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How to choose the right paint color

By Edited Sep 15, 2015 1 1

Few things make as big a difference to your space at such a low cost as the wall color. But, unfortunately, there are few decisions quite so complicated as what color to paint! That's because the color of the walls is impacted by a number of variables beyond the color you choose, so while a pillow looks much the same regardless of the room you put it in, the wall color will look dramatically different from one room to another and from one home to another.

Fortunately, there are ways to make choosing a paint color much easier and I'm going to share them with you so that you can save yourself from having to repaint again and again to get the color right. Here's how to find the right color for any room in your house.

1) Assess the light. Is the natural light in the room warm or cool? If the room has windows facing south, it's likely to have warm light, north facing windows are generally cool. This does depend somewhat on the time of year and also can be affected by trees outside the windows. Whichever way your light leans, know this will impact the color you use. If you paint with cool colors in a room with cool light, the room may feel cold. But, if you paint with warm colors in a room with cool light, the paint will shift in color (sometimes dramatically) as the two combine. (For instance, paint a room with cool light a beige, and the beige may wind up having a purple cast.) This isn't a problem, it's just something you need to be aware of.

2) Assess the finish on the walls. What condition are your walls in? Is there a lot of thick texture? Are they smooth? Are you painting over wallpaper? Are the nails popping out of the drywall a bit? If your walls aren't in very good condition, that means two things--one, you'll want to choose a flat, matte or very slightly shiny finish (usually the "eggshell" finish) to mask imperfections; and two, you may want to stick with a lighter shade as darker colors tend to make wall flaws more pronounced.

3) Think about the room you're painting and what you'll be using it for. If it's a room you'll be eating in (the kitchen or dining room) think about colors that you find appetizing and unappetizing. Those dark red dining rooms that were so popular about ten years ago were lovely and dramatic, but also not necessarily the best match with a nightly meal. Colors in the living room and bedroom should also be skin flattering--you want the color that bounces off the walls to be flattering to your guests and yourself. Typically, greens aren't good for this, nor are oranges. Pinks and browns tend to be perfect, and using a light, pink-y beige can be a really nice choice. In the bedroom, choose soothing colors that are restful to help you sleep. Grays, dark blues, and browns tend to be nice choices, and rose also tests as a good color for many people (when people are put in a pink room, they breathe deeper and their pulse rate slows--both signs they find the color calming).

4) Get the tester cans of paint. I know, they're a hassle and they're pricey, but even knowing a bit about the light in your house, there's simply no way to really see what a color will look like in the space without trying it on the walls. So, spend the extra money to get a tester can of each color you're considering and apply it to a big piece of poster board so you can look at the paint in several spots in the room (because colors can look different even within a single room depending on the light source).

5) Don't choose a new color for every room in the house--not only will different colors in every room make the house feel a little smaller, but it'll also add to the number of times you'll have to choose colors. Choosing one or two coordinating colors for all of the public rooms in your home can dramatically reduce the amount of time you'll spend picking colors, plus you'll need less paint (because you won't need a new gallon for every room) and the painting will be much easier because you can do it all at once (if you have some help).

6) Consider the impact you want the color to have. Darker colors will make a space seem cozier, but they also make most rooms feel less cluttered so if you have a small room, a dark color can actually be a really good choice (as long as cozy is a feeling you're okay with). Light colors tend to make rooms seem larger, but they can also make a room look generic and lacking in personality and drama. Light colors are also not a good choice if you like using a lot of small accessories (because the entire effect is jumbled instead of coordinated). If you have several large pieces, painting the walls a light color will make things feel wide open and clean; if you have bookcases stacked high with books, dark colors will bring stability and coordination to the space.

7) Consider the other colors in the room. What color is the floor? The moldings? (If you'll be repainting them, then their current color doesn't matter, but if you won't be, make sure to choose something that'll coordinate.) If you've already picked out furniture or accessories like curtains, make sure to take that into consideration as well. One big, common mistake is not considering the tone of the wall-to-wall flooring. Warm-colored floors (whether wood, carpet, or tile) will usually clash with cool paint on the walls, so it's better to keep this in the same color tone for best results. What's more, this approach will make your room seem a little bigger because everything works together so well.

So, the next time you have a room to paint, make sure to give some thought to these seven considerations. This approach will help you save a lot of time in choosing the right paint colors, plus it'll save you money when you get it right the first time instead of having to repaint when you pick wrong. Remember that the wall colors will have a big impact on the room, so it's important that you focus on this all important decorating element if you want your room to look its best.

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Comments

Aug 30, 2009 1:44am
egmartinez
This is a FANTASTIC article, and just the information I needed before painting my interior walls. I love the idea of getting a tester of paint and using a poster board to sample it in a room. Thanks SO much, I'll be bookmarking this for later!
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