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How do I pick a paint color for my house?

One woman I know, had her husband paint their living room 3 times in a row because she hated the paint color on her wall that she had selected from paint chips. She hated the third color that was just painted on the wall and thus that is what brought her to our conversation of discussing her living room paint color. Her husband shrugged his shoulders and said from now on, you’re on your own if you want to change your mind AGAIN. She was fine with that but I’m actually surprised that she got her husband to paint the living room three times. lol There are easier ways to determine the perfect paint color for your home rather than painting the room over and over again until you get it right.

6 Tips on Picking the Perfect Paint Color for your Room

1. Style of your Home

Just because a paint color is currently trending doesn’t mean its the right color for YOUR home. I often see homeowners take the trending color and paint their walls only to hate the look once its on the wall.

What is the style of your home? Is it traditional and grand? Conventional? Contemporary & trendy? A starter home townhouse? Condo in a big city or a rambling beach front cottage/home? Whatever the style of your home is, the style will have an impact on how the color in your room presents.

Trends in colors come and go. We were in a gray color phase forever. Then with the onset of the pandemic, we got bored of gray and switched to white. So we all painted our houses white. That quickly became old and we now have color, lots of color, and the bolder the better splashed throughout our house. But just because a color is trending, doesn’t mean its the right color for YOUR home.

Typically, cool crisp colors suit more modern architectural styles, whereas more traditional homes suit more warm colors. This is a general rule of thumb but its not set in stone.

Confused? Don’t know where to start? Get some ideas. Go on Pinterest or google and start looking at homes with similar styles to your house. Start gathering pictures or create a design board for your room on Pinterst or Canva. Just start. After you start collecting, you will get a feel for what you like and what you don’t like.

Figuring out what color you don’t like for a room is just as important as figuring out what color you do like in a room.

Read Create a design board when designing a room

2. Your color inspiration

When you’re designing a room, the best way is to start with an inspiration piece.  It can be an element of the room like a fireplace, artwork, an expensive rug from your travels or ceramic flooring, for example, to take color inspiration from.  If your house has a stunning view like a ravine or water, you may want to choose a color that reflects the outdoors. Try to avoid using items that maybe easily replaced one day like cheap furniture or throw cushions. Your inspiration piece should be around for the long haul if you don’t want to paint your room every few years.

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What kind of mood to you want for your room? Refreshing and crisp? Try a cool crisp white. Calming, relaxing and neutral? Try a soft white, cream or light beige and tan.

Do you want something moody? Try a bolder color.

If you’re not sure where to begin with color, experiment in a powder room or bathroom, a small hall or area between rooms, or an accent wall. If you’re doing your own painting, pick an area that’s quick to do so you can see your results sooner, and be happy with it or change it.

If you’re unsure if you want a neutral color as opposed to a “color” pursue both options and narrow it down.

Are you getting your house ready to sell?

You want to choose more neutrals for the main floor and perhaps a pop of trending colors for a couple of rooms for a powder room, office, dining room or a primary bedroom. Don’t overdo it!

I was dealing with THREE different situations last year where people had come to me because they hated the white color that they painted their ENTIRE main floor with. Two of these homeowners used colors that their realtor recommended.

Read How to Pick a Paint Color when selling your house

Read Top 2023 Staging Paint Colors to Sell Your House

3. The direction of your house & exposure or lack thereof to sunlight impacts the color of your walls

You need to consider the natural light AND the artificial light in a room when choosing your room color.

Have you enjoyed being in a room during a certain time of the day not felt comfortable during the evening for example? How much and what type of natural light a room gets can have a big effect on the undertones that come out of a color. What exposure your room faces, north, south, east or west, impacts the lighting in a room as does the time of day. 

Colors will look totally different under artificial lighting like white or yellow incandescent light, or fluorescent light, but its easy to change artificial light in a room. Natural light, you need to work with it.

Of all the 3 clients that came to me last year with their dreaded white walls, they had north or east facing rooms and picked a cool crisp white which made their room feel like it was painted in primer after the sun had gone down in the room. This is why testing is sooooo important for your room.

It’s good to know what direction your room faces when determining what color to go with in your room. You don’t need to over analyze what your room’s exposure is, but you do need to know if you like what the color is going to look like at various times of the day. Some rooms we spend more time in the day time in the room, so it may not matter how the room appear at night time. Whereas other rooms, like our primary bedroom, we spend the majority of time in our room at night so it definitely matters how the paint color makes us feel at night time.

All three of the above pictures are from a townhouse I previously owned. They are all painted in the same color, Behr, Palais White which is VERY similar to Benjamin Moore White Dove. Its a warm white and is in the white paint color collection.

ALL these pictures were taken between 4 – 5 pm on the same day. The difference? The lighting and direction of the rooms. The living room is facing north so the light appears a bit cooler. The primary bedroom is south facing and gets a lovely warm glow of light throughout the day. The office was a former laundry room and has NO windows at all. It looks a bit like primer because of its lack of light. In hindsight, I should have added a floor lamp to the office for more light.

So does north, south, east, west, no windows matter when choosing a paint color? Yes it does have an impact it. The wrong white color, like a cool white, in my north facing living room could have ended up looking like primer. You need to test your paint colors through a sample board, at different times of the day on all 4 walls to get a feel of how that color is going to look through all the lighting changes.

4. Undertones

You’ve probably heard about undertones. “Watch out for those undertones!” But what exactly is an undertone?

Mass tone vs. undertone. Whenever a color is made by mixing two or more colors together, the “mixed” color will have both a mass tone and an undertone. The mass tone is what you see first; it’s what tells you the color is red, blue, green etc. This is what you see on your wall. The closer the undertone is to the mass tone, the truer the color will appear. So a true red will have a mass tone and the undertone is similar. Magenta will have a blue undertone, while poppy will have an orange undertone. If the undertone is different from the mass undertone, you will see a “tinge” of green, yellow or another color for example.

Warm vs. Cool

How do you tell if a color is warm or cool?  Warm colors create a cozy, warm vibe whereas cool colors are crisp and vibrant.  Neither one is right or wrong.  It just depends on the mood that you are wanting to create in your room.

Warm colors typically have a yellow, orange or red (pink) undertone.

Cool colors typically have green, blue or a purple undertone.

Can you mix warm & cool colors? Yes it is possible to mix warm & cool colors in certain. You can tone down a warm room by adding a cool color and warm up a cool room by adding a warm color.  But you need to do this with caution to ensure that the warm & cool colors don’t clash like they did in one of my client’s home where she had warm honey oak kitchen cabinet & floors, warm beige carpet and steel gray walls. In my client’s case, the warm elements of the room where overpowered by the cool steel gray paint color. The correct color would have been a warm gray or a “greige” as we call warm grays, a tan or a cream for her walls.

5. Color schemes

A small color wheel is a great reference tool for modifying and intensifying two or more colors. For example, red and green, which are complementary (opposite) colors, are most intense when used together. You may be surprised at how many combinations function beautifully together, and you may even become attracted to entirely new color palettes. The color wheel also illustrates the visual temperature of a color. Draw a line from the yellow-green mark on the color wheel all the way down to the red-violet; you’ll see that all the colors on the left are warm and the colors on the right are cool.

Using the color wheel to design your room, will create that Instagram look that you are striving for. A color scheme gives you a cohesive look and not a thrown together look that can feel off.

Read 2023 Design & Paint Color Trends

6. Flow of the home

At an industry meeting of stylists and designers, one woman was boasting that she helped a client with a very large house, I think around 6 bedrooms, pick 28 colors for her home. Yikes!!! That’s far too many colors for a home. It would look like a checkerboard where every square inch was a different color.

In one of my design classes, our instructor taught us that, in theory, we should be able to take an upholstered chair and it should be able to look comfortable in the room. It doesn’t mean you need to actually do this, but its a good way to test the “flow” of your home. The exception for this “flow” test would be kids bedrooms, but its good to keep this in mind if you’re wanting to achieve a warm and cohesive look throughout your home.

Its fine to have more than one color in your home, but the colors need to complement and coordinate with each other so you don’t have hot pink in one room, orange next door etc etc. There needs to be some coordination and flow. This is where a color scheme using the color wheel comes into play so that your house looks “put together” so you don’t get a surprise every time you walk into a different room.

7. Test test test! And compare!

Let’s face it, we’ve all probably at one point or another, chosen a paint color that we didn’t like once we started putting it on the walls. In some cases, we catch it early, change it and move on. But in other cases, we may have painted the walls, not absolutely love the color but lived with it anyways.

There is a better way to get the right paint color for your home. Long gone are the days were we pick a little paint color chip from our hardware store and hold it up against the wall. That is NOT going to help you get the right paint color. I repeat NOT!

The Best Way to Try Out Paint Colors

The old method of buying samples pots of paint and painting various walls is an inefficient way of testing the best paint color for your home.  A better option is to buy large cardboard paint samples that you can actually test on your walls at different times of the day to access what is the best color for your home.

Samplize is a company that sells large paint boards from the leading paint companies and comes in a wide range of colors. These large paint boards can be placed with their sticky backing on various walls at different times of the day and in different rooms.  It will give you a great way to see if the color works in your room or not.

Click here to check out & purchase samplize paint boards.

FEELING OVERWHELMED?

I help busy homeowners, just like you, to style their house to make it a stunning retreat, where they can live and enjoy their home. I help homeowners, make money beyond their wildest expectations from the sale of their house by guiding them when they’re getting their house ready to sell.

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Need help?

Learn more about my online color, design & staging consults here.

I help busy homeowners, just like you, to style their house to make it a stunning retreat, where they can live and enjoy their home.

I’ve helped hundreds of homeowners, make money beyond their wildest expectations from the sale of their house by guiding them when they’re getting their house ready to sell.

Hi! I’m Debi Collinson. Designer. Color Consultant. Real Estate Investor.

I grew up looking at blue prints and helping my dad, an Engineer|General Contractor and owner of a Design|Build|Engineering firm pick out paint colors for his buildings.

In 2006, I staged my very first house.  Staging was just starting to become known in the real estate industry.  There was no formal staging training at that time so I watched every HGTV show on staging that I could find as I nervously staged my first house. The couple liked their newly “redesigned” home so much that they turned down an offer for full asking price and decided not to move.  The rest, as they say, is history. I went back to school to study interior decorating and design. My design & staging firm is recognized for helping clients achieve their dreams either through designing their space, or helping them achieve top dollar by staging their home when they’re ready to sell.

In my spare time, LOL, I buy “fixer uppers” to fix up & either sell for a healthy profit or to rent. I’m currently looking for my 10th “fixer upper.” Sign up to receive my e-mails of how to make your home stunning, how to sell your house for top dollar AND how to become financially independent one fixer upper at a time! Read my full story including my design credentials here.

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