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Meet Our Professional Color Designer: Cass Morris

By Catherine Baldi, Principal, Arana Craftsman Painters

When embarking on a new, fresh paint job for their home, whether inside or out, our beloved clients are almost always faced with a tough decision: What color?

For exterior painting, this is even more challenging because, in addition to this being the one time they may paint their home in 10-to-15 years, they have to consider how the colors they choose will mesh with the landscape and the neighbors’ homes — and they have to wade through the 3000+ color options that Benjamin Moore and other paint manufacturers have to offer!

How does one avoid overwhelm? How can one possibly choose the right color scheme that will speak to them — and create that feeling of joy — every time they arrive home?

This is definitely high stakes!

At Arana, we decided early on that the best way we can help our clients face and conquer this challenge is to offer a complimentary color consultation with all full-scale exterior (and full-scale interior) paint contracts — with one of our most trusted and talented professional color consultants: Cass Morris.

Cass (cassmorris.com) has not only once been a painting contractor herself, she is also a fine artist, and she has been in the color consulting industry for decades. What I love most about her (and this may be self-evident — that a color consultant would do this — but you would be surprised how often this is not the case) is that she chooses completely different color schemes for each of our clients. Her color schemes not only reflect the unique character of each unique home, but also reflect the uniquenesses of each of our clients.

One of the biggest challenges I see in my industry, day-in and day-out, is how to help people choose something other than white, beige, gray, or an otherwise neutral, safe color. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a well-chosen white (or even black!) but, at the same time, I LOVE color. So I appreciate how when our clients work with Cass, they get the direction they need to take what might feel like a risk — but really isn’t — because of her expert guidance.

One aspect of what makes her color schemes so successful is how Cass creates interior room palettes and whole house exterior paint schemes that are harmonious, not just in themselves, but also in relation to the rest of the house, inside and out, and to the neighboring houses on either side and the surrounding landscape.

All of us at Arana (and Cass) cannot emphasize enough what the power of a good paint job, and the right colors as well as color placement, have to impact a building, highlighting its strengths, and sometimes, more importantly, masking its flaws.

Cass says, “The right colors impact the energy of your environment, with the potential to make your surroundings more interesting and alive. We can choose colors that will accent the best architectural features while also drawing the eye away from lesser ones. This can shape and personalize your home or business by emphasizing a style (from traditional to ultra-modern) or creating a mood — anything from neutral and serene to saturated and exciting.”

She adds, “Color has always been important in my work whether it was in drawing, painting, textile design, in photographing in 35 countries, or as a former painting contractor myself.” While her advice and critique can be very direct and sometimes a bit abrupt, Cass’ consulting style is distinctly collaborative, rather than simply prescriptive. She emphasizes, “My goal as a consultant is to help my clients visualize the possibilities.”

There’s another aspect of Cass’ work that we’ve observed in our collaborations with her, to the point where it almost seems like magic. Cass chooses colors that match the people who live in or work in the environments. I have literally stood outside a client’s house, after her work and our work is done, looked at the newly-painted facade, and thought, those colors ARE that client.

AT TOP: Image from a Storybook Victorian in Berkeley that Cass selected the colors of, for our clients.

BELOW: Before and after photos of a floating home in Alameda — a recent Arana project, with Cass as color consultant.

Arana Floating Home Prep Day 2-1913


Arana Floating Home Final-2002

Arana Floating Home Prep Day 2-1943

Arana Floating Home Final-2009

“Color trends come and go,” Cass notes. “I’ve seen the fashion trend from earth tones to cool clean colors to the ever-popular neutrals and whites and back again; and from many-bright-colors to tone-on-tone to monochromatic palettes. I urge my clients to choose what suits them individually, rather than going by the latest trend.”

As our clients and friends know, one aspect of Arana’s mission is, by making homes beautiful and prolonging their useful lives, we feel we are helping our clients make the most of their assets (and in doing so, contributing to the overall well-being of communities). Cass agrees, “​​A good color palette is the most affordable way to update your environment and adds instant value to your property.”

Cass Morris (cassmorris.com) has worked with architects, contractors, homeowners, realtors, and business owners for over 25 years to select the color palettes that best suit their needs. She earned her A.A.S. from the College of Art & Design at R.I.T. and her B.F.A. from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo.

Tags: Oakland House Painting, Alameda House Painting, Houseboat, Floating Home

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