e. you rent the property and can’t add or remove walls or extend).

Being limited by the layout of a home that doesn’t work for your family is where zoning issues really arise. One home could be a perfect fit for the lifestyle of one family but may be totally wrong for another family. It is also interesting in the way that more often than not, I see the families blaming lack of storage or the size of the house as the main issue.

The reality is that your lifestyle can be altered for better or worse by the layout of your house. Take a person who struggles to go upstairs and give him or her a large open plan, ground floor without many obstructions where they can easily go into each space. Now put that same person in a 5 story, narrow, terrace house with a limited or largely terraced garden and the same person becomes hugely limited in how much of the home he or she can experience freely, mixing up private and public zones by way of necessity.

Another example is if you work from home and have people in and out all day, but are limited by those people having to enter the house a particular way whilst also not being able to alter the property due to it being rented or shared with others. Arguments arise over items left in areas that are visible to guests (public zone) and tidiness becomes a much bigger issue.

The Victorians were masters at public/private zoning. They had sculleries, hidden hallways, secondary stairs, all for back of house duties that could be hidden from daily view. When we design hotels and commercial or stadium buildings, we also create back of house areas hidden from public view where other duties can be performed without the disruption of other tasks.

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Our desire for open plan living is influenced by the modernist movement, but those original layouts and homes were exceptionally well thought out and when analysed, still had very specific and clear public and private zones or separation by way of screens or circulation.

So how do you live happily in a zone-less house or a house where your public and private zones are all muddled up? It is more a creative and design process that is required, but if you want to give it a go on your own, here is a place to start:

  1. Think about the most important daily functions required of each space. For example, a living room may also be an entry hall, study space for children as well as a relaxation space in the evenings for parents as well as where guests are invited.
  2. Work out which functions aren’t working the best or which cause the most arguments. If we use the same space above work out if it’s the lack of a functional entry hall which is causing lots of items to be left in the living room or whether the location of a TV and the only comfortable chair for relaxing are in the same room and yet one person needs quiet and another likes to watch TV really loud.
  3. Once you identify some functions, habits and possibly practical issues about how you are using the space, think about how to relocate some of those functions to other areas (such as a quiet, comfortable reading space).
  4. The next step is to think about the practical requirements of each space. An entry hall is very important in a home and yet, at least here in England many homes are too small for an entrance hall or the walls have been removed to create an open plan living space, removing the separation between those zones. Try some creative storage ideas or separate with a screen or piece of furniture that can act as a “dumping” ground for when entering the house.
  5. Finally look again at the main problem space and try to filter out the final issues. Can you rearrange the furniture to create some privacy or perhaps make the space more social. Could you child’s desk also double as a lovely shelving unit for other display or personal items?

Give it a go. You might have to try the process a few times, but don’t give up, as your quality of life will change, you just have to have a good look at how you are using the space!

Here is a fun exercise for you:

Identify an item in your home that doesn’t have a specific place to be or live, it could be a hat, blanket, anything that you use but hasn’t got a real home. Watch it over 2 weeks to see where it moves to.  How much energy did it take to find it and how much energy did it take to think about where it was if it was in a different location each time?

 

How Different Colours Make You Feel (with a free worksheet)

We are surrounded by colour, in our homes, workplaces, schools, shopping centres, museums, streets, TV and online. It really is a part of our day.

Did you know that we feel and absorb the colour we see around us? We are stimulated, energised and relaxed by certain colours. Wearing or being exposed to a colour can change our mood and enhance our health and wellbeing. I know personally when I see colourful food, I immediately feel energised, excited and healthy!

Violet

The shortest wavelength it affects our bodies in a calming and balancing way. Historically purple was associated with regality – such as kings and queens as it was an expensive colour to turn into a fabric, yet these days we may associate it with old ladies and lavender! Violet is an amazing colour it suppresses our hunger, helps you to cool down and is even known to have antiseptic and purifying effects on us. This is also the colour that stimulates creativity and imagination.

Blue

Being the world’s most popular colour we find blue calming, cooling and relaxing, but did you know that dark blue has pain-healing and anti-inflammatory effects on us?

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Green

When we think of green, we think of trees, leaves, grass and nature, so no wonder the effect of green on us is a feeling of balance and equilibrium. I once read that looking at the green in nature relaxes our eyes. How amazing that we can have such a strong physical reaction by looking at something green?

Yellow

Yellow is a motivating and stimulating colour. We associate it with brightness, warmth and sunshine. It is a truly energizing colour for us.

Red

Did you know that red is the most physical of all colours? It has the longest wavelength and emits the slowest vibration of any colour. In daily life, red signifies love, danger, pain and heat. Red makes us feel warm but can also make us feel irritable!

3 Ways To Create A Scandi Interior

The one thing many of my clients have been saying recently is that they are inspired by Scandinavian style interiors. So here are a few say guidelines for those of you who want to try this at home.

All of these rooms have a dark floor that really works, but most timber floors and most monochrome dark or light (as long as they aren’t too red) will work too.

Split the room in half

The easiest way to a Scandi interior design is to keep everything on the bottom half of the room dark and the upper half-light. It doesn’t matter if you mix timbers, fabrics and materials, just stick to light walls and dark floor and furniture, you’ll be able to pull this off easily.

All white

It does take massive control to pull this look off, but it really is a very cheap and simple pallet! To create this all-white Scandi Interior t isn’t hard but don’t forget to stick to similar whites (all warm or all cool) and don’t forget to mix up the textures as the hardest thing about making white on white look great is getting depth and variety in the objects to create interest.

Halfway

This is more difficult to create for a novice mainly because you will need to balance the room. But if you choose dark pieces like a sofa, then stay light for everything else.

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A Few Things You Should Know About Paint:

This week we have been testing paint for our new kitchen and it hasn’t been easy! Of course, I wanted to use luxury paint like Farrow and Ball, Benjamin Moore, and Little Green because that is what I specify for my clients.

However, a tin of Farrow & Ball is almost triple the price of standard off-the-shelf paint from Colours, Dulux or Valspar, so my standard go-to is to colour match my more expensive paint so that at least it looks pretty close to that perfect dream look I am aiming for…

The only problem is that colour matching works pretty well, its around 98% accurate, but in my experience, not with lighter colours!  I would only colour match with mid-tone to darker colours as lighter colours (especially with expensive paint) are made up of complex pigments, which are what give the paint its subtle but beautiful colour.

A matching machine will pick up the strongest colour it can read and then create a similar tone from the collection of colours it has and then mixes the colour for you. In my kitchen, initially, I wanted everything brilliant bright white, as you may know from following my blog, that my house is quite dark, but the kitchen is naturally the brightest room in the house and so I wanted to accentuate the feeling of brightness as this is going to be my haven! Once we painted the undercoat, the white felt bright, but a bit too stark in this situation, so I went to my trusty sources and chose a few of my well known “light grey” colours that I am confident using (aka have used more than a few times now).

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I colour matched the lighter colours hoping they would just “work”, but I realized that the colour matching on the Farrow and Ball Strong White was completely off (as in, un-useable off) because the colour match picked up a red undertone making the paint look pink, but it actually has more of a yellowy brown to it, so I couldn’t colour match to the colours I was hoping to use!

I went and bought the super expensive, luxurious and gorgeous Farrow and Ball tester pot to see how it would look in my kitchen.  The other problem I had though, now that I had at least the right colour on the wall, is that it wasn’t as subtle in this room as I had hoped! It was too dark. I just want the “lightest warmth” added to my walls. I want it to feel cosy but be super light at the same time.

We still had the 25 Litre bucket of Leyland Brilliant Bright White sitting around and so we started testing how much colour we wanted. In the end, we came up with our colour and it was so subtle that we were pleased with it!

So we decided to create our own subtle, custom colour by throwing a tester pot amount of our chosen colour (Colours light rain actually) into our mega bucket of cheap brilliant bright white, saving us hundreds and giving this designer her desired “subtle but bright” result!

A Few Things You Should Know About Paint:
  1. Expensive paint is not only VOC free or super low in VOC’s (usually), the colour pigments and mixes are really superior. They give you a depth and complexity that cheaper paints, just cannot mimic or create.
  2. Colour matching works well on mid-tone to darker colours. Trying to colour match lighter colours, isn’t accurate (at all in my opinion).
  3. Light and location of your wall and any windows have a huge effect on the way you experience the colour, so always test your colour on multiple walls (if you m=plan on using it everywhere), and view it during different times of the day to see if it needs altering (ie, I think its too light in the mornings or too dark in the evenings…)
  4. Mixing your own paint can be a really cost-effective way of getting a custom paint colour, especially if you mix it yourself and use a cheaper base for the mix. (We saved over £500 using our own mix over the Farrow & Ball tins… and got a perfect colour – one that was customised and perfect for the look and feel we wanted in our room).
  5. The amount of reflection and (I also think darkness) vary with the sheen.  The truest colour (I find) is the most matt 2% sheen finish).
  6. The same colour in wood paint, metal paint or wall paint will always be a slightly different colour (usually the gloss will add the darkness to it – just my observation).