Q&A: Nicole Gibbons on buying paint a different way

Nicole Gibbons
Mar 21, 2019

Nicole Gibbons is an interior designer, blogger, on-air design personality and entrepreneur who has introduced a new line of paint, Clare, and a new way to buy it. Gibbons wanted to help consumers who are choosing paint colors themselves. Selections are delivered to the customer's home. She has narrowed choices to 55 non-VOC hues plus peel-and-stick paint swatches and a curated collection of paint brushes and supplies. An online tool provides customized color advice.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Greetings to Nicole Gibbons, an interior designer and entrepreneur who founded a new paint company, Clare. Gibbons approach is to help consumers figure out what color they want without a lot of angst.  Selections are delivered to the customer's home. She has narrowed choices to 55 non-VOC hues plus peel-and-stick paint swatches. Online, there are lots of tools to help you make the right paint color choice for you. She's an expert on everything paint so let's chat.

Hi Everyone! I'm Nicole Gibbons - an interior designer and the founder & CEO of Clare! I started Clare to create an easier and more inspiring way to shop for paint. Excited to be here today!

I just purchased a historic condo with closets that need updating-- they have old wooden or nonexistent shelves, weirdly placed racks, etc. I have heard a lot about Elfa and the Container store. How personal is their service, or should I consider a locally-owned company? two of the closets are irregularly-shaped and need some extra creativity to make functional!

I've used The Container store's Elfa system in both my on home and for Clients and I'd recommend you go for it! The in-store service is somewhat personalized but very turnkey. However - it's one of the most affordable options out there for custom closet solutions and they can definitely help you make the most of your extra space!

I'm painting the kitchen in my small rental apartment. What's the best blue for a small space that will be easily covered when I move out?

Headspace is a really beautiful blue from Clare, it's a soft, airy blue-green that's very calming and won't be hard to cover up when you move out. It's also our best-selling blue! You can find it here:


Good luck!

I'm thinking of painting my kitchen cabinets in the white world. Do I take the trim color and use that, or find another white with the same undertones (or at least not clashing) and use that color? Trim in the house is Ben Moore Chantilly Lace. Walls are Ben Moore Mocoa.

If you're going all-white, I like to keep cabinets and trims a consistent color and then bring in contrast with your walls and/or tile. So definitely keep your whites consistent for your cabinets and trims. Blues or soft grays are great colors options for your walls that pair well with white cabinets in a kitchen!

What color did you paint your apartment?

I moved recently from a very colorful space so I wanted my new space to be clean and neutral. I live in a 1BR NYC apartment and I chose Penthouse for my main living room - it's a airy and refined shade of pale "greige" - the perfect mix of gray & beige! For my bedroom I chose Classic - a chic soft neutral that feels really clean and modern. In my kitchen I went with Fresh Kicks - our cleanest, brightest white with no undertones. And finally - in my bathroom I chose Chill -  a super barely-there gray that has subtle green undertones and is very calming and has a spa-like vibe! 


Thank you Jura for making me aware of Clare/Nicole. Question - any recommendations for a neutral color for main floor - living room, dining room, 2 bedrooms and a family-ish room. Neutral because may be selling in next 12 months or so. Also, do you recommend DIY or hiring a pro?

Hi There! For your living room try - Penthouse or Classic ...two of our best-selling neutrals. Both very airy and light. Penthouse is slightly warmer but both are in the "greige" family and can pair beautifully with literally any accent color you choose - great for a living room! For bedrooms I love calming colors because bedrooms are meant for relaxing.  Seize the Gray is our best-selling gray. It's a clean, true gray with no undertones and would look so lovely in a bedroom because it has a calming vibe but could also work well in a dining room or family room. For a warmer option, No Filter is a beautiful, warm beige that is perfection in any space! The beauty of paint is that it's not difficult to do it yourself but it does require time and energy. At Clare, we have lots of resources to give you the confidence you need to paint like a pro - from the best tools and supplies to tips and tutorials. If you are busy and don't have the time to paint, hiring a pro is always an efficient route but can be costly if you're painting your entire house. Hope this helps. Good luck!

I've read a ton about lead paint and its harmful properties. What should I look for when shopping for paint to know that I'm choosing the safest option?

Great question! First look for a paint that is Zero VOC. VOCs are emitted gasses that can pollute the air in your home and are commonly found in paints. Also look for paint Also look for a paint that has achieved a high-level green certification like GREENGUARD which certify that a product has the lowest possible chemical emissions. Clare is ZERO VOC and has achieved GREENGUARD Gold certification which is the highest tier of GREENGUARD certification available. To become GREENGUARD Gold certified our paint underwent rigorous emissions testing for more than 360 VOCs and other hazardous chemicals.  Also - our paint is made without Toxic Air Contaminants or Hazardous air pollutants, or any chemicals on the EPA chemicals of concern list. It's a paint you can feel good about using!


What's your favorite room to makeover? Blank state... where do you start? With paint, big furniture, or art?

I love designing bedrooms. They're such cozy, intimate spaces and you can often get your most creative with a smaller space as well. I always start first by thinking through the color palette and then I like to focus on one interesting thing to make an impact in the room. It can be anything - a really interesting bed frame, a interesting rug, or a cool piece of art. When it comes to designing I don't follow a strict process. It's very much driven by inspiration.  For someone tackling a design for the first time here are my tips:

1. - Choose your color palette first

2 - Then select all of the foundational furniture pieces in the room, starting with one cool statement piece.

3- From there, layer in accessories, rugs, lighting etc, with your color palette in mind. This is the fun part! 

Hope this helps!

My cabinets are white, cheap, laminate (?) on fiberboard. One cabinet door bottom has started to peel. Glue doesn't work to put the peeled part on. Eventually I will replace cabinets, but in the meantime, any suggestions?

It does sound like you need new cabinets but in the meantime, you can give the laminate a light sanding and use a really good primer and then paint. You'll have to clean the cabinets thoroughly. Kitchens have a lot of invisible grease build up and if the doors arent thoroughly cleaned and prepared, your risk your paint peeling - even if you're excellent paint. White paint will always be the best color to go with to hide imperfections. But blues also look stunning on cabinetes!

What are your thoughts on non-white trim? If I want to order from Clare, do you have suggestions to adding pop to doors and truim?

LOVE that you want to go bold with color! Most people aren't that adventurous but as a designer this is music to my ears! Really depends on the other colors in your space but I love the look of bold black or charcoal gray doors and trims - it's a really chic and dramatic look. Blackest is a rich black from Clare. Irony is another bold gray that would look amazing. For a more traditional option, opt for a blue. Deep Dive is a bold, sophisticated blue with green undertones that would also look amazing on trim or doors.  Get inspired by this door/trim pairing here: https://www.clare.com/paint/trim/blackest

How do I know if I need to use primer?

Think of primer as a base coat that creates the foundation for a flawless paint job. A primer is a must-have if you are painting over a higher-gloss finish -- like switching from semi-gloss to eggshell. Another reason is switching from dark color to a lighter one, or if your walls have been repaired or patched.  If you’re painting a humid area like a bathroom, which is more susceptible to mildew and leaching - use primer! And if you’re painting an unfinished wood trim or other porous wood surfaces that have been sanded down you'll also want to prime first.

In general, priming may seem like an extra step in the painting process, but the benefits far outweigh the extra work and help achieve professional-looking results!

Our paint is self-priming so if your walls are in great shape and you don't have any special circumstances such as the scenarios described above, you shouldn't need to use a primer!

Hi - this may be a long shot, but my father-in-law passed away and he had some furniture that may be of value. Thing is, we're not exactly sure what we have here. It looks like a few pieces that are original midcentury modern or Danish modern. Any guidance on how we'd find out if these pieces are of value to a collector? We're in New York City, if that helps. Many thanks!

Hi! Yes - take photos of the pieces and then find a dealer that specializes in those types of pieces and ask if they can help you identify them. Also - look for markings. If its a casegood like  a cabinet usually there would be a heat stamp in the wood with a brand name or sometimes a label on the back of the piece. If it's a chair you might find a label if you turn it upside down. The brand names on the label will be really telling as the highest value pieces are going to be ones that came from prominent furniture designers. If you have photos and/or any labels a dealer can help you identify if the items are of value. But in general - mid century and danish modern furniture is in high demand so even if they arent made by a prominent designer/furniture house, they probably still have some value on the resale market! Good luck!

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Hi, My house is a 1920s craftsman with the original, never-painted American chestnut trim. I struggle with paint colors for the walls -- too light and there's too much contrast, or too saturated and the whole room is dark and dreary. Any suggestions?

It sounds like your eye may be drawn more towards a light-to medium hued neutral. I would definitely opt for a neutral on the cooler side if you want to modernize the space and a warmer neutral if you want to maintain the 1920s craftsman vibe. No Filter (slightly warmer) and Beigeing (still warm but much cooler than No Filter) are could be great options for your space.  You can also try for a color that has more vibrancy - like a blue - good jeans is a great choice. Dare I ask---would you ever be willing to paint your original trim white? If so this could make a dramatic impact and instantly lift the energy in the room and make it feel bright. Good luck!



What do you suggest for a high traffic entryway with kids who use the wall as a backboard when they kick off shoes?

For an entry way in an active household I'd definitely want to go with a higher gloss finish like our Subtle Semi-Gloss Trim Paint. It is perfect for high-touch surfaces, and the formula stands up to more wear and tear. Everything from stains, smudges, to your kiddos’ shoe marks, and stroller wheels. It's also  even more resistant to dirt, grime and mildew and will be the easiest finish to wipe clean! As for color - if you have the right paint finish, you should be able to go in any color direction easily clean it but if you never want to see a smudge - go with a medium or darker hued color that will camouflage all of those smaller scuff marks. 

If a primer is needed, what do you recommend before using Clare paints?

Hi! We have a great primer at Clare! It's a fast-drying multi-surface interior primer that helps provide the foundation for a flawless paint finish. It's Zero VOC, ultra low odor, and like all of our paints, it's also GREENGUARD Gold certified!

Hi Nicole, I am always confused about the correct way to paint a trey ceiling. Should I paint just the ceiling itself an accent color or should the lip of the trey and the molding be painted the accent color also? As far as the accent color, should it be a lighter or darker shade than the wall color? Thanks for your advice!

Doing an accented tray ceiling can be tricky so yu have to decide if that is the focal point that you want to create in the room. it will definitely draw the eye up so if you want this as an intentional design feature its a great design trick for bringing attention to the interesting architectural ceiling details. If you opt for this, I like to just paint the inset of the ceiling and always recommend coordinating the color with other colors in your space vs following rules about light vs dark etc. Here is a link to a great example from google with dining chairs that coordinate beautifully with the inset ceiling : https://cdn.homedit.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Dining-room-with-a-traditional-design-wallpaper-texture-tray-ceiling.jpg


Hope this helps!



Thank you Nicole for being with us today. Paint is always one of our favorite topics. Next week we'll be talking about art - how to incorporate art into your home. My guest will be Paula Wallace, founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

Where do I start? Can you share some tips for helping me narrow down my paint color selection?

Hi! there are a lot of subtle nuances to look at when it comes to narrowing down your color but sampling the color in your home is the best way to ensure you'll love the end result! 

You want to understand how the color plays with the natural light in your space - because that can make a huge impact on how the color is perceived. One color can look totally different in your home, than it does in your neighbor's home across the street if the windows are facing different directions. 

You also want to make sure you look at the color next to other furnishings in your space to ensure they coordinate. 

We put together a great guide on the Clare blog with tips for sampling paint colors to ensure you get it right! 



Also - we make sampling color super easy with our Perfect Color Swatches. They're 8x8" peel-and-stick color samples that allow you to see the color in an instant. They're also reposition-able so you to move the color sample around your space to try out in different lighting, throughout different times of day! 

Finally - if you need expert help, we created Clare Color Genius Quiz t- a fun, tech enabled quiz created to help you find a color you love! It asks 8 questions - ranging from your light source, colors you like, etc. and gives you a color based on those answers! At Clare we only offer 55 expertly curated colors because we knew how difficult the paint selection process could be. Our Clare Crew is also always happy to help you narrow down your choices. You can always email us!

Follow up - what's the difference between low voc and zero VOC. Isn't it impossible to have zero VOC's?

According to the EPA the air inside our homes is 10x more polluted than the air outside our home so it's always best to opt for a Zero VOC paint!

With low VOC paints,  the paint will still emit some gasses into the air and can potentially pollute the air in your home.  Clare is ZERO VOC and our GREENGUARD Gold certification ensures it's safe for even sensitive environments like schools or hospitals and it allows you to paint with a peace of mind!

Thank you so much for having me Jura! And thanks everyone for all of your great questions. I really enjoyed the Chat! If we didn't get to your questions, feel free to reach out to us @clarepaint and we'll help! THANK YOU!

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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