Debra Aufdemberge and Danielle Stallings
When my husband and I bought our Bay View
fixer-upper in 2018, we knew what we were getting into:
A serious roof repair, extensive plaster work and a
major landscaping project, just for starters.
When it came time to decide on interior
paint colors, we felt burnt out and indecisive. Paint
was the last thing on our minds. We also didn’t want to
be hasty and choose colors we’d regret a year down the
road, nor did we want to spend weeks agonizing over
paint swatches and comparing 13 slightly different
shades of gray.
Cue Debra Aufdemberge, a color consultant
for Sherwin-Williams and — as far as I’m concerned — a
real-life angel. She swooped in and saved me from
throwing my hands in the air and yelling, “Just paint it
Aufdemberge’s job is to help frazzled
homeowners create the perfect color palette for their
homes, both inside and out. It turns out that my
feelings of frustration are shared by lots of other
homeowners — picking paint colors sounds simple, but
when you’re deciding on a color scheme for an entire
house, the task can be overwhelming.
“We have seen a countless number of
homeowners come into our stores and become frustrated
with choosing a paint color,” Aufdemberge says. “It is
very difficult to choose a paint color while looking at
an in-store color wall that has thousands of options
under fluorescent lighting.”
Those swatches also tend to look a lot
different once they’re painted on your walls. A color
consultant can evaluate your space and take stock of
factors from furniture to lighting to help you decide on
the perfect color and skip over all the weeks (or
months) of deliberating.
For a pricy exterior paint job, a color
consultant is an especially valuable resource — you
won’t regret sampling a few expertly-selected colors
before taking the plunge on a fresh coat of outdoor
“Our primary consideration is each
homeowner’s unique style and design goals,” says
Danielle Stallings, color program supervisor at
Sherwin-Williams. “Instead of telling each homeowner
what they should do, we work closely with them and make
recommendations that will make their home feel
comfortable and meet their needs.”
Armed with thick books of paint swatches,
Aufdemberge came to my house for a 90-minute color
consultation. She asked which colors I was drawn to,
which colors I didn’t love, and what kind of vibe I was
aiming for in our historic home.
By the end of our session, Aufdemberge
helped me create a color palette that I loved and that
remained true to the period of the house —nothing too
garish, but not too vanilla, either. When I told her I
secretly always wanted a purple room, she gave me the
confidence to turn my pipe dream into a reality, guiding
me to the perfect bold shade of aubergine that popped
against the maple floors in my office.
Working with a Sherwin-Williams color
consultant costs $95, Stallings says, but you’ll also
receive a $50 gift card to use on paint or supplies,
which offsets the cost. Independent color consultants
charge variable rates by the hour or by the project. At
Colorwheel Painting in Milwaukee, a basic color
consultation is usually included in the painting
package. As a standalone service, color consulting
starts at $150.
If you’re thinking of calling a color
consultant, there are a few ways you can prepare in
advance to get the most out of the experience.
“I’d suggest having as many items in
place as possible, including countertops, floors and
light fixtures,” says Michael Madson, owner of
Colorwheel Painting. “It’s a lot easier to find a color
that works with a countertop than to find a countertop
that works with a color.”
And if you’re on the fence about bringing
in a color consultant, take it from me: It’s the best
money I spent in the early days of our home renovation.
You can’t put a price on preserving your sanity.
“Paying for this expertise is a minimal investment that
can save the homeowner a lot of valuable time or costly
mistakes,” Madson says.