The first thing to remember is, choosing paint colors – and paint types in general – for an office is a different exercise than that of choosing paint colors for a home. Generally speaking – but not always – a home will get less wear and tear than an office will. If an office gets a lot of customer traffic, then that wear and tear is greater. And it is likely you will want to inspire an atmosphere of productivity and energy in a typical office, while at home, you might want to generate the opposite.
Have you ever browsed the stapler selection in an office supply store? You’ll notice that they include some pretty heavy duty ones. That’s because a stapler being used in an office will have to take a lot more abuse, and by a greater number of people, than the average home stapler. My own home stapler gets used perhaps once a month. It’s had the same band of staples in it since I bought it five years ago. I treat it gently because I know it’s not meant for heavy use. But in an office, a stapler must survive the use of people who … well … may not know how to use a stapler. Some people slam the top of the stapler when using it, while other pinch it. If it’s not filled correctly, a stapler will jam more easily, so it must be able to withstand the examination by people who don’t fully know how a stapler works. That’s a tall order, indeed, but it’s why an office stapler weighs a lot more than a home one.
The walls, doors, trim and windows of the typical office take a lot more abuse, too, than the typical home. People might stick thumbtacks into your office wall, but not do the same thing in their own home. Tape, glue, blue tack and other materials are used on the typical office wall, and everything from photocopiers to chairs to printers are regularly banged off the door frames and walls, as employees might rush from one meeting room to the next, caring less about the fixtures and fittings and focusing on getting a day’s work done. Hopefully, anyway.
If you are the only person sitting in your office all day, it may take the same level of use as a room in your house, but there is always the consideration of color and paint type. You want colors that cheer you up while at the same time, emit that ‘work ethic energy’. Personally, I would be prepared to go with a bolder set of colors in an office, and look for opportunities to create an accent. That accent might be as simple as making a single wall darker than the others in the same room. It can also be that the trim (window frames, door frames, cabinet edging, doors, etc.) is a darker, more durable paint. Every office is unique, and every business is unique.
It has become legendary how Starbucks, with it’s tens of thousands of stores worldwide, has managed to keep a consistent look and feel within all of the stores it has created. I can only guess that they have a dedicated team back in headquarters whose sole job it it to create and maintain such a schema. They test and test and test to find out what combinations work, and which do not. Certain color schemes might actually make a cup of coffee taste better – or at least, make the customer happier or more excited while they are in the store – while other combinations might dull the senses, actually causing people to slow down when ordering. It’s all in the science of colors, and it’s worth paying attention to.
If you own, for example, a local office of a large insurance corporation, they might stipulate exact colors that are allowed in any one franchise office. Like Starbucks, Farmer’s Insurance will likely want to give the same consistent experience across all of their agents around the country. If you have such an agency, you might reach out to the mother ship before investing in one paint versus the other.
Most people know a good painting project when they see it. That is, after it is completed. But most people, too, are not great at choosing those colors in the first place. I suppose it’s a bit like knowing what food you like the taste of, but not necessarily being able to cook it.
Some painting contractors offer a ‘color service’. That is, they will help you choose optimal colors for a home or office, either for a small fee, for free, or as a discount later if you go with their painting contract bid. Other painting contractors will paint the room exactly the colors you tell them to paint it. The color choice might be terrible, but they are not there to question it, but rather, to do exactly what you tell them to do.
If your painting contractor does not offer the color service, spend a few hundred dollars on an interior designer who does this for a living. Color choice is the single easiest opportunity to improve the quality of the finished painting project, and however it turns out, you’ll get a daily reminder of whatever choices you made before a lick of paint touches a wall.
You may have seen those TV ads where one customer after another comes into a paint store with a unique paint color challenge. Each brings an object from their home, in search of a specific color to match the object they brought to the store. I remember one guy arrived with a purple bowling ball. He wanted to paint the walls of one of his rooms the same color, and the store simply pointed some type of device at the ball, and presto, the paint mixer was able to mix as much of that color as he needed and send him away that day with it.
Today, there is effectively an infinite number of colors available. If a store – at least, a large one – doesn’t have it on a shelf, they can mix it for you. It’s because people want that now. A few generations ago, you went to the paint store and chose from a finite number of colors, but today, that’s all changed. The average homeowner has a variety of types of lighting in their home, both from the point of view of fixtures and light types. Low energy lighting – not something I ever expect to get used to – will make the same paint look different under a change of lighting. Personally, I like full spectrum lighting when I am indoors, especially when I am working. I find low-energy lighting to be missing something, while full spectrum lighting doesn’t make my eyes work as hard.
Because you simply cannot predict what a paint color choice will do a day after it is applied, you should always do a test area of each exact paint type and color you are considering. Get some paint samples of the paint you are considering and apply it to the walls of your office. A few square feet of each should be sufficient, and it will allow you to see how the color behaves in your office, not just in a paint catalog, or in the home goods supply store.
Trust, but verify, I think is what a politician once said about nuclear disarmament in the 1980s.
The same goes for paint selection!
Image by Cody Davis