Maria Killam & Colour Me Happy!

Mar 16, 2015

If you haven’t heard of her already, someone you need to know is Maria Killam, author of Colour Me Happy, one of the top color blogs in North America. With over 250,000 readers in 171 countries across the world, Maria is an internationally known color specialist– a true master of color!!


Never without a happy smile, this sought after color expert is not only a decorator and stylist but she also gives training sessions to designers, architects, decorators and stagers on how to choose the perfect hue. Maria has just released her second e-book, White is Complicated: A Decorator’s Guide to Choosing the Right White.

White is Complicated-cover-01

With white becoming an increasingly large part of the color conversation, there has been a flood of interest in all things white for the home!! Shades of white account for more than 70% of all paint sales – amazing!



With thousands of whites to choose from, picking the perfect white can be a challenge. She must receive as many questions on how to choose the perfect white as I do!!  I was very interested to read her fail-proof method of picking the right white and I was not disappointed!!!


cool to warm white tones

Coolest                                                                                                                   Warmest


Brilliantly, she separates whites into 4 undertones. As Maria describes, ”Think of these four categories as a continuum of white, with blue-white (the coolest) on the far left, through to cream (yellow-white and the warmest) on the far right.”


Then she gives you several control whites; ones that are the truest whites without an undertone with which one can compare each white you are considering to. In the example above, the control color, extra white, is placed under Dover White, making it apparent that Dover White has a yellower (warmer) undertone. “By comparing, comparing, comparing, you will be able to see and demonstrate which white is the right one for the interior” explains Maria


Now you are ready to pick the right white for your home!  Maria says the first step for an existing home is to note what finishes and fixtures are not changing. “Knowing what category of whites is already in your home is the first step to understanding which whites you’ll want to consider. If you’re choosing finishes for a new build, any whites in the surfaces you purchase will help you know which category of whites you’ll want to continue throughout your home. ” She walks you through how to do that in a very easy to understand fashion.


“The selection of hard finishes like tile and counter tops is the most limited and they highly dictate the colour scheme. Therefore you must choose your hard finishes first. Your cabinet colour, wall and trim colours will all be based on the finishes you choose.” This quote is so true; a point I am constantly emphasizing to my clients and one that makes perfect sense!  In the above picture the counters and tile will dictate the white chosen. Imagine those cabinets with a yellow undertone—yikes!!!


The book has a large very informative section on trends and how to change wall and cabinet colors in a way that  allows your hard surfaces to gain a fresh, updated look!!! Selecting a color with the right undertone, as her system instructs, ensures the new look will marry well with existing tones. Above is a before picture.


And here is the after!! An amazing transformation achieved simply by painting with the perfect tones!!!!


Maria’s recommendation is to be timeless when choosing your fixed elements such as flooring, counters and back splash materials. I loved her advice to avoid “the temptation to have all your hard finishes look like you’ve received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to the ball and you’re wearing every piece of jewelry you own.” This point for me is sometimes challenging in my own home considering I love so many things and wanting to incorporate them all!!!



“Embrace trends only when decorating with furnished items and wall colours. These can be inexpensively changed to give your room a whole new perspective!!! The easiest way to personalize a room and have it look unique to you is by introducing colour in your window coverings, art and accessories and, of course, on the walls. If you keep the colours and patterns in your fixed elements simple, they won’t boss you around. This is the way to give yourself the opportunity to create a palette with endless colour and decor possibilities.”


What’s more, Maria created The Essential Collection, a set of 25 Sherwin-Williams large color boards of whites and grays, as a companion to this book.  They are identified by undertone, making it so simple to see which tone is right. She has larger sets from Benjamin Moore as well.  I purchased both! The larger sets are a great investment if you have a design studio.  To purchase these, click here.


“My favourite, go-to, default, universal, timeless, fail-safe, sure-proof white is the one that’s right for the space.” Maria Killian

 Her book, Colour Me Happy, could not be a better investment! For $37.00, she includes so many pointers and tips not only on picking color tones but on choosing marbles, tiles, grouts, etc. I highly recommend it along with her other books on how to pick exterior paint colors and the right neutrals, available here!  Thank you Maria!! I picked up some tips myself!!!


I am heading back to McKinney! Unfortunately, cold and icy weather caused the Aidan Gray Living book signing to be cancelled (better safe than sorry!) at the start of the month but I couldn’t stay away for long! March 26th, join me and Segreto Style as we enjoy the newly redesigned Gray Living!! I hope to see you there!!

Events March_to_April_2015_008

Keep up with me and Segreto Style through April! With Lectures and book signings booked throughout the Spring, I would love to see you any of these fun events!!

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  • Karena
    Posted at 06:41h, 16 March Reply

    Leslie I am a long time admirer of Maria, her blog, and color theory using whites!
    She really knows what she is doing and can save everyone a lot of time , money, and effort by suing her help!
    Congrats on your upcoming events!!

    The Arts by Karena

    • Leslie
      Posted at 04:05h, 17 March Reply

      Hi Karena! She is quite amazing!! I used her program with my staff as well! Was so great! I hope you are doing wonderful!! xo

  • Rié|Portobello Design
    Posted at 18:16h, 16 March Reply

    I was not familiar with her work, thank you for the introduction! Her book sounds like a tremendous resource. My favorite color is white, so she had me at hello! Gray Living and Segreto the perfect mix! All the best, xx Rié

    • Leslie
      Posted at 05:06h, 18 March Reply

      Hi Sweet Rié!! Her book is fab! I so hope you are doing great! so fun following your blog!

  • Design Chic
    Posted at 19:54h, 16 March Reply

    I’m saving this post forever. Paint colors are always the hardest for us and as the biggest fans of whites and neutrals, we will definitely use refer to this often! Fingers crossed that we will see an addition of a NC book signing soon!!

    • Leslie
      Posted at 04:04h, 17 March Reply

      You are so cute! The book is really great too so much more info! I need to get into a store in NC first–any ideas? I am loving reading my new fav book of yours!! xo

  • Taylor Greenwalt
    Posted at 19:27h, 17 March Reply

    Wow…she has a lot of readers…she always gives great tips on color…

    • Leslie
      Posted at 14:24h, 21 March Reply

      She does!! I am one of them–really good tips!! Can you believe its almost spring!!! xo

  • KJ
    Posted at 08:06h, 08 April Reply

    Oh, isn’t her all white kitchen fabulous! And what a transformation on that second kitchen!

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