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Art First In the Media Mary McMurray’s choice of colors as featured in the media:
Sunset Magazine, Oregon Home, This Old House, Homes & Gardens, Oregonian.
Articles about colors for Craftsman style, color for Victorian style, Arts and Crafts colors
Oregonial Online Online on The Oregonian, live Sept 26, click here

Oregon Home Magazine

Craftsman Casual with ART FIRST as color designer Click here to read the entire article as a pdf

Accent walls

Try a color variation on one wall to liven up your interior

By Mary Jo Bowling

Creating an accent wall - that is, using color to treat one wall differently from the others in a room - is like adding an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. It adds excitement and importance to a space. "In many rooms you don't have a sense of architecture or style," says colorist Mary McMurray of Art First Colors for Architecture in Portland. "Creating an accent wall is a simple way to provide vibrancy and a sense of place."
ART FIRST specified a rich, dark mahogany paint for the accent wall in this luxurious family room, and sophisticated colors for ceiling, walls and trim.

At left: after.

Below: before

Oregon Home Magazine

interview by by

Art First speaks out in Expert Advice from Color Consultants, Oregon Home Magazine, December-January 2011.


Services available to you at any location
interview by by

Oregon Home Magazine


Mary McMurray consulted on the exterior and interior colors for this renovation of Wade Pipes' family home.

To read the whole story from Oregon Home Magazine click here for the pdf to download.

This Old House



Mary McMurray
was featured in the
"curb appeal" article
in This Old House


June 2008

House color design by Mary McMurray of ART FIRST


Deck and garden design by Darcy Daniels, Bloomtown Garden Design & Nursery,

photo by Jon Jensen

Read about Art First Colors
in Arts & Crafts Homes magazine

The new home for which we designed both interior and exterior colors was featured in the Manzanita Tour of Homes


Coastal Living

A new vacation home at Cannon Beach, featured in the January-February 2007 issue of Coastal Living.

Interior colors throughout house, and the tile designs in five bathrooms, are by Mary McMurray of Art First.


By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
©The Christian Science Monitor


It's time to paint your circa 1860 house again, and you're beginning to think about colors. Should you stick with the same old white house with black shutters, maybe jazz up the shutter color, or try to find out what shade the house was painted when it was built?

Historically accurate does not have to mean dull, yet old homes sometimes seem destined to endure coat after coat of boring gray or white paint. Nowadays, homeowners have numerous options. They can choose vibrant paint colors that are faithful to both the time period of their house and to their taste.

Some people think that in order to discover the true colors of an old house, all that's necessary is to scrape through the layers of paint. But getting to the bottom doesn't necessarily mean learning the truth.

Paint is altered by exposure to the sun and suffers chemical reactions through the years, experts say. For example, linseed oil, a component that might be found in paint on old houses, tends to yellow with time, especially in areas that are not exposed to light.

"The original color is no longer there for the untrained eye," explains James Lee of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA). People who depend on scraping "are either matching to a muted or faded color."

So, how do you discover the original color of your house? There are several options. One is to have your paint analyzed by a professional. This involves examining samples under a microscope. It's a procedure that can cost from $2,000 to $5,000 and may take four to six days. And once you see the original color there are no guarantees that you're going to like it.

Another way to find a historically accurate color is to look through magazines such as "Victorian Homes" and through library books about period architecture. But some people don't have the time or patience to do their own research, in those cases, a professional color consultant can be helpful.

Several paint companies now have historical color palettes, yet many of them do not provide enough information about their colors for those who want to be historically accurate. "Often they won't narrow it down to an historical period," says Mary McMurray of Art First Colors for Architecture in Portland, Oregon, which specializes in architectural color consulting.

If a homeowner is overwhelmed by the choices, SPNEA's Mr. Lee recommends walking around the neighborhood and looking at what other homeowners have done.

But just because every house on the block is painted white, your home doesn't have to be white, too. "If you don't like brown, and everyone is telling you your house should be painted brown, there are other options. Don't feel limited to one particular hue," Ms. McMurray advises.

Whether you decide to choose your colors yourself, or hire a professional, use patience and common sense.

Andy Valeriani of California Paints believes that hasty customers often make the most mistakes - for example, basing their decisions on a paint chip. "Customers think it looks great in the store, and when they get their house done, it doesn't. Test patches on your house."

Because older homes may have been part of a number of periods of history, they don't necessarily have to be painted their original color. If you own a Greek Revival house and don't like the typical color schemes from that era, you can always paint it the way it might have appeared in 1880.

However, there is one truth that applies to a house, whether it is Victorian or Colonial: Some things are not meant to be. There is a fine line between the bold and the grotesque. "If you get 20 gallons of bright pink, it won't look good. Bad taste is just bad taste," McMurray says flatly.


blue porch ceiling

Getting underneath the great outdoors


People have been painting their porch ceilings blue since the mid-1770s, when Prussian blue pigment became widely available for the first time. Prussian blue, invented in Germany, is one of the first blue pigments that could be mixed with white lead and linseed oil to make paint.
    "Before then, blue pigment was too expensive and didn't maintain color," says Mary McMurray of Art First Colors For Architecture. The light robin-egg blue color took off in the Aurora Colony, established in 1852 as a Christian community, and became known in the Northwest as "Aurora blue."
    "It was a commonly held belief that the light blue color repelled flies," says McMurray. "They thought that the flies would perceive the ceiling as the sky."
    That sky blue color today, available in hues from gray blue to turquoise, probably doesn't fool flies. But it does evoke a feeling of being outdoors while still being sheltered by a roof. It also raises the ceiling. "To me, if it's on the right house with the right colors, it has an optimistic impression as you approach a house," McMurray says.
    Although the color could go on just about any house, it originally was most commonly found on Victorian and Colonial houses, according to McMurray.

Lori Mendoza can be reached at

In this house, with colors by Art First, the porch ceiling is painted a light robin-egg blue. The porch floor got a darker blue treatment.

Photo by Serge A. McCabe of The Oregonian


HOMES & GARDENS By Lori Mendoza
Color pro makes minty ensemble a misty memory

PROBLEM: Mint green on Jack and Marion Newlevant's 1909 house felt like a shoe on the wrong foot. Designed for ranch-style houses and modular buildings of a later era, the color didn't bring out the architectural details of their Southeast Portland home. After stripping the house to bare wood, the couple struggled to find suitable colors. "We just didn't know where to start," Jack Newlevant says.

SOLUTION: Hire a color consultant. Mary McMurray of Art First Colors for Architecture helped the Newlevants define a palette of historically accurate colors for their home. Like any good color consultant, she is trained to see and judge the subtle differences in colors and know how they will react in different light and with other colors.

HOW SHE DID IT: McMurray took the pressure off by breaking down color choices. She prefers that houses have at least three colors: one for the body, another for trim and a third for architectural accents.

Levant house before

STYLE POINTS: Another consideration is architectural style. She had some latitude with the Newlevants' predominantly Craftsman-style house because of its colonial-revival elements, such as round porch columns and square corner pilasters.

Levant sketch © McMurraay

PUT IT ON PAPER: McMurray sketched the Newlevants' home prior to painting, shading it to show how the new colors would look The final sketch also went to the painter.

AND THE WINNER IS: The home's new gray-green body, off-white trim and tan and blue-green accents made the awkward mint shade into a memory.

After reviewing a shaded sketch from the consultant, the home owners settled on a rich gray green more appropriate for the 1909 house than its minty predecessor You can reach Lori Mendoza of The Oregonian Homes & Gardens by e-mail at

The Columbian Life
Think of your house as the most expensive and attractive garment you've ever worn. Just as tuxedos and gowns are tailored to the wearer, so should a home suit its owner, according to architectural colorist Mary McMurray." Not only do some colors suit some people very well and not appeal to others, but some colors you apply to one house and that look wonderful will look bad on another," said McMurray, who consults on designs for residential and commercial buildings.


Columbian staff writer

"Generally we try to detour them if they come up with a real bright pink or yellow or fluorescent looking colors, or maybe have them try a quart first before everything's mixed," said Don Bauman, manager of Cascade Paint & Supply in Vancouver. "Colors will be very different outside in the light compared to what you're looking at in the store."

Like Bauman, Barry Fraser of Vancouver Paint & Supply said when shoppers look at deep colors, he recommends taking a sample quart rather than making a decision based on a store paint chip.

Style of house, surrounding landscape and the direction from which the sun hits the building are a few of the considerations McMurray talks over with clients. "People who aren't trained have a hard time visualizing color on a large expanse," McMurray said. "For me, the most interesting and challenging work is to try to create something that will suit them."
Samples of McMurray's work and suggestions can be found at
While consultant McMurray believes in individual expression, she also says homeowners have a little responsibility to their neighbors.Paint store owners and managers will sometimes offer advice on color selections they think a customer may regret.

Exploring house color options can be an adventure. But there's a line over which bold crosses into garish.

"It's kind of like going to a scary movie," McMurray said. "Some are called thrillers and some are called horror movies."
Even so, depending on sun exposure and similar factors, Fraser said unusual color choices can be a good way for homeowners to venture out, make a statement and feel good about themselves. "There's no middle ground where you can just live with it, like the neutral colors," he said. "You're either going to love these deeper colors or hate them."Sometimes the negative reaction comes from the neighbors rather than the homeowners. One Vancouver family met resistance several years ago after painting its house black with red trim. The woman living there declined to be interviewed, but she said protest died down once it became apparent there were no city ordinances that could force her to change the house's color.*****

Beaverton Valley Times

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Color
Color consultants share some of their expertise
By Polina Olsen for The Beaverton Valley Times, Oct 13, 2011

room colors by
Mary McMurray of Art First Colors, who designed this living room, compares color to music.

From warm and cozy to cool and calm, color makes or breaks the place we live. Imagine a crisp autumn morning or a bright summer day, then drain the color and feel the mood change. But, can you bring those feelings inside the home using color to create light, mood and space?

We spoke to Mary McMurray of Art First Colors, 503-287-4354 She began her career as an interior designer for architects.

“I started to research the effect color has on people physically and psychologically,” she said. “I’ve done color for everything from cathedrals to mobile homes."

McMurray compares color to music since both create mood. And, she notes people use the word ‘taste’ for both color and food. She cautions clients to keep an open mind.

“Often people are surprised to find colors they like,” she said. “I hear people say, ‘I never would have thought of that color.’ The room tells you what looks right. You may think you don’t like red but there might be a coral or pink. That’s the process of discovery."

She also warns clients not to choose house colors based on their wardrobe. What looks good on your skin may not look good in your home. “And, don’t copy a paint color you like in someone else’s home without trying out a large sample in your space,” she said. “Every color looks different in every room.”

© 2011 Pamplin Media Group, Portland, OR

The Beaverton Valley Times. Verification of comment posted:
We've received a request to add a comment to the story:

"Mary first provided 'just the right colors' for a wonderful ten, yes, 10-year experience in a previous condo. Tranquility and harmony, were the words most often voiced by visitors to my home. The peaceful colors were a blessing every day, and my husband commented that it was the 'best money we had ever spent in the house.'

Upon purchasing another condo in Lake Oswego, my first thought was to consult with her again. Much to my delight, she was able to transform another living space with entirely new colors into life supporting magic. Mary has a talent in designing colors for how you wish to feel in your home and bringing them to life."

Lake Oswego


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