Be careful with your choice of interior wall paint colour

At Octopus we decorate a lot of office interiors, usually in brilliant white, magnolia, off-whites such as timeless or RAL 9010,  various shades of grey or really bold accent colours to meet customers’ specific tastes or to match company colours. But until now, never have we been asked to use Natrual Taupe.

A customer of ours recently instructed us to decorate their London office walls in Dulux Natural Taupe 4. They had already purchased a sample pot and painted a small patch of wall just to be sure, and it came out just as they expected – a slightly off-white pale beige appearance, exactly what they were after.  My decotators set about painting the entire office and it was only when I went in to check on progress a couple of days later, after they had already completed 2 full coats, that I suspected that perhaps this wasn’t the colour our customer was expecting.  It was, most definitely, a pale pink!  This was not just my opinion but that too of everyone else who subsequently looked at it. Interestingly, I first saw it at 6am on a winter’s morning under artificial office lighting, and as daylight began filling the space, it started to look less pink, but one lesser or greater shade of pink or another it remained regardless of light levels in the office.

My first reaction was mild panic. We were fitting the new carpets the following day and having the new desks and chairs installed a day after that.  If we had to re-decotate the office it could be a complete disaster.  Had we ordered the wrong paint? Had our supplier mixed the wrong colour by mistake or was their paint mixing machine faulty?  I rushed down to a different supplier and got them to mix a small sample pot (I wasn’t going to risk going to our regular supplier and getting them to mix another one just in case their machine was faulty and gave us an identical repeat of the wrong colour), and I also took away an official Dulux colour card. To my relief, the new paint matched exactly, as did the colour card.  So, as it turned out, a paint colour that appeared almost white on a small test patch and sample card, was pink when applied to a large wall area.

To test this further, I collected a handful of colour cards from Homebase whilst doing my weekend supermarket shop at Sainsbury’s next door, taking a selection from the ‘browns’ of which Natural Taupe 4 was one, and another selection from the neutrals/greys.  Outside in the car park in natural daylight and held up against my white car, all of the palest brown colours of each range did indeed look slightly pink.

The result:  After the carpets and furniture were fitted, we had to put down full carpet protection and dust covers everywhere, mask up and start again in a different colour in ultra quick time. We got paid for it as our customer acknowledged that it was not our error, but we would rather have not had to go through this for our own sake as well as our customer’s as it involved a lot of extra effort and very tight & unexpected deadlines.

The lesson:  The lightest shades of brown can and do look pink. The greater the amount of daylight, the lesser the effect. The lower the level of natural daylight and the warmer the artificial lighting, the deeper the shade of pink becomes.  Other factors that can effect the appearance are the texture of the walls and the type of paint. A flat matt compared with a silk or eggshell in exactly the same colour will look different due to the amount of light reflection.

Conclusion:  If it’s your home, experiment by starting small and expanding to the whole area if it looks ok. If it’s your office, play it safe and go white or as neutral as possible (or very bold with accent walls if you dare!), but don’t take the chance with pale colours over large areas unless you’re absolutely sure.  If you get it wrong at home, it’s probably a minor inconvenience. If you get it wrong in the office, you might be preventing your business from functioning properly until you reslove the problem.

© Octopus Interiors 2023