Sonu Mathew
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Meet Sonu Mathew

Senior Manager of Architectural and Design Markets for Benjamin Moore, Sonu Mathew oversees the development of all programs and services for the architectural and design community. Her experience in hospitality, corporate, and residential design has helped to cultivate a well-rounded perspective on color and design.

As a researcher, she works with Benjamin Moore’s North American Design Team to uncover the latest trends in color as well as emerging design movements. Using a unique approach, Sonu blends many influences, from fashion and international travel to socioeconomic movements and technology, to shape her experience of design. Sonu has a B.S. in Interior Design from FIDER accredited University of Texas at Austin.

yellow kitchen
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Color Trends

What color trends does Benjamin Moore see for 2009?

The predominant colors for 2009 satisfy a craving for simplicity in our lives. With a tumultuous world that we’re faced with right now, we are looking for refuge in all tangible aspects, and our homes are the first place we turn. Not only do we seek simplicity, but we also look for unique ways to work in touches that reflect a person’s individuality. The design element of surprise is the “treat” we all need and allows us to capture the feeling of belonging in our own space.

Through design and color, we see an optimistic perspective in 2009 with a group of 18 colors. Three colors that are the champions of our trends are Blue Nose (1678), a chic blue with a small measure of gray, that’s ideal for making a personal statement, Sea Haze (2137-50), an organic, nature-inspired gray with a tinge of brown, and Vellum (207), a subdued yellow bordering on the color of wheat which pairs beautifully with many hues. You can find all 18 color picks in our free booklet that is available through our Benjamin Moore Retailers.

Benjamin Moore Wall Tattoo
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Decorative Finishes

What about decorative finishes?

In addition to the color selections, we also focus in 2009 on another way to make a space your own -- decorative painting. Our ideas are as simple as a colorful cluster of stripes to invigorate a small or dull space and as exciting as “tattooing” your wall using the Benjamin Moore Wall Tattoo.

What’s special about these techniques is the color combinations. The stripes are created using a quartet of hues such as Blue Nose(1678), Bronze Tone (2166-30), Blushing Red (2079-20), and a base coat in Muslin (OC-12) that creates a neutral canvas for the burst of color. We showcase our tattoo “Portico” in the Colors For Your Home booklet using sharply contrasting colors such as Night Train (1567) over Vellum (207) as a base coat.

red bedroom
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Paint Innovations

True innovations in paint are rare to come by and I’m pleased to say Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint is so innovative that it remains unmatched in the industry. The “secret” to Aura’s technological advance is the all-waterborne colorant system which Benjamin Moore created. Aura, the paint, only becomes whole once the colorant is added.

Aura is quite simply the finest paint we’ve ever made -- and considering we celebrated our 125th anniversary in 2008, that’s saying a great deal from our perspective. Aura relies on a proprietary technology that our research and development group developed over the course of three years. In a way, it’s like deciding you’re going to make the best cake the world’s ever seen, but you decide not only to make it from scratch, but also to reinvent the ingredients to do so!

Our goals in developing Aura were to create a highly durable paint that can meet or even exceed federal regulations for volatile organic compound (VOC) compliance while being offered in unlimited colors. This is key because across the industry traditionally, if paint became environmentally responsible, it was with some sacrifice. We’ve developed a product that has become stronger through our technology while achieving our creative goals.

kitchen wall
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore


We offer Color Lock Technology with Aura. This patented technology from our company essentially allows color pigments to be “locked in” to the resin. With our water-based paint and water-based colorant, the two work well together. Plus, the pigment is protected, and we end up with very usable features such as:

  • Minimal color rub off and burnishing (Essentially, you can brush up against it without worrying about color coming off the wall or leaving your mark on the wall.)
  • Incredible coverage (never more than two coats, regardless of the color -- yes, even reds!)
  • Durability that allows the surface to be washable and scrubbable (makes it strong enough for your home, an office, or even hotels and restaurants.)

living room with french doors and curtain
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore


We looked to the West Coast (as they adhere to the most stringent regulations on VOC’s) and made sure that Aura met those regulations first. We believe in doing our part to be more responsible as a paint manufacturer while still maintaining the integrity that goes into every can of paint we produce.

VOCs are naturally occurring in our environment at all times -- it’s the “off gassing” from new furniture, a new car smell, carpets, etc. Basically, our effort to reduce VOCs is similar to the reason you wouldn’t want your children around when you are using a kitchen cleaner. Clean, fresh air is what we want to linger in our environment.

Another benefit of having a low-VOC paint like Aura is that it dries in about an hour, so you can recoat faster and, ultimately, complete your project faster!

Tip: When applying Aura paint, don’t overwork or roll back into the coat that’s already drying. Simply roll or brush once and let the paint do the rest.

dining room with two paint tones on wall
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore


Where other environmentally focused paints are limited in their color choice, Aura can be made in any of our 3,500 colors. Our technology allows us to go beyond the normal choices and opens up creative doors to color freedom! A little known fact is that VOCs are measured for a can of paint before it’s tinted or colored.

Essentially, when you add colorant to it, traditionally, that colorant has its own VOCs that are now being added to, and therefore increasing the total VOC content in that can. In other words, you may have started out being green-focused, but end up with a can of paint that has more VOCs than you anticipated.

However, with Aura, our colorants are entirely water based and have zero VOCs, which is why we’re able to say it’s available in any color without increasing the overall VOC content of the can. What you read on the Aura label is what you get. Also, with Aura, you can touch up seamlessly after you’ve painted.

white chair sitting area near french doors
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Aura vs. Oil-Based

As I’m sure you’re well aware, the industry, in general, is moving away from oil-based products. While oil-based products do offer a beautiful, lustrous finish, it’s at the cost of increased VOCs, and therefore at the cost of our environment. While no product can be an exact replica, contractors who have used Aura say it’s one of the closest alternatives on the market today. Our various finishes (from matte to semigloss) offer you the choice of luster and sheen.

white bed in room with green ceiling
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Eco-Friendly Paint

Green is on everyone’s mind –- what is “green” in paint?

Green is not officially defined for coatings, and people have been using VOC levels as a measure. For interiors, many look for low- or zero-VOC paint products. Benjamin Moore has product offerings in both categories –- our low-VOC, extremely eco-friendly Aura, which is a high-performing interior product and can be tinted in any color desired. It is under 50 grams per liter of VOCs, which meets the most stringent standard in the U.S., that in the south coast area of California. Aura is also self priming and given its superior performance, actually uses less paint than would be applied using a traditional interior paint.

Benjamin Moore’s new zero-VOC, eco-sensitive premium interior paint is Natura, which contains and emits no VOCs. Both Aura and Natura are built on Benjamin Moore’s proprietary water-based colorant system, which allows these products to be tinted in any color without having additional VOCs added to the product.

Sonu Mathew
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Paint Test-Drive

How do you test a color to see if it works in your space?

It’s incredibly important that you test color before you commit to it in your space. You may be surprised by what you don’t like and even what you end up falling in love with!

There are some different ways to visualize color:

  • A handy tool like our Personal Color Viewer is a great way to get started. It’s a software program that allows you to upload a photo of your space and apply virtual color from our selection of over 3,500 colors.
  • If you’re more tactile and want to see the color on your walls, try our Color Samples -- we’ve taken a beautiful selection from our entire palette and created 2 oz. samples that will give you a good idea of how that color will look on your walls. When using Color Samples, I recommend painting on white poster board or foam core to emulate a primed wall. It’s hard to see the true nature of Moroccan Spice if you paint it over the existing Navy Blue on your walls.

Sonu Mathew
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Dark Paint Tricks

Dark colors don’t necessarily make a space seem smaller; they can make a room more cozy and intimate or even make it seem more vast, depending on the way they are used. Have you ever noticed that restaurants will often paint their ceilings close to black to make the ceiling visually “disappear.”

It can be a way to open up the space when you have a great amount of light coming into your room. If you use dark colors that are warm in tone (maroons, deep mustards, chocolate browns), the color will feel like it’s coming into the room and making the room more intimate. However, when you use cooler dark hues like a deep blue or green, the colors will feel as if they’re receding and open up the space.

wine bar
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Color Trends

What colors seem dated to you now?

In general, pastels seem dated to me now. Deeper colors are more adventurous and evoke greater emotion in a space. It’s all about complex colors that may be muted or intense, but always with a sense of character.

Sonu Mathew
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

White Done Right

How do you choose the proper white?

Choosing the “Right White” can seem like a daunting task. Here’s how you approach it. Look at your space and your project. White is only as white as the whitest object in your room. What I mean is that white can be tinted with blue, red, yellow, green, grey, etc. The only way to see the true color is to place it next to the objects in your own space to find the right white for you. If you are looking for the whitest white we offer, it’s Super White.

wine bar
Roger Davies

Painting Floors

What kind of paint should you choose to paint a floor?

Floors are a great place to use paint. It’s unexpected and can add color, style, and energy to your room. My first choice is to use Benjamin Moore’s Latex Floor & Patio Enamel (satin finish). To ensure an extra layer of protection, use a top coat of StaysClear acrylic polyurethane (water borne). (The StaysClear flat will also help to dull the satin gloss of the Floor & Patio Enamel’s satin gloss.)

Our products come with great details about preparation right on the label, and you can always talk to your local Benjamin Moore retailers -- they are truly the experts when it comes to paint processes and techniques that lead to a beautiful project. The Moore’s Latex Floor & Patio Enamel is available in our 1, 2, and 3 base colors, which means the lighter colors in our palette. For a deep black or dark chocolate floor, I recommend moving to an alkyd or epoxy product. With more than 3,500 colors to choose from, I’m sure there’s a color that will reflect each person’s personal style!

bathroom vanity
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Oops Options

If you paint a room and hate the color, is there anything you can do to change its impact short of repainting?

You can be very creative when trying to change the look of a color that makes you cringe! There are many faux finish and specialty painting techniques that help to mask one color with the layering of other colors and textures. We have a wonderful book called Paint Style that goes into great detail about some clever ideas on how to redefine your space. Another trick I’ve used myself is painting graphics in large blocks right over the cumbersome color. Color works in context -- that means each color will react and your perception of it will change (depending on what it’s next to in your room). To understand this concept better, think of a violet sweater. You may cringe at the look of that sweater with baby blue trousers, but adore the same sweater when you pair it with deep slate grey jeans.

red wall
Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Fabric and Paint

To incorporate a fabric you love into your overall decor, look at the nuances of the fabric. If it’s patterned, that’s a great start because there’s probably more than one color in it! What are the colors in the background vs. the foreground? Look for the minor colors in the fabric and if something strikes you, pull it out and put it on the wall. Complete the look by adding accessories into your space that pull the same colors together.

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