Honestly, it is not that easy to pick a good paint color. People who think it’s easy are generally the same people who can’t tell if what they pick is bad. So if you think it’s hard to figure out a paint color, you probably have more awareness than you think when it comes to design.
Really, choosing a paint color is complicated, especially if there are things in your house that it needs to go with. If you’re keeping your flooring/kitchen cabinets/countertop/trim/furniture/curtains, etc, then you will need to find a color that goes with the things that are in the same room with it. And not only that. If you can see the paint color from another room, it needs to go with the room you can see it from, as well as any adjacent hallways. And if you have an open-concept house, you may be coordinating it with everything in the above list, rather than just a couple of those things.
That’s why it’s hard. And it’s not even just about coordinating with what’s already in your house, it’s about getting the look and feel you want. And sometimes you don’t know what you want.
You can, of course, search myriads of articles online to learn how to pick just the perfect paint color and get thousands of suggestions, but that doesn’t help all that much since you’re the one still coordinating it with your existing house features.
So let me tell you some paint color secrets and see if I can help to make it a little easier to choose the right color. Though these little style solutions may seem obvious, they have not taken root in about half of the homes we see for sale so apparently the memo still needs to get out. Here goes:
#1 Most of the paint colors at the store are not appropriate for walls.
If you go to the paint store thinking you’re choosing a wall color from all those thousands of swatches, there is good news for you. Most of those colors should never be painted on walls. There are many other kinds of things to paint, and that’s what most of the colors are for. For walls, what you want is called a “neutral”. Bright colors may look interesting on the pages of HGTV magazine, but they’re not really for living with and they’re definitely not for selling.
#2 Neutral does not mean beige.
Neutrals are not exactly what they sound like. When people say neutrals are boring, what they mean is that beige is boring. What neutrals actually are, are black, white, gray (black plus white), and those three with some color added to them. When you take regular colors and add black or white or both to them, they become neutrals.
Within the “neutral” color palette, you can still find every color, but they will be a more appropriate version for walls. They have muted undertones that keep pink from screaming “Barbie” and green from saying “I’m insane”. This is very important when you’re trying to design a nice living space that will be pleasant for you and your family and not tell visitors that you need help.
#3 Neutrals come in warm, cool, and “neutral”.
Once you have narrowed your focus to the neutral colors (which I believe Sherwin Williams has now even labeled as “neutrals”), decide if you are trying to coordinate with warmer colors in your home or cooler colors. If your house has warm wood flooring or warm cabinets (or if you are keeping the same furniture and it’s warm colors), stick with the warmer neutrals. Often people with warm colors (which were really popular between 2004 and about 2010) are wanting to update and paint their walls gray. In this case, you’d want to choose a warm grey, with beige undertones (or greenish ones). If you used a cool gray, it would look really blue or steely next to those warm features and be jarring. If you already have cooler colors in your house and you want to paint it white, pick a cooler white. An antique-y white would look yellowy instead of clean and you’ll be repainting. It’s also possible to have “neutral” neutrals in your house, which is what I have in my house. They’re in between the warm neutrals and cool neutrals.
If you heed the advice above, you will not be painting your walls an outrageous color, and the general color “temperature” will not clash with what you already have going on in your house. If you did only that, your house would look a lot better than about half of what’s out there.
Lisa Klapp says
Very interesting! I would love to hear what you think of the wall colors we have chosen. I love paint! It was fun to talk with you yesterday! Our only bold color is the ceiling teal in our upstairs bathroom. I would like a pale and icy aqua for the downstairs bathroom. What do you think?
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I’d love to hear more about what you are thinking and what other finishes are in the bathrooms! I’ll be in touch! 🙂
Of course you can write a book on this but I’d add that you should consider what colors go with your architecture and try out samples to see how they look in your lighting. Great article!