Color Queens of Baristaville to the Rescue

Nancy Breslin living room

Choosing paint colors can be one of the most exasperating and angst-ridden projects a homeowner will tackle.  Faced with a dizzying abundance of hues, some people might just decide to call in a professional.  We at Baristanet interviewed four top local color consultants to get their advice and tips. 

The color queens (surprise! they’re all women) differed in some of their responses, but all found common ground on two points:  1) picking paint colors can be enough to drive a regular person crazy, and 2) when it comes to color, couples almost never see eye-to-eye. 

Joann Eckstut is the owner of The Roomworks (917-543-9390).  “I am exclusively a color consultant for residential, institutional and commercial properties.  I help clients make intelligent choices based on what’s around them and their lifestyle.”  She serves on the influential Interior Design Committee of The Color Association of the United States, which predicts color trends two years out.  

Nancy Breslin laundry room

Nancy Breslin ( or has been an interior designer in Manhattan for ten years and does color consulting mainly in Essex County.  “Interior color consulting is a niche market that doesn’t really happen in New York City.  Out here people are willing to pay for it.  I enjoy being a bit of chameleon and make sure the colors reflect the owners and the style of the house.”

Joanne Robins of Ricciardi Design Center in Maplewood (973-762-3830, x218 or has been an interior designer and color consultant for seven years, working mostly in North Central New Jersey.  “There is a definite psychological effect of color.  I have asked my clients, ‘What colors make you happy?’ and I will sometimes work within that color scheme.” 

Amy Wax of Your Color Source ( is well-known for her exterior color consulting, although she also does interior work.  “Very few people do exterior color consulting; it’s a unique niche,” said Wax. “I’m an illustrator, and being an artist gives me a unique and refined sense of color.  People try to be a color consultant because they think it’s easy.  But it takes training and skill.”  Wax is president of the International Association of Color Consultants of North America.

Why is it so hard for the average person to choose paint colors? 

Eckstut: Color choice is hard because there are so many options.  You think you want violet, then you see this beautiful coral.  Context is really important.  You have to look at the room, the whole house, the light, the climate…

Breslin: I think the average person is overwhelmed by choice. I am known for really helping clients focus.  I also make sure that even if we are just working on one room, thought is given to the entire house.

Robins:  It can be overwhelming for the average person because they may be trying to make many decisions on a costly renovation, or they cannot visualize the end result and they don’t want to make a color choice they will ultimately not be happy with.    

Wax: Choosing color can be terrifying. It’s not just about, do you like green?  It’s about when you come home from work, what do you want your home to feel like?  It’s like creating a wish list for your life. 


What are your predictions for the hot new colors on the horizon?

Eckstut:  We are moving toward cooler neutrals: grays, with a soft pearl finish; reds with an orange, not pink, cast.  Green is still very big because of the environment. 

Joann Eckstut Foyer

Breslin:  The grays are really popular and a big trend is lavenders.  It’s been neutrals for so long but now there’s more color.  Also, I love wallpaper – you will see more of it.  [You heard it here first.] 

Robins:  Hot colors right now are soft pinks with deep oranges.  I love pairing a rich orange with a soft blue, a deep purple with a lime green.  The key is to always incorporate a neutral to anchor the color choices.  Another hot color combination is a warm color with a grey, or any color muted with a grey. 

Amy Wax, 51 Park St, Montclair

Wax:  We are coming out of the safer neutrals back toward brighter colors.  Color is tied to politics and the economy.  When the economy is scary, people tend to choose colors based on resale potential.  Now, I am seeing a lot of bright green and yellow, and more purple than I have in a long time.

Do spouses often disagree on color choices?

Wax: Spouses are always in conflict!  I never get spouses who are on the same page. Once, a couple was having such an intense argument I volunteered to leave the room  But they said – no way, you’re staying right there!

Eckstut:  Yes!  I’m definitely a psychotherapist even though I don’t have a degree.

Breslin:  It’s always easier to deal with one person. But in the end one usually has a stronger opinion.

Do New Jersey clients have different color taste than New York clients?

Wax: New York City residents are used to smaller apartments with less light.  They really want to create a sense of privacy and personal space. 

Eckstut: The one distinction I’ve seen is that New Jersey clients seem to take into account the vintage of their homes and design accordingly, while in New York, especially with apartments, people often ignore the setting.

Breslin:  People out here like color.  In New York City, it’s more about neutrals. Also New Jersey clients seem to build color consulting into their overall decorating budget more so than New Yorkers.

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  1. Thanks for the article. A color consultant (and interior designer) if you can swing it, can make a huge difference. Joann Eckstut is excellent and very versatile. She helped me color and design my sons third floor area in wonderfully strong deep colors that reflected exactly what they wanted. Plus she found the color to connect them perfectly in the hall and down the stairs. On our porch, she found the perfect light airy yellow for walls and a turquoise ceiling, plus helped me find furniture. I recommend The Roomworks wholeheartedly.

  2. I used Rutgers painting for the entire interior of my house, and they gave me a one hour free color consultation – this consultant was amazing! I met her at the house with a book of swatches, pictures, color selections, etc and went room by room of what I was thinking. She tweaked my selections in most rooms, and advised me on some that I was completely in the dark with. She had a HUGE book of benjamin moore paint tabs and would call out things I would never have known, i.e. ‘this color looks very gray on the wall, this one has too much orange for your prints,’ I am happy with EVERY room — I paid her $100 for an extra hour — it was the best money I ever spent!

  3. There’s a sign in the paint department at South End Hardware that says men can’t buy paint without written permission of their wives!

  4. I wish they’d start painting over all the beige vinyl plastic and foam stucco siding that’s overrunning the US like a plague of locusts.
    Or better still, tear that crap off and install the real deal.

  5. Nancy Breslin was amazing with helping me choose the right colors for my home. I knew what colors I wanted, but she knew the exact hue which would work best.

  6. Amy Wax wrote the book on this stuff. Literally. It’s called “Can’t Fail Color Schemes”. It’s for sale in, like, every home center. She did the colors for my house, and my studio and office. Her work is ubiquitous all over Baristaville, although from what I understand she has a national reputation as well. I guess you can tell I’m a Very Happy Client.

  7. Color can instantly date a house. There’s a certain hue of hunter green that we Realtors call “late 80s green”. One of the best things you can do before putting your home on the market is to update your color palette. Calling in an expert like Joann Eckstut will give your rooms a fresh look for a minimal investment.

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