January 18, 2008

how to choose paint colors without crying



I'm no innovator in telling you that paint is the least expensive way to drastically change a space. However, it can also be quite an intimidating decorating decision. If it has been a month already and you still have multiple colors on your wall from paint samples, you know what I'm talking about. If you are frustrated to the point of tears, you REALLY know what I'm talking about!

Color can be tricky, this is true. No worries, though- there are safe and tear-free ways to choose paint colors and schemes! Check out some tips on how to cheat a little when choosing a palette...

1. The best way to begin to choose a new color scheme is to choose an "inspiration piece". You may already have something in your existing decor that can serve this purpose, or you can find something that you really love and build a scheme around it. Just keep in mind the pieces in the rooms that you want to keep, and make sure they coordinate with your new color choices.

2. Don't go to the paint store with the idea of choosing the color THAT day. Go first to get inspiration and ideas, this will take the pressure off you to choose so quickly. Gather a lot of paint strips and take them home, be impulsive! Then review your choices, narrow the colors down and check out the colors at many times of the day. When you get to two or three finalists, paint these colors on the wall in 3x3 sections and live with them for a few days. When you have a winner, take another trip to the paint store for your final purchase. This is a lot of steps, but well worth the effort to find the perfect shade for you!

3. When you find some colors that you think will work, don't cut them out of the paint strip! You need to look at the complete "family" of color that the chip is from to make sure that is the direction you want to go. Also look at each color you choose next to the trim color you are using. The trim can greatly affect how the eye reads the intensity of the paint on the walls.

4. Keep in mind that the main wall color usually looks best if it's a neutral color. I do NOT mean beige! On a color strip (of any color family), the middle color is the most neutral color of the shades, because it is a "middle combination" of all the others. This shade is a safe choice for almost any scheme.

Full on living room (by A.J. Kandy)
(photo by ajkandy on Flickr)

5. Do NOT leave your ceiling white! The ceiling is your fifth wall, and it has the power to affect your environment immensely. If you have low ceilings, use a shade lighter on the paint strip for the ceiling. If you have high ceilings, you can go darker to "bring the ceiling down" and create coziness. (Don't do this with reds or oranges- just use the same color on the ceiling.)

6. Most paint companies have made color choices pretty easy for you. What do I mean by that? A no- fail way to choose a scheme is to use the middle color on a strip for your walls, the color above it for your ceiling, and the second lightest color for your trim. Voila! You're done.

7. Your last decision is what paint finish to use. I very rarely ever use a flat finish because of the difficulty in cleaning it. Be warned: If you're hiring your work out, most painters will try to talk you into a flat finish, because this sheen hides any errors in your wall OR in their painting skills. Don't fall for it. It's best to use an eggshell or satin finish for your paint. If your walls are in excellent condition, use semi-gloss or high- gloss for lots of drama! I also always use high-gloss for trim.


I hope these tips will help solve many of the riddles in choosing paint colors for your next project. Now get to the paint store and be bold, fearless and courageous!

1 comment:

Roberta said...

Hi there,
Sorry to comment on such an old post, but I was wondering why you should always use the same color on the ceiling when painting walls with reds or oranges. Is the contrast just too jarring to the eye?

Thanks for your blog!