There's nothing neutral about 'Dead Salmon'

Every year, there are new and intriguing choices in paint colors and finishes. So what's the latest buzz?

•  Hot colors: If you ask paint company executives to cite their top selling color, the answer is usually always the same: White. In fact, officials for Dunn-Edwards Paints say that 70% of all the colors they sell are neutrals. So what about the other 30%? Helen Tillotson, a color specialist for Dunn-Edwards, says deep earth tones are especially popular. "The rusts, the golds, the greens. People are looking to nature for inspiration."

Paprika red is so trendy in dining rooms that British paint company Farrow & Ball named one of its shades "Eating Room Red." Other popular colors include sage green, pumpkin orange and mocha brown.

•  Designer's choice: The pros have long preferred Benjamin Moore paints because of the color choices and quality. Interior designer Kathryn Ireland of Santa Monica takes it to the next step. She mixes it with Farrow & Ball paints — say, a vibrant apple green from with a slightly darker shade to find the perfect middle ground for walls wrapping around a leather Chesterfield sofa, a wooden Mission desk and an Italian marquetry commode in a gentleman's library. . The only drawback? She can't duplicate it later.

•  Special effects: Fashion designer Ralph Lauren has been a force in the paint business for a long time. A couple years ago, he capitalized on the faux finish trend, advancing the concept by adding textured looks to his paint line. He introduced faux finish kits — suede, linen, denim, chambray, sandstone — which took off and remain popular.

•  Best paint names: With a sophisticated British wit, Farrow & Ball wins the prize for the most clever names. There's Ointment Pink (with a touch of brown) and Arsenic (a blue-green). For the truly adventurous, there's Dead Salmon (a light coffee brown). And for those seeking a deliciously dreary color, there's Drab (a yellow-brown.)

•  Top five brands: Sherwin-Williams leads the pack of top-selling paint companies in the United States, according to Coatings World. Also on the list are Valspar (which makes Laura Ashley paint), Benjamin Moore, Masco Corp.'s Behr and Professional Paint Inc. (which makes Frazee, Kwal-Howells, General Paint and Parker Paint.)

•  Environmentally friendly: Casein, or milk paint, was used on woodwork and furniture in America in the 16th through 19th centuries. Created by tinting buttermilk or skimmed milk with earth or vegetable pigments and citrus juice, the paint was prized because it dried to a subtle sheen. There are several companies re-creating the old formula. They include the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. of Groton, Mass., and Nutshell Natural Paints in England.

•  Fresh to the market: Pacific Northwest Artist Gretchen Schauffler recently started her own paint company to offer customers "an intelligently limited number of classic paint colors that belong on walls." For $3, she offers color packets with several ounces of paint, allowing people to "take home and audition" colors. Her color line is distributed though Miller Paint Co.