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Matching Carpet Colour

In buying carpet, the first consideration for most carpet buyers is carpet color. This is typically due to decoration decisions and matching paint colors, already in place. However, by placing carpet color selection as the primary decision in buying carpet, carpet performance may suffer.

You should first look for a carpet style that is built with endurance in mind and then choose carpet color based on the color hues available. With this in mind, carpet color selection should next be based on the purpose you hope to achieve with your new carpet installation.

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In choosing carpet color, you should first determine how permanent the carpet installation will be. If your plans are to replace the carpet in a few years, when you redecorate (the average consumer replaces carpet every 7-8 years), choose a bold, balanced palette. If you are preparing the home for resell, you may choose to select a neutral palette, or one in which the new owners can easily manipulate their current decorating choices. It is always recommended that you replace existing carpet, prior to resell, because new carpet is always a positive selling feature.

I remember when I sold my home in Boca Raton, shortly after Hurricane Andrew blew through, I installed a high quality blue frieze carpet just prior to the open house. Every potential female buyer who came through my “by owner” open house called back to ask if this was the house with the “Blue Carpet”. I sold the house in three days at a substantial profit, by owner, to the first couple that came through. This after about 12 offers from other open house visitors. Carpet makes a substantial contribution to the selling proposition.

In buying carpet, make sure you evaluate local soiling conditions. Georgia Clay is highly visible on lighter color hues, while lint and other soils are highly visible on darker color hues.

The next question you’ll want to answer is your decorating style. The color selection of Early American, Victorian, or contemporary, are typically within a limited color range. You want to pick a color that you want to accentuate in the color palette. Paint colors should contrast the carpet color – more on contrast later.

What are you going to keep and what’s going to the yard sale?
Are you planning to buy new furniture, repaint, or change draperies? Furniture should probably be your first color decision because furniture is highly limited in color choices. Carpet is the next most limited, and paint colors are infinite. In fact, with paint, you can take a piece of carpet, pillow, or fabric to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot and they can match the color identically in Glidden or Ralph Lauren paint. A recent “Wall Street Journal” study revealed Glidden and Ralph Lauren paints provide the truest color match of all paint brands on the market and they are two of the highest quality paints available from any source. Now that Home Depot Independent product testing has revealed that its Glidden products outperform Behr paint in every performance category, Home Depot required that Glidden relabel its products to offer a lifetime guarantee and place the word “premium” on its label. Contractors already knew this, but then, they use paint every day.

Type of lighting – I remember when I was a carpet manufacturers representative in Indianapolis during the 1980’s, our color design people developed a display with numerous lighting styles. At the turn of a switch, you could change lighting from daylight, to cool white, to incandescent to whatever. I am still amazed at how some colors change under different lighting conditions. I am still amazed how some brown colors in incandescent turn to green in sunlight. Make sure you take color samples home and view under a variety of lighting conditions. I am also still amazed that the brown pair of pants in my closet turns green when I leave home, and I finish the day being color-challenged.

Recently, we redecorated our family room and selected a beautiful Ralph Lauren River Rock color for the two end walls and a Ralph Lauren Eggshell for the two side walls. This paint is magnificent. During the daylight hours the walls produce a warm gold or autumn wheat color. In the evening, using artificial light, the color transcends into Pea Soup green-not an “Exorcist” pea soup green, but a very nice yellow green. It probably sounds hideous, but the walls actually match our furniture print in both daylight and evening hours, even though the color changes and the effect is beautiful. The wall colors actually accentuate different colors in the furniture print as the day ebbs and flows and the wall color gradually changes. Recently, one of our neighbors came over during the evening and she asked if we had repainted, again. We explained how light affects color and her reply was “coooool, but how did you know the color would change to match your furniture in both daylight and evening light?” Our answer?, “careful planning”.

An area rug was used to accentuate the colors we wanted to highlight in the furniture color mix and the wall color selection.

To accomplish this yourself, purchase some of the Ralph Lauren color testers from Home Depot, spread the paint on the wall, and evaluate the small area for a few days under different types of lighting.

Adjacent Room Colors
Make sure you evaluate how carpet color in one room will affect transitions to other rooms. During the 1960’s before carpet production advances made carpet affordable for everyone, my family could afford only carpet remnants. Our home was a polka dot of carpet colors. During the 1980’s fashion trends changed to using the same carpet color throughout. Today, we have transitioned back to targeted color schemes in each individual room. Make sure you evaluate how that beautiful green carpet will look when it butts against the blue in your family room.

Size matters – What do you hope to accomplish with room decoration. Darker colors make a large room cozier, while lighter hues expand room size. Darker carpet, medium shade walls, and white ceilings tend to balance your room size. If you want to lower your ceilings, try tinting ceiling paint color to 25% of your wall color and lighten your carpet color. Lengthen a room by painting one wall lighter than the side walls. In theory, dark walls and dark carpet make a room appear smaller. Light carpet, white ceilings, and mid tone walls make a room seem larger and airier.

If you are attempting to create a specific emotional mood, review our Psychology of color section.

Color Theory
We all view color differently. What our eyes see as color is actually a combination of three factors. 1. Light reflectance value (LRV) 2. Hue, 3. Chroma. So essentially, when I’m trying to match socks each morning the sock on my left foot has a different LRV than the sock on my other left foot. I should thank The Glidden Company (ICI Paints) for their assistance in writing this section. Their color work over the last 100 or so years is the basis for many color pallets in the carpet industry, as well as the paint industry.

Hue – Hue is actually the color or color family. Blue, green, yellow, and red are the four primary color families, though it has been said that all colors originate from Red, Yellow, and Blue. Blue + Yellow = green, Red + Blue = Purple, Yellow + Red = Orange, etc. All colors can be assigned to these four primary color families.

Light Reflectance Value (LRV) – LRV is the measure of reflective lightness or darkness of a color. Colors within the same hue (color family), such as light green and hunter green, are perceived as different colors because of the amount of light that they absorb or reflect. Lighter green reflect more light than darker greens. Since darker greens adsorb more light they appear darker.

Texture also affects LRV in both carpet and paint. If you were to paint a wall using a 1/2-inch nap paint roller, it adds texture or stippling to the wall surface. This stippling redirects light to alter the perception of color. If you were to touch-up an area using this same 1/2-inch nap roller, it would add additional stippling and may produce a color change, which produces a color change. The LRV change would magnify the area that was retouched and the repair would stand out. This may sound elementary, but this may help explain carpet foot prints, trackless carpet, and some carpet color variations.

Chroma – Chroma is actually the saturation or intensity of a particular color. A bright color such as lemon yellow has much more intensity than a creamy yellow.

All color theory is based on the principle that color is light. Chemicals (colorants) used in carpet dyeing have the property of selectively absorbing or reflecting certain areas of the light spectrum.

So what does all this have to do with matching carpet color? A color wheel can help.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is an ingenious invention for those of us who are color challenged. Its makes color matching a lot easier, unless you still have to match the little grr animals. Sir Isaac Newton invented the color wheel shortly after he was thumped on the head with an apple and discovered gravity.

Complementary colors are any two colors that are directly opposite one another on the color wheel. In theory, two complementary colors mixed together in equal amounts will produce gray. Picture all colors all positioned on a globe, such as the earth. The north pole would be white. The South Pole would be white, while the equator would be gray or gray-like. All other colors fall somewhere in between. This is a theoretical hypothesis, since the Glidden Master Color Palette displays reddish grays, greenish grays, etc. What this indicates is any color may be softened or will lose intensity by adding its complementary color. All colors transition to gray.

So what does all this have to do with matching carpet color?

Colors on the color wheel are divided into Primary colors (RYB), Secondary olors (violet, green, orange–obtained by mixing equal amounts of primary colors) and ttertiary colors (red-orange, yellow-green, mixing primary colors with adjacent secondary colors). Blacks, browns, and grays are obtained by mixing combinations of secondary and tertiary colors.

Complementary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel; for example – red and green, yellow and violet. Each color brings out the richness in the other. When using complementary colors, one color should be subtle and the other color should be more dominant. For example, an intense, dark violet should be paired with a medium to light yellow.

Matching Carpet Color
Glidden. com has a very useful tool for matching color using their comprehensive color palette. In addition, they offer an inexpensive color match tool, marketed through Home Depot. This “Color at Home II” program allows you to photograph your room using a digital camera and import the image into the Color at Home Program. With a few simple alterations of the image, you can change the carpet color, room color or furnishings with click of a mouse using their extensive color palette.

Another good color matching resources is at This simple color match tool allows you to click on a color and six complementing/contrasting colors are displayed. As you slide the color levels to the right, colors change as you adjust the three color models. Note: if you slide all three slide bars to the same place you will obtain gray.

The color wheel is a valuable tool in matching carpet color paint color, and furniture color, once you understand the relationship of color basics. Color experimentation, through the years, has produced a number of color schemes that produce pleasing aesthetic properties.

Monochromatic color schemes – A monochromatic color scheme utilizes one color family or hue, but several different values (shades) The monochromatic color scheme is the most often used because of its simplicity.

Analogous (Or Adjacent) Color Scheme – This color scheme combines two or more colors which are beside one another on the color wheel.

This color wheel selects colors such as blue, blue-green, green, or even blue-purple. Adding a second or third adjacent color from a different color family can produce a stunning effect and creates greater depth than monochromatic color choices. To add additional depth, add a larger of variety of tints and shades within the same color family.

Complementary Color Scheme – The complementary color scheme utilizes two colors which are exactly opposite one another on the color wheel. In examining the color wheels at the top of the page, you will see that red and green are complementary colors.

Split Complementary Color Scheme – This color scheme utilizes two complementary (opposite) colors on the color wheel and a third color (usually adjacent to one of the complementary colors). The third adjacent color is typically used as an accent. The example to the right utilizes green, yellow green, and red. However, these colors are primarily shown for demonstrating positioning on the color wheel rather than actual color reflectance or “trueness” of color.

A double split complementary color scheme amounts to a complementary color scheme using two colors opposite one another on the color wheel, but utilizes two additional colors. Rather than simply combining two complementary colors, such as red and green, the double split complementary color scheme utilizes the two adjacent colors on either side of red and one either side of green. This may amount to a combination of blue and yellow or various combinations of blue-green or yellow green with violet or orange or some shade variation within this range.

Among the most striking of all color schemes is the triadic color scheme. The triadic color scheme utilizes three color which are equidistant on the color wheel. On the color wheel at the top, if you choose red-violet as your primary color, count 4 colors to the right (yellow-orange) and 4 colors to the left (blue-green) to obtain matching triadic colors.

Neutral Color Scheme – Neutral color schemes, Black, white , and gray do not appear on the colors wheel, but they do appear on the Glidden Master palette. The Glidden master palette can be viewed at your local Home Depot. Every color has a gray, neutral shade, whether it is a blue or orange or green. Remember as you move toward the “equator” on the color globe, every color turns gray. If you are planning to resell your home or the color schemes above are confusing, gray is a very forgiving color.

Gray, black, are not really colors from a technical perspective. They’re called “neutrals”. Neutrals are extremely useful in creating contrast. White, though not recommended for carpet, due to soiling, is actually the result of a combination of all colors. White reflects all wavelengths of light uniformly or equally. Black, on the other hand, absorbs all wavelengths equally. Gray, expressed as a percentage of black, is a combination of black and white.

While this section may not provide suggestions for color matching, it does describe to you how to use the color wheel to use an organized approach to color matching. The Glidden Color at Home program sold at Home Depot will prove a useful tool for assisting with color matching. Also, Glidden paint products, marketed through Home Depot are some of the best values in paint products available through any source. While some home improvement warehouses may try to market and sell you their “flagship” paint product, Glidden paints provide the best value based on independent testing. Also, according to a recent (Oct, 2004) Wall Street Journal evaluation, Glidden paints provided the truest color match of any paint tested, as you might expect from the leaders in color development.

Matching Gray Carpet
Gray (and white) is the ultimate neutral color, but every gray doesn’t match every color. Every hue has its’ own gray. You may find green grays, blue grays, yellow grays, red grays and many, many other grays. So how do you match your gray with another color? As an “old Paint guy”, the best advice for matching your gray carpet is to isolate the hue family of your gray.

The easiest method of isolating your gray (carpet) is to take a small sample of your carpet color down to your local Home Depot Paint Department and ask to see their copy of the Glidden Master Color Pallet. Each page associates various shades of the same hue, with the appropriate gray down the center of the center.

If it were possible to display the entire page of this single (portion) color page, the colors to the left of the gray in each row would begin to arrive at a true yellow. (Remember Roy G. Biv?) As the “yellow” pages continued they would arrive at a “yellow” gray and eventually an “orange and then “red” gray.

Once you have isolated the hue family that your gray carpet belongs, proceed with the color matching procedure identified above by either selecting a hue within the color family in which your gray belongs (monochromatic) or mixing and matching colors from opposite or adjacent hue families.

Both Glidden and Ralph Lauren paints are some of the highest quality paints in the world. Avoid other brands found at Home Improvement Warehouses. While a particular Paint brand may have been identified as being a (the) top quality brand by consumer reports. The tests used by this consumer testing group are highly anecdotal or “unscientific” (in our opinion). We learned this first-hand when the author of this site managed the Carpet Industry Vacuum Cleaner Test Standard. The protocol that this Consumer advocacy group used to rate vacuum cleaners had a 65% deviation of results for each test. The Test Procedure that the Carpet Industry developed had a 3% deviation of results. The Vacuum Cleaner Industry fought this new test procedure vociferously.

Regarding Paint Brands consider this: Glidden (ICI Paints) is the largest paint company in the world, followed closely by Sherwin Williams. The Home Improvement Warehouse brands are far down the list in terms of sales volume, yet these Home Improvement brands are, by far, the most profitable Paint Manufacturers in the World. This could be because:

They put less “stuff” (quality ingredients) in the can or,
They overprice their products, where equal quality ingredients are found.
These “Flagship” Home Improvement Warehouse brands also earn the Home Improvement Warehouse Retailer a higher profit margin per gallon than National Name brands because they own exclusive rights to the brand. Keep in mind, that when you go to a Home Improvement warehouse and simply ask for the “Best Paint” they have, you must decide whether they are offering you the Best Paint” for “you” or The “Best Paint” for “them”.

Did you Know?
All carpet colors, with the exception of white, are created by mixing the three primary colors (Red, Yellow, and Blue) in different proportions. Carpet color selection and matching paint color is made easy using a color wheel.