Free Paint Color Ideas Are Not What They Seem.

Houzz & Benjamin Moore Paint Color Tool. An Alliance in Inaccuracy. 

Free paint color ideas are not what they seem. As a designer, one of the questions I get asked frequently is how to select paint colors. I know many people get inspiration from Houzz and it seems Houzz is trying to address that need. Benjamin Moore has purchased advertising to direct consumers to their products by using designers' photos. This could be helpful to the consumer - if it actually worked.



In the interest of providing "services" to their users, Houzz has teamed up with Benjamin Moore to help you select paint colors for your home. This would allow you to skip hiring a designer or spare you from struggling for hours with tiny paint chips  because Houzz and Benjamin Moore have you covered! I really hate to use the cliche "you get what you pay for", but in this case it couldn't be more true.

Need help with paint colors?

Have you noticed the little Benjamin Moore box under the photos on Houzz? I certainly hadn't until one day I wanted to see which products they had tagged on my photos.  Above their usual "Related Products" heading I saw this little box that reads "Show Paint Colors"  Sponsored by Benjamin Moore. This got my attention since I have NEVER specified a Benjamin Moore product in my career thus far and have never been contacted  to verify what brand and color I specified in my projects.

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I started by taking screenshots my own photos from my Art House project on Houzz. I also skimmed through about 20 photos from random designers in no specific area, and every one had this "feature" attached. I wondered if these designers were contacted to verify their selections. I doubt it. 

Let's go through this step-by-step. Go into any project or click any photo to expand it to view full screen. You'll notice the "Show Paint Colors" box under the project photos and above their "Related Products" section. (Oh yeah, they tagged the original art that I painted and suggested other artwork. Thanks!!)


Once you click the "Show Paint Colors" box, you get the ***ahem*** palette on the side as shown in the photo below. You'll see little white plus signs in a circle all over the photo. When you click on those you get the color. The problem is that it is NOT the color I specified. It's not even the right brand.

The border around the painting is indeed a painted border on the wall but it is NOT Benjamin Moore Old Navy as the feature would have you believe. It is actually SHERWIN WILLIAMS Tricorn BLACK!! Imagine a clients disappointment when they run out (or conveniently buy samples on the feature ) only to find it just doesn't look right...because it's NOT!!!

Moving on to the kitchen photo below: Again, Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black is confused with Benjamin Moore Blue Heron. Ok, I get it. Maybe in this photo it looks kind of blue. But wait! See the little plus sign next to the Blue Heron tag? I couldn't get this to sit still for a screen shot, but they have it tagged Benjamin Moore Hazelwood. Really? I usually just have a random splotch of color painted in the middle of the wall (insert sarcasm please). OH...there's some light hitting the wall and it's provided another opportunity to sell another paint sample. I get it. 

We also have some white cabinetry that is a thermofoil product, not painted, tagged a gray color. Again, I feel sorry for the consumer being duped into thinking they'll get the same look by ordering gray cabinets and blue paint.

Inaccurate Benjamin Moore Paint colors

A good interior designer will always tell you that light changes the way a color looks. Benjamin Moore has taken this to another level. This time, they are literally changing the color because of the light.

They've tagged the walls in the living room photo below Benjamin Moore Beacon Gray and Denim Wash. Oddly, this whole room (except for the black which they at least got a little closer this time) is the same color. The room is Sherwin Williams Extra White. It just looks a little different in some areas due to the lighting in the photo. I would be pretty upset if I painted my hallway Denim wash when it should be white. 

They are just adding to the confusion about picking paint colors....

 Inaccuracy is a huge issue here, but is this false advertising? I'd love some insight on that point.  I have never used a Benjamin Moore product in any project so having this attached to my photos is very misleading.

In addition to misleading consumers, I feel like Benjamin Moore is devaluing designers. My firm's values are not in alignment with these practices. Consequently,  I will never use a Benjamin Moore product. 

Benjamin Moore is paying for advertising on the millions of photos uploaded to Houzz by designers. Designers who carefully specified colors and products appropriate to their client. Designers who are being insulted by a "feature" that is GUESSING at colors we specified using our experience and education. 

Let's not forget the Houzz user who is being mislead into thinking they are getting a designer color scheme for free.

I'm not sure who should be most upset here. Should it be the designers whose services and knowledge are being minimized and inaccurately portrayed? Should it be the consumer who is being duped by TWO huge companies into buying something that isn't what it seems? And let's not forget Sherwin Williams! Their product is being used to sell a competitor's product. 

There is a common misconception that hiring a designer is expensive. Enlisting the help of a  designer to select paint colors is less expensive than being unsure and being unhappy with your results. A small upfront investment can save expense and headaches later.  I and most other designers offer color consultations tailored to YOU. And the best part? The colors will be accurate.

A last word about Houzz...

Houzz has come under fire from the design community lately. There are a litany of complaints against Houzz, but maybe the most common is the use of our photos to sell products. Designers spend hours sourcing items for our projects based on the needs of a specific client. More importantly, we specify products we know to be of superior quality, safety, and functionality.

Houzz tags our items and leads you, the consumer, to their online marketplace where you will be directed to purchase an item that may look like the one in the photo. Houzz emphasizes that they are there to help their users. In reality, they are there to help themselves.

It should be noted Houzz is being accused of misleading practices by designers.  Online reviews of their marketplace customer service and products by consumers on independent review sites are abysmal at best. Some designers are fearful that the product tags will lead to the perception of endorsement of Houzz's service and products. The negative buzz is getting louder. Just this week a petition started circulating to raise awareness about some of Houzz's practices. It is open for signature by both consumer and the design professional. Sharing is caring!