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The Goldilocks Effect


Choosing the right look for walls, cabinetry or floors is a daunting task for most people. The pressure to make the best decision is amplified because of the time and cost involved. And, many selections will be ones that they will have to live with for a long time. With minimal previous experience and little confidence in their color sense, it is not surprising that most people are so fearful of making a mistake.

There are four basic steps that everyone can follow to simplify the process, ease their fear and increase their chances for success:

  • Never make a final color decision in a showroom or big-box store. In most cases color will distorted by the green cast of fluorescent lighting. Samples need to be taken to your home where they can be seen in their actual lighting conditions.

  • Never make a final decision from a small sample. You will not get the same impression that larger samples will provide.

  • Evaluate your samples in different parts of your room and under different natural and artificial light conditions. You need only to look at any corner wall in your house to see that one side will look different than the other because of the way light is hitting each face.

  • Whenever possible, get three of more samples that you think are close enough to be good candidates for final selection. With multiple samples something very unique and unexpected will happen. You will be able to eliminate some samples immediately because you will be able to tell that they are not contenders. For those that are left, you will be able to judge the differences because you can compare one with the other. Without any knowledge of color theory, you will instantly be able to pick up on the sample that looks “dirty”, the one that seems “washed out”, the one that is “too yellow”, etc. What happens is that you are able to see and evaluate the color undertones that would normally be invisible to all but the experienced eye. Just like Goldilocks in the fairy tale who found one porridge too hot, one too cold and one just right, this process will allow you do the same with your samples.

There is one other thing that many of my customers have found helpful. Metaphorically, they have taken the sample they felt was their final candidate and given it an internship by placing it in one or more parts of the house. The closest analogy to how this works is to think of the company that has winnowed their job applicants down to one by relying on the resume and interview results. After just one or two weeks on the job, everyone will know if the new person is going to be a good fit or not. Leaving a sample in your home and just living with it for a number of days can very often produce the same result. After a number of days you will just know that it works in your home. You can feel that it is right. This works on the subconscious level, but it does work.

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