How to Choose a Paint Color

For some, it may be easy to pull a room together – (and if this is you, this may not be the post for you, except maybe to comment on your thoughts, preferred colors, etc.) – but for others, it can be a real puzzler. There are so many thoughts, rules and philosophies on how to choose paint colors, but forget all that. Here’s what you really need to know:

– Paint should not be the first thing you pick out/pick up. Why? Because it comes in just about every shade imaginable, but your sofa, upholstery, rugs, accessories and artwork do not, so it’s better to start with them and work your way out.

– Pull a color that exists in the room or furnishings already. Looking at this rug:

there are a myriad of colors that could be used on the walls, from cream, yellow, peaches, navy blue, cornflower blue, sage green, burnt sienna, etc.

This piece is in the same room as the rug, but you can see so many of the same colors, like yellow, peaches, cornflower blue, sage green, burnt sienna and cream. You wouldn’t think at first glance these pieces would go in the same room!

I pulled a color from both pieces and went with one of Benjamin Moore’s burnt sienna shades, but I could have gone with any of the other colors I listed.

– This rug has the choice of blues, peach, salmon, cream, leaf green and tan.

I opted for tan as my backdrop …

but any of the other hues would have worked. With a neutral, I can bring in other colors through accessories and change them out if I get bored without going through the trouble or expense of painting the whole room over again.

– Your color choice is your personal preference, what you emotionally connect to and the feel you want the room to encompass. Soft, dark, vibrant and neutral palettes all have their appeal and will dictate the mood of the room.

  • neutral can be a beautiful canvas that can be played with and morphed by accessories.  And do not think neutral means boring! With neutral colors (and dark colors), I do think it’s important to add some sparkle or reflection with mirrors, shiny surfaces, gleaming metals, silver, gold or crystal.
  • Darker colors, like a rich chocolate brown, grey or navy, offer more drama. Warmer hues also offer a cozier ambiance. Even if your room is small, a dark color can be a viable option if furnishings are kept to a minimum.
  • soft or lighter shade (think soft ocean blues, pale celery green or the softest of buttery yellows) is a soothing and sophisticated choice, allowing one to feel calm.
  • Vibrant paint shades inject a sense of liveliness and energy.

– Consider the connecting rooms; it is better to have a hue that doesn’t clash with the next room because you will see the other color. It’s like wearing an outfit and you want the tie to match. Plus, too many different and non-corresponding colors give a “clown house” effect and that’s best left for the circus 😉

– Do not depend on a paint sample from a store to accurately reflect the color, and while you think this may not be a big deal if it’s visually off “a little”, it actually can be significantly off because of the difference in lighting. Having painted every room in my house myself – and then having the unenviable task of painting some rooms again…and then again, I have paid for the slightest mistakes (both in paint and in pain!)

– Get a sample and paint a 1’x2′ area in the darkest and lightest spots in the room,  plus a swatch right up to the trim of a door or window. Make sure to do two coats and allow to dry thoroughly (preferably a day) before making any commitments. You will want to look at the swatches a few times during the day.

The two images above are from the same room, same time of day and no flash, but appear different because of the lighting in the room.

– If you are still a little undecided, paint a swatch near the largest upholstered piece, like behind a sofa, or go for a more neutral tone, which won’t show an error in a shade as badly.

Most importantly, there’s no single shade that is the “right” paint color, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember: it’s only paint, it’s $20 a gallon and, if you haven’t painted a room yourself, you should definitely try it. It really is easy – and this is coming from someone who hadn’t picked up a roller until this house! I don’t mess with all the who-ha of taping either; I merely freehand the cutting in, allowing me to whip through a room in no time.

And, instead of a gym membership or exercising with no additional payoff for my sweat, I exert the energy into my house! That’s why it’s called sweat equity 😉 Painting has the biggest bang for its buck: inexpensive major transformation. Plus, the feeling of accomplishment – and it’s almost instant gratification – is awesome 🙂

Because many ask, “How do I choose a paint color?”, I was asked to write this article on the subject, but I always love to run things like this by people and see what their thoughts are on the subject – what works for them, insights, tips and experiences. Who better than my blog friends?

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