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On Being a Color Consultant

In this episode Amy and Amy explore how each landed in the world of color. Coming from another profession then having an "aha" moment directed each of them towards Architectural Color Consulting. This happened at different times in their lives but was a second career for both. Coincidentally, each studied Economics and Business in college but also had a lifelong interest in fine art, studying it, admiring it and creating it. From New York City to Sarasota, FL - from Upstate NY to Western MA, these women followed their passion and ended up in the same colorful place.

Krane: Welcome to Let's Talk Color.

Woolf: I'm Amy Woolf, principal designer at Amy Woolf Color and Design.

Krane: And I'm Amy Krane founding designer at Amy Krane Color. We're both professional color experts who specialize in architectural color. We met while training and years later the conversation is still going strong.

Woolf: We both live our lives immersed in color and design. We often agree, but sometimes we don't because color is personal. Color truths, however, are universal.

Krane: In each episode we'll unravel the mystery of choosing color for your home or business, both inside and out.

Woolf: Hi, this is Amy Woolf. Amy Krane and I are back with another episode. In this episode, we're going to talk about how we both got into the business of color consulting. One of the questions I get asked more often than any other is how did I find this profession? How did color find me? So it's not in uninteresting story. Amy and I also found each other along the same path, so we thought we would share a little bit about our backgrounds, how we got started, a little bit about what we did before and how the years have passed in the world of color consulting. So Amy, why don't you tell me what you did before this and how you found yourself here?

Krane: Sure, well, for most of my working life, I was a TV commercial producer and like so many people in that aspect of film production we were always looking for what we called our exit strategy because it was really a brutal profession. My first idea was actually landscape design. And so I spent a number of years at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx studying landscape design which you can do at your own pace. And I did after work, while producing. So six years later I was halfway through the credits and I thought, "Oh, I'll be quite old when this is over. So why don't I just amass this knowledge of plants for my own good and think of something else to do next."

Years later, after I was a second homeowner here in Columbia County NY, I was on a TV commercial shoot in Montclair, New Jersey, which is really well-known in the New York film market for having beautiful and varied housing stock. We would shoot there all the time. So we were shooting a commercial at this gorgeous home owned by a couple and when we took our lunch break, we all sat outside at catering and I said to one of the home owners, "God, your house is gorgeous. The paint colors are beautiful, the furnishings are beautiful, your garden is beautiful." And she turned to me and she said, “You know, there's a woman working locally who's a color consultant. You ought to think about that.” And I thought, "Wow, why did you say that? All I was doing was complimenting you." But we talked a little bit more and she said she didn't know much about this person or her business, but she would drive past houses and see her sign out, and she imagined the woman had a very good career going.

So I went home and I did some research and decided where I would study. I always had a love for art, studied both art history and fine art in school and college and my interest was piqued because producing for commercials is not a creative job. It’s a management job. I started training for color consulting around 2011- 2012 and went to San Diego to study with the International Association of Color Consultants and Designers, which is where I met you, Amy. But in fact, I had been helping friends and family choose paint color for eons. So that's my start. How about you?

Woolf: Well, I had not been helping friends choose paint colors for eons. One of my earliest paint color experiences was in my first home and I picked a color, a nice warm neutral that ended up turning out to look like Band-Aid... I had light band-aid in the living room and dark band-aid in the dining room. Which was really awful. A few years later, when I listed my house for sale it was still there because I was paralyzed. Fast forward to new homes, new life, and I was renovating my house. I was living in Sarasota at the time, and I knew from previous mistakes that I needed help with color. I'd always dabbled in arts as an avocation and in school and college, just as a hobbyist.

So I knew enough to know that I could be dangerous with color, and I tried to find a professional color consultant to help me when I was renovating my house in Florida. I was not able to find that person. They just, there wasn't anybody out there. There were interior designers, but they offered a full-blown service, and I didn't really want to invest in that. It just was more than I felt I needed. So without anybody around to help me I started to research and I started to read and I started to experiment.

Then I discovered the International Association of Color Consultants and decided to fly to San Diego to take my first training module. I had not worked in a creative industry before. I have a degree in Economics, and I had worked in sales and marketing in the electronics industry and in light manufacturing earlier in my career. I was a stay-at-home Mom and I was really just learning for myself. I didn't have a plan to make a business but you know how these things happen? You get a business card, then you decide some day you need a website and things just organically grow from there. So that house in Florida was a great laboratory for me. It was where I had an opportunity to fully design a kitchen for the first time. I redesigned my bathroom, chose colors, painted and made all those decisions. So have you had a laboratory like that? Would you say your current home is that for you, a place for you to experiment and watch your style evolve?

Krane: Yes, absolutely true. There are some walls here, one in particular, that is an accent wall that I always repaint. I'm a terrible painter but I've done that wall about three times, maybe four...

Woolf: I love that wall! I totally love it. Well, I mean, that's a hard wall to paint because you've chosen a dark color. There's no forgiveness with a dark color on an accent wall.

Krane: That is my TV wall and because it's so dark, my dark TV kind of blends into it. So it's a great way when you have a small space (and it's a very small living room) if you watch TV and you don't have a den or a basement to watch, you have to entertain and watch TV in the same space. It's great to figure out a way to somehow make your TV disappear a little bit. So the dark TV blends into the wall. But it was also a great place for me to learn first-hand about the effect of light on colors because that wall faces Eastern exposure and my house gets morning Eastern light. It was amazing just to see how the light hit the wall and moved down the wall. At one point I had a C2 color called Mistral on it. It was a dark Periwinkle. It was a purple blue, but quite dark and the difference in the color from how the light hit it from the top to the bottom of the wall was incredible. It is shaded by a TV stand on the bottom and appeared as a really dark blue like navy but in other areas it was almost like a bright perri -winkle. So it was a great way to learn that.

Also, the orientation of my house is such that I'm facing due west, and east is behind me, so at the end of the day you get to see how deep and orange the light is and how it affects all the colors on my walls, some of which are white. It's really a great place for me to do my color consulting from when I want to see how different kinds of light affect colors. And also, I love what you said about evolution of style because that certainly has happened.... Isn't that true, Amy? Has your style changed over the years?

Woolf: Oh yeah, it really has. When I lived in Florida... you're talking about light and the light in Florida is strong. I did not do a beachy Florida look when I moved to Florida. I brought my Northern style with me. I used a lot of Farrow and Ball colors. I did a lot of rich, interesting color. I was learning and really in the nascent stage of my business. Once I moved up here to New England, I found myself wanting to come home to a more neutral surrounding - softer colors, less contrast, a little bit easier on the eye. So I've been in this house now for 13 years, and I've noticed how over the last couple of years, as we've moved out of a minimalist phase into a more maximalist phase, I am definitely moving with that trend and kind of craving more pattern, craving more color. I'm going for bolder contrast. My style has sort of amped back up again, so it's been somewhat of an evolution, but also kind of cyclical, so...Yeah, that's been interesting to watch.

Krane: The veering towards more Maximalist has happened to me as well. I've just purchased some wallpaper to put up in my dining room, which is not trendy at all. But it sure isn't minimalist, it's an Indian-influenced pattern of maharajas, elephants and tigers, and... oh my!

What are your favorite kind of projects... and has that changed?

Woolf: Oh, that's interesting. I think when I started in business, of course, my favorite kind of project was any project at all, because anyone that would hire us...

Krane: We'd take it!!

Woolf: Right! You're starting out in this business, it goes slowly, word of mouth builds over time and in the beginning you say yes to everybody. I find that really my favorite projects are about the type of client... I love a client who is really design savvy and they're smart enough to know that they can use professional help to take their project over the finish line in a really good way. They can get maybe 75%, 85% of the way on their own. These people tend to be incredibly organized.

I'm just about to start working with a brand new client, we'll be meeting on Monday. And she has sent me a good number of photographs all with notations, floor plans, inspiration boards. It's just a pleasure to work with somebody who's really got their act together. On the other hand when somebody gets in touch or I start working with them and I ask them what they want and they say they don't really know, we're working in a vacuum. And I think that's hard. So I've been doing some commercial projects lately as well, and they are really a lot of fun. They're more challenging in ways, but the impact is greater. I just got to pick a new awning fabric for one of our very popular local cafes. We're really zhuzhing up this place. It was already smart and snappy and now it's gonna be even better. And that's also really fun - those big impact public projects where you can make an impact on a streetscape or in the larger community. And how about you? What do you love? What ticks your box?

Krane: Well, I'm in agreement. I've started doing more commercial recently, and I find the challenges of that completely different. I've been fortunate enough because for these larger condo communities I've been in touch with one person who hires me. Sometimes they're on an architectural board for the community, but sometimes it's been with a separate company that's sort of a construction management company. And this person is my liaison and he deals with the clients. So whatever kind of back and forth, group think or arguing within that group that may happen on a client side, I've been shielded from. I just hear back from the guy and he says, "they think it's great or the president thinks we should try a lighter choice as well" or something else really filtered. The communication is very streamlined and so I'm actually left with no creative direction at all. I can do what I want, and I love that.

But on the other hand, I agree with you that in a residential setting, having a client who does have a point of view is terrific. I also have been hired many times by people who say "we just don't know what we want." And I assure them right away "don't feel bad, that's why I'm here. It's okay, you don't know. We'll figure out what you like." But in terms of the whole experience, the work process, it is kind of great to be working with people who have a clear point of view about what they want to do, so... Yeah, that's great.

Woolf: For those clients who don't have any idea of what they want to do, I often fall back on my IACC training. When people don't really know what kind of color they wanna live with, I delve into the, How Do You Want To Feel conversation. That's what I really lean heavily into. Color psychology and the physiology of color - how color affects how we feel both emotionally and physically. So that's kind of the way I steer around those kinds of jobs. And that gives us a different kind of road map when the client doesn't have things really spelled out. How long have you been a color consultant?

Krane: I built my website in 2012. I started in 13, so it's nine years.

Woolf: Okay, and do you feel like you turned to a certain corner at some point...

Krane: I think it got easier along the way but I don't know if I can point to one moment of critical mass where suddenly tons more people knew who I was and I got more work. I'm not sure if you're asking from the, how your business grew, standpoint or from your, own confidence and ability to do the job, standpoint.

Woolf: No, more about how the business grew... 'Cause I don't know. My hunch is you were always confident about this. I've never seen anything you've done from the very start that wasn't spot on.

Krane: Thank you, Amy.

Woolf: I have to tell you people, anybody listening, you gotta know when I get stuck on my own projects..... You know who I call!

Krane: Same here, same here! You know, Amy, I would have to say that because covid put such an emphasis on home design and how we all live, and everyone was crammed with their family and working and living in their space, between home buying & home renovating, 2020 was a boom. Once people started coming out of their covid shock, as it were, 2020 became a really banner year for me and 2021, even better. So yeah, as I said, I don't know if I see a critical mass moment where, Oh my God, from this moment forward, my work tripled, but there was a great increase over the last two years which will hopefully increase more. Because as long as people can deal with waiting, not waiting lists per se, but my availability that sometime is pushed out, it's fine. There was a point where my availability was pushed out a couple of months, which... I lost a lot of clients that way. Because as you and I have talked about many times, Amy, there's still plenty of people who say, “The painter is coming tomorrow. Can we do this?” And for anyone who's painter is coming tomorrow or next week, or even in two weeks it's generally too late to fit them in. What about you?

Woolf: I got a call this weekend and I was told the painters are there now, so I've had that...

Krane: Wow, bless them!

Woolf: Right, right, right. Bless us! So I started my business in 2006 in Florida, in Sarasota as I mentioned, and I was there for a couple of years. Then I moved up to New England, built a house, had yet another laboratory, so to speak. Another opportunity to build a house from the ground up and I learned about everything involved with building from that experience. And then after I recovered from that I decided it was time to kinda turn the burner up and work a little harder on really growing the business. So that would have been... I don't know, 2011 or so? And I would say it took a couple more years for things to really gel and really, really fall into place to where this was full-time work... Certainly full-time work if I wanted it. And so that was probably seven or eight years ago, and I think it was a combination of local networking, which I did a ton of... I handled networking locally like a full-time job before the color consulting was a full-time job.

And then at a certain point, I realized I had two full-time jobs and I kinda went cold turkey on the networking and just let the business go from there. It's been busy ever since, like you 2020 was completely off the hook. But it's interesting, almost every year I have one or two really big projects that end up really keeping me quite busy and then I sort of fill in with a lot of other stuff, and then I take a couple of weeks off and catch my breath and then go back at it again. But yeah, covid has certainly changed things and made things a little tougher. I heard from somebody this week that they couldn't actually get paint from a local paint store. There was something... There was a base paint that was out of stock.

Krane: It happened to me last week! Yeah, I'm painting a few different places in the house and I had to make some concessions. Not big ones, but if I wanted Aura or Regal flat for a ceiling, it wasn't available, so I used something different. I needed Aura satin for trim. They didn't have it. I said, "How about Regal Pearl for trim?" They didn't have it. They said, "How about Kitchen and Bath satin for your trim?" I said, “I'll take it.” 'cause they just didn't have it.

Woolf: That's unbelievable. Are you doing the painting yourself? You're hiring somebody. Right?

Krane: People are renovating my bathroom now but they're actually doing more than my bathroom. Right. Do you have anything to say about starting a career in the latter part of your life? About a mid-life change of careers? Do you think your approach to starting the business or any aspect of doing the business is different because you started it as a middle-aged person? Are we allowed to talk about age? I've got more than you anyway!

Woolf: Oh yeah, my hair is grayer than yours.

Krane: Ha! Just because of a little box.

Woolf: I was a full-time Mom when I started this business. So I have had the privilege of not having the pressure of having to earn a living and bring in the income. And I was able to grow my business slowly over time. It's a luxury that not everybody has, and I'm aware of that. Great fortune. As they often say, it's a good idea to keep your day job, so I kept my day job, which was raising my daughter. I was able to slowly move my way into this...

So I would say that if anything, as a younger person, you know, I had to be pulling down a regular paycheck and I needed benefits. And so that's why I was in the corporate world. I think one thing I will say about being a little bit older and a little bit wiser, is that it continues to evolve over 16 years. I think I'm a different person now than I was 16 years ago, for sure. This is a people job. You know, I always say I'm doing color for people, not color for buildings. And so I think the ability to understand and empathize with our clients is what makes the work really possible, not just possible, but really elevates the work. Makes it.......

Krane: Meaningful.

Woolf: Yeah meaningful. To really understand the people that you're working with and dig into their wants and their needs and to be able to... I talk about unraveling a person's color story and helping them discover that part of himself. And so I think that's something that I'm better at as a 58-year-old than I would have been certainly as a 28-year-old. So... Yeah. How about you? I think of you as being like the master organizer.

Krane: No!! My house is a mess...

Woolf: No, but with your previous career iteration. Yes, as a producer, you could pull anything together. If you could do that....

Krane: Well I have to say, I mean, those of us who come from film production and who go onto other things, do say that it was the best training school in the world. Because there were so many pressures from different places in terms of time, schedule, budget. Dealing with millions of dollars on a commercial, moving 50 people to a location, and the biggest of all - personalities and egos. People who have "client or director" attached to their name, come with a certain level of expectations that sometimes exceed reasonability. I used to say as a producer I was a mother, a general and a politician. And all of the economic stuff like dealing with 7 million dollars worth of someone else's money was secondary 'cause it was all about managing the people, the expectations and the pressures of the job.

I also think being this many decades later in my working life gives me, as you said, wisdom. And the difference between knowledge and wisdom to is that wisdom is knowledge with time and experience, and I think it helps in every way. Also starting a business from scratch...starting a new career is one thing, you've gotta get your name out there and that's what I had to do as a freelance producer too. But when the situation is that you're not only getting your name out there, you're also teaching people that your profession even exists, it adds a layer of complexity to making your business grow. So I found that really challenging and interesting and wonderful. It didn't scare the hell out of me which it would have done at 28. But I was about 50 when I started. It was just a challenge. Okay, now a website. Okay, now get some PR. It was really fun in a way and I'm grateful to have gone through that. It continues.... marketing is important no matter what stage your business is in. You've got to have an eye on marketing. Don't you think?

Woolf: Oh yeah, definitely, definitely. I came from... In my corporate experience, I was working in sales and marketing, so I had some business chops from that, and I have a degree in Economics. I've always felt like I was a good balance of right brain, left brain, a little creative, a little math, but not too much math.

Krane: Wow I always say the same!

Woolf: Yeah, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. I think it's a genetic disorder, so to speak. But I would agree with you, when I got started and I would tell people at a Chamber of Commerce event that I was a color consultant, they'd step back and say, "Oh, do I look good in these colors? " They thought it was about clothing. I think prior to Pinterest, Instagram, there was also a big shift in the industry due to HGTV and so much decorating and renovating television. So the advantage, I will say, of having to teach my community, my business market, that there was such a thing as a color consultant, was that in the end, I turned out to be the only one here doing it. There are a few more of us now in my little valley, but certainly in the beginning there was nobody else doing this. So if you can get the word out... I was lucky to be able to corner the market in this area. But yeah, I agree with you. I think social media has made a difference. I think just in general, everybody is more in tune to color than they were 16 years ago when I got started. I think when everybody was just trying to pick the right beige then.

Krane: So Amy, why do you think people should hire a color consultant?

Woolf: You should hire a color consultant because doing so is cheaper than making your first mistake, especially if you're hiring the painting out. If you blow one room and you have to have it re-done you've covered the cost of a consult. So I think that's a very quantitative reason to hire professional help. I'd say the qualitative reason is, it goes without saying, that you're gonna get better results with your colors for sure. I think the qualitative reason for me was so I could sleep at night. So that I could stop looking at 300 color chips, splashing paint all over the wall in my Florida renovation. I had splotches all over the wall. People thought it was like some kind of a contemporary art installation. It was just me testing colors for four months, so... Yeah, what do you think?

Krane: I think it takes the stress out of what's a very stressful endeavor for a lot of people. I think it's hard for people. They labor over it, they worry about it, it really... really stresses them out. I mean, that's one of the pleasures at the end of most color consultations, at least with people who are communicative, you get thanked profusely and I love that. It's like getting applause.

Woolf: It is fun to see that arc of the progression from the first phone call, which can sometimes be a little bit panicked or bewildered, into that settling down that happens once the client knows that they're on the schedule. And for me, one of the most rewarding things is having somebody who was really suffering turn to me and say... "That was fun." Yeah, great. You made this fun. I mean like, wow, because color should be fun. It shouldn't be painful. They shouldn't have to suffer.

Krane: And on that note, I hope this time you’ve learned a little something about the how, why, when of we becoming color consultants. Next time, I'm sure we'll be back to enlightening you with important information about specifying color, but until then, thanks for listening.

Woolf: Have a colorful week, month, life. And if you have any questions or you want to give us any feedback, please find us at Let's Talk (paint) Color dot com and send us a little note... We'd love to hear from you. Take care,

Krane: Bye!


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