Paint trends for 2020? “From sofas to blenders to clothing, it trickles down. We’re seeing a shift … toward brown-based colors for 2020,” says Amy Woolf, owner of Amy Woolf Color Consulting in Northampton, MA, who in November participated in a color marketing group that forecasts worldwide trends. But the ever-popular gray hasn’t gone the way of the Dodo. Trends find their way to different regions at different times as noted by Tom Johnston, owner of Colors & Colors in Rochester, NY, who says his clients are “still asking for fifty shades of gray.”
The bottom line on color trends for pro painters is “respond to what individual clients like and not what’s in style. That’s the way to get longevity out of a job,” Woolf says. “When a client is happy with what you did in their kitchen, they’ll have you back in a few years for the bathroom.”
While knowing what’s popular is helpful, getting clients on board with the highest quality painting job is more than forecasting trends. Make yourself the go-to expert: Look closely at a client’s surroundings; listen to their wants and needs; and educate them on product benefits.
Here are 10 ways to get more out of your work that will be good for your clients and your bottom line:
- Be bold. Consumers want interior walls to look and feel interesting. With the continued popularity of neutrals (whether gray or brown), why not suggest a brightly painted accent wall, a fresh wall covering, a textured wall — even Venetian plaster is back. It’s part of the artisan/authenticity trend. And, with the interest in “green,” there’s a wider trend of biophilic design and a connection with the outdoors—you’ll see nature-inspired wall papers; living plant walls; and an uptick in the green color palette.
- Pay attention. Take notice of client lifestyles. Says Michael Craine, owner, Craine Painting in Lake Geneva, WI, “If there are high traffic areas in the house — or on a commercial job — make a pitch for anti-scratch, anti-scuff paint like Ultra Spec® SCUFF-X®. It’s durable, washable and will stand up to heavy use.” If clients are stumped as to color choices, and “they’ve got, for example, a country-farmhouse vibe,” suggests Rick Ingram, owner of Richard Ingram Painting, LLC, in Pensacola, FL, “go back to what you’ve done for previous clients with similar home styles and make suggestions.” Clients trust and are grateful for your expertise.
- Take a walk. During your assessment, take particular notice of the trim and ceiling. Consumers often want to skimp on those thinking they’ll save money. “If the homeowner says they just want to paint the wall and not the baseboard, I remind them that the baseboards will look dingy,” Ingram says. “For a few dollars more we’ll run that baseboard and you don’t have to worry about it for ‘X’ amount of time.” The same goes for the ceiling, which may seem fine— until a fresh coat is on the walls. “We try to get as much out of a job as we can.”
- Open doors. While you’re roaming, don’t forget closets and doors. What with Marie Kondo getting everyone to declutter, consumers have been spending a lot of time gazing into their drawers and closets. Now’s the time to complete the freshen-up. “You can clean up the closet a lot by painting it inside and out,” Johnston says, adding that almost all children’s rooms need a fresh coat of paint. “Take down posters, fill in holes. Scrape the neon stars off the doors, walls and ceiling.”
- Plan ahead. Once you develop a rapport with clients, don’t leave them hanging. Even if they just want one room done, take all the information you’ve gathered about their lifestyle, their color choices, their furnishings and other finishes. “Use that baseline to help them make a plan for the whole house. And offer them a few ideas, get their wheels turning. ‘I know you don’t want to do this bathroom this year, but you can just change the color and buy yourself some time. In the meantime, you’ll feel better about it.’ Giving clients something engenders a good relationship,” Woolf says.
- Get emotional. Woolf says color has the power to make people happy. “Talk about how they want to feel when they’re using the space. Keep in mind that what’s vibrant, rich and lovely for one person can be overwhelming for another,” she says. Help clients understand that you can change the look and feel of their entire home with updated colors and coverings that fit their lives today and can make them feel better.
- Show and tell. Fan decks and portfolios are not going to cut it. Your clients are already on Pinterest, Houzz, Facebook, Instagram and other digital spaces getting ideas. You should be there. Without a web presence, Woolf says, “you’re not seen as a professional.” Social media is a boon for painters since it’s all about visuals. “Before and after is like candy,” Woolf says. Craine not only uploads photos to Facebook and Instagram, he is now using TikTok, a new social platform for short videos.
- Get in early. Don’t let a color discussion wait until a remodeling job is well under way. Decision fatigue has already set in. “The consumer is tapped out,” Woolf says. Color for walls, counters and tiles should all be considered at the beginning, since a beautiful space needs cohesion. Painters and remodelers should work closely together, and, why not offer a few hours with a color consultant as a value add? But do it upfront. As Woolf says, “I can’t rescue a job with a can of paint.”
- Right product choice. Unless a homeowner requests otherwise, Johnston always quotes a job using the highest quality paint. It doesn’t cost a painter more to use a better product; labor is what adds cost. “If I have a product that goes on better, gives me fewer problems and is more durable, and has a longer life, then I have a happier client.” There’s no sense in using something lower quality when the per gallon price is small over the life of the job. And use the proper covering for the job. Benjamin Moore has primers, pre-treatments and paints that work specifically with a variety of substrates.
- Extra mile. Time to walk the talk. Craine offers his own five-year warranty that includes “one hour of free touch-ups once a year for five years if clients use Benjamin Moore® Regal® matte because it touches up so well.” It’s washable and so durable that Craine admits that clients rarely call him in because the paint is of such high quality. When he is called, he says, “it’s usually because their kid slammed something into the wall. But while I’m there, they may ask for an estimate to paint another room, and it always leads to more work.”