Updated: May 28
Did you know that lots of showrooms offer complimentary samples, swatches and paint chips for clients & designers to take home and see in their space? Cool right!?
It's best to ask your sales rep because not every showroom offers this service and when they do they don’t always offer it for every single item they sell. AND, some showrooms charge a fee for their samples.
Items that are commonly included in swatch programs are:
Upholstered Items - sofas, chairs, ottomans, beds, etc.
Case Goods - tables and other hard surface items (usually only high end showrooms)
Rug Collections (usually only high end showrooms)
Custom Furniture Collections
Custom Flooring Collections
Flooring - wood, tile, grout, broadloom etc.
Wall Tile - backsplashes, shower tiles, etc.
Paint - paint, stain, varnish, etc.
Cladding - concrete panels, shiplap, etc.
Mill Work - kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, built-ins, custom closets, etc.
Fabrics - drapes, upholstery, etc.
Hardware - cabinet pulls and the like
Items that are commonly not included in swatch programs are:
Case Goods - tables and other hard surface items (usually only high end showrooms)
Rug Collections (usually only high end showroom)
This is not only a great resource for anyone who wants to add some colour in their home, but should really be taken advantage of by everyone. Even if your colour palette is black black grey grey white and more grey. Swatches make it very handy to shop for other items that will go in the same room to ensure that everything works well together.
There are a couple different factors that affect the way colour behaves. Because the purpose of samples, swatches and paint chips is to help you ensure that the colour is right for you, I’ll briefly touch on a couple points to give you an idea of how intense colour selection can be and some best practices everyone can make use of!
I’m certain you’ve heard the word undertone before, whether it was while you were purchasing make-up and cosmetics, during art class way back when or maybe you already had a run in with udertones while decorating in the past. Undertones play a massive role in whether different things will match, work well together or totally clash.
Almost every colour has an undertone and can be described using warm, neutral or cool. But don’t let the obvious fool you, reds can be cool and blues can even be warm.
Have I lost you yet!???
When selecting pieces for a room, keep in mind that colours don't need to be a perfect match to work well together but it’s important to make sure the undertones will flow with each other so the room will feel cohesive.
Did you know that when placed side by side, true colours eats true colour making the undertone more obvious?!?
But, what the hell does that even mean?!?
Take a look at the pillow below, it's easily described as teal right? Teal is a mix of green and blue. Some will be more on the blue spectrum while others will be more on the green spectrum.
Now, scroll slowly so you only see one image at time (or, use your hand to cover the image below the next one!).
If you put a teal pillow beside a blue pillow, the teal one will look more green than if you had paired it with a white.
The blue cancels itself out revealing a much more green looking piece.
Now, Keep scrolling slowly to see exactly what I mean (or, use your hand to cover the image above or below the next!).
And, just like the blue cancelled out the blue and made the pillow look more green above, if you instead paired the teal pillow with a green pillow, it will look more blue.
One example I always like to use with clients when explaining undertones and things to watch for is grey. Seems straight forward enough right? Well, grey can actually be pretty tricky to work with. It’s undertones can vary vastly from one item to the next and when seeing one item alone, it can be harder to spot the undertone.
Some of the most common greys you’ll find are:
Can you picture all of those? If not, here are some examples of what I mean, see if you can guess what their undertones are.
The other big point I want to mention about colour and how it works, is lighting.
Often times we forget that light is literally what creates colour for our eyes to see, and that’s why it affects colour so0o0o damn much!
Have you ever selected a beautiful pale blue paint for your walls, painted it, only to have it look murky and greenish when it’s done? That’s because the lighting in your home is probably on the yellow side of the spectrum.
Yellow lighting can be a sneaky culprit in many situations with colour. People are starting to gravitate more towards “daylight” bulbs (around 5000k) which is the closest we currently have to the type of light the sun provides, which in turn alters colour the least amount.
Why should you ask for a swatch:
You’re probably not purchasing everything from one place. So, even if you saw the item in person, that doesn’t mean you’ll know how to match it when you’re in the next showroom selecting pieces.
Colour can be very tricky to picture in your mind. You may remember that the blue chair you saw as navy when in reality it was closer to royal blue. Your memory can play some interesting tricks when you’re trying to remember the 6th blue chair you saw in one day.
Sometimes you don’t get to see the item in the exact colour you’re purchasing before it’s made. This especially applies to custom furniture, showrooms will have the piece in one colour on the floor and swatches to show you the other available options.
Just like everything else, furniture has dye lots. "Dye lot" is used to refer to all the pieces that were made using the same batch of dye. Each batch of dye made by the manufacturer can vary slightly from the next or previous. Ask if your swatch is specific to the dye lot you're purchasing from. If it's not, use it as a reference but expect that there may be some variance in the final piece you receive.
One day you’re going to want to change up some items from that room and it will help if you have a swatches for all your pieces stored away. That way you can grab them before shopping and make sure that potential new pieces will work in the room perfectly.
Lighting changes colour, so, it’s important to see what the swatch looks like in your space. Test it with the rooms natural and artificial lighting, meaning, observe how it changes from daytime to nighttime. Items that are shiny or have a sheen, tend to look much lighter than they are during the day and much darker night.
On top of that, most showrooms have beautiful, ambient lighting, but it wasn’t selected so you can see the true colour of that sofa. It’s made to be cozy so that your shopping experience is more enjoyable. But, this can seriously hinder the selection process, especially if the lighting does not match what’s in your home.
Always ask for two swatches - one for you, one for your designer.
Ask if your swatch is specific to the dye lot you're purchasing from. If it is not, use it as a reference but expect that there may be some variance.
Observe your sample, swatch or paint chip in each room that the product/item will be used in. Make sure you look at it during the day and at night (with your lighting) to make sure you are happy with the selection.
Buy a plastic bin from a local dollar store and keep all your invoices, product information sheets and yes, samples, swatches and paint chips in it.
Paint chips are a great guide but they do not have the same texture as the surface the paint will be applied to, nor do they reflect the finish you will select (glossy, satin, eggshell, matte, etc.). So, I ALWAYS recommend purchasing a test can of the paint and applying a rough swatch on a wall in each room the paint will be used in. Then, look at the swatches during the day and again at night with your lighting.
What if you never got a swatch or have misplaced it?
Now this is totally dependent on each individual showroom, but, some hand out swatches freely while others will only give out one at the time the item is purchased. Check with the showroom to see what their policies are.
Try asking your designer if they kept the swatches from your project on file. Most designers try to keep samples from each project on file for at least one year - many keep them longer!
If you don’t have any luck replacing your swatch, bring the smallest detachable part of the item with you when you go shopping. Most people have sofas and chairs with at least one detachable cushion.
Or, if possible bring the entire item! Showrooms will not mind if you bring a dining chair in to help you select a new piece to purchase. If you want to go the extra mile, just mention that the piece is brought from home to someone working the registers. If the piece you're bringing in was purchased at the same showroom, be sure to do this.
While it may seem annoying to lug around a big piece from home, it’s easier than buying something, bringing it home and then having to return it because the colour didn’t match + there’s no restocking fee or wasted delivery fee.
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