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Painting Takes on New Dimension with Ultimate Paint Chip

Alexandria company selected as paint sponsor for decorator’s show house.

Chamomile or tangerine? Moody blue or cricket white? With the range of hues available by paint companies, selecting a paint color is no easy task. Benjamin Moore, one of the brands available at Alexandria Paint Company, offers over 4,000 colors. In the past, decorators or homeowners trying to decide between the subtle nuances of shades of red or blue found that the tiny paint chips supplied by paint companies were too small and, because they were generated by ink printers, were not always true colors.

Homeowners had little choice but to buy quarts of paint and cover sections of their wall until they could decide which color they liked. Benjamin Moore now offers sample two-ounce sample pots, but homeowners still have to paint their walls.

Enter The Ultimate Paint Chip, a poster-sized (18"x24") chip that shows the actual paint color, not a printer’s ink or dyes. The brainchild of a new company, The Coatings Alliance, the chips are available at Alexandria Paint Company in Bradlee Shopping Center. Store owner Bill Thornton is one of the owners of this new company, which is an alliance of small, independent retailers in the United States and Canada. As small business owners, they were affected by the rapid consolidation of paint manufacturers and suppliers. They felt that the trend of larger manufacturers to buy out smaller paint suppliers was hurting the quality of the paint.

The goal of The Coatings Alliance was to create a new collection of premium paints that contained the best attributes of the major brands in a single line. Each of the 40 or so retailers is a member-owner of The Coatings Alliance. They sell the brand of paint called “C2 Collections of Color” and they also sell the ultimate paint chips ($4.95 apiece) that correspond to its palette of 496 colors.

“The thing about small companies is that they can come up with new ideas and are flexible,” Thornton said. “The concept of having a paint chip that you can actually see and not have to buy a quart of paint and put it on the wall is so obvious. It took somebody with interest to come up with it. We're one step ahead of the larger manufacturers.”

DECORATOR NAN KNISLEY, owner of Nan Knisley Design, swears by this new line of paint; she likes the quality and had been purchasing the brand from a store in Rhode Island. It was the closest C2 retailer that she could find initially; she was thrilled when Thornton started carrying the line after she encouraged him to.

“I love the color rendition — the pigments are rich and don’t have the fillers that other paint manufacturers use,” she said.

Kinsley said that some high-end manufacturers also provide this quality of paint, but are too expensive. According to Thornton, the C2 paints are only 5-10 percent more than Benjamin Moore paints. Knisley said that the price point is palatable for her clients. Knisley also likes the fact that C2 has narrowed down the available colors.

“You can look at their fandeck [set of painted chips] and imagine using any color,” she said. “They’ve selected the best colors and the yellows, blues and greens are just gorgeous.”

Knisley also likes the large paint chips that she can provide for her clients to help them decide what colors will look best in their home.

“I think the color cards are ingenious. Clients can get a real sense of what the color will look like on the wall,” said Knisley, who carries with her a set of the over-sized paint chips in the more basic colors. She purchases other colors as her client’s needs require. When finished, she sells clients the charts for the colors that were used. This is an easier way for them to record the colors used in the different rooms than to keep old paint cans.

One of Knisley’s clients, Lori Reilly, used C2 paint in three rooms of her Alexandria home. She liked using the large paint chips to help her narrow down her selection and said that while she also looked at other paint brands, she leaned more towards the C2 line because she knew that the chip would show exactly what it would look like.

“I love it. The colors are more unique than traditional paints, particularly the ‘Glimmer’ shade that we used in the living room. ‘Glimmer’ was exactly what I wanted,” said Reilly, equating it to a pale yellow. She also used ‘Portuguese Dawn’ (vibrant purple) in her dining room and ‘Silk’ (light periwinkle blue) in the master bedroom and bath.

“The colors seem to coordinate very well. We’re very happy with it,” Reilly said.

C2 IS USED NOT only by designers, contractors, and architects, but by the individual homeowner as well. Since many are not yet familiar with C2, Thornton and the owner of Monarch Paint and Wallcovering Company in Chevy Chase, Maryland have agreed to provide the paint to all of the interior designers working to transform the mansion in Potomac, Md. that will serve as this year’s National Symphony Orchestra Decorators’ Show House.

Teresa Paul, who represents both Thornton’s marketing interests and the show house, said that working with the Decorator’s Show house was a natural way “to bring it all together and reach all of the above markets in one effort.”

“The Coatings Alliance and its Washington partners are thrilled to help the National Symphony bring color and life to this year’s show house,” Thornton said. “Being associated with C2 is a big step, but I was excited about what it could bring. I was looking for something new and C2 was a clear match to what I wanted to do. It’s made to do what you want paint to do: cover well and clean up easily.”