When you use the services of a real professional, go to the appointment with an open mind. You may have your heart set of pale blond, but if the colorist can prove to you that a deep strawberry is really your best shade, listen to her. She is trained to match color with skin tone. She knows what will work, and what won't.
Another thing that's changed from when your mom used to color her grays away under the cover of darkness is the quality of the products available. It's been a long time since anyone has gotten even a whiff of any strong, offensive smelling products in salons. Those have long since disappeared or been replaced by gentler formulations that are free, or mostly free from ammonia, peroxide or other harsher chemicals.