• hilaryridge

How to pick the perfect paint color.

I am just going to come out and say it- paint can be tricky!  It’s no wonder that even successful interior designers recommend their favorite go-to colors to all of their clients. (Revere Pewter or Edgecomb Gray, anyone?)  First, there are too many paint colors. Second, paint looks different from the swatches at the hardware store, to at home on those same swatches, to on your wall once you have decided on a color. It can lead to an endless loop of trying and re-buying or lasting discontent with your walls.

Well, no more my friends! After today you will have the techniques to use paint confidently. Don't be discouraged if your first attempt isn't perfect. It's a learning process and like anything else, you will gain confidence and ability each time you select color for a room

Narrow the palette. 

An easy way to start is to narrow your selection. I recommend color palettes that are complex, meaning the paint colors have many different undertones that add to it and keep the color from looking too primary. Colors that lack undertones can read as juvenile.

The Historic collection of paint from Benjamin Moore offers a broad selection, with rich undertones weaved into these paints. Those perennial designer favorites Revere Pewter and Edgecomb Gray are in this palette, along with some other tried and true colors like Stonington Gray and Beacon Hill Damask.

Restoration Hardware also has a thoughtfully curated paint selection. Dusk is a deep marine blue that has green mixed in so it doesn’t read like a color for a young boy’s room. Stone is a rich taupe with soft pink undertones that brings warmth to a room. Slate is a striking, deep charcoal with a warm brown undertones.

Pay attention to a room's lighting.

The light in a room affects the way our eyes perceive color. How much natural sunlight affects how bright it is, and the type of artificial lighting creates either a warm yellow or cool blue cast to the space. In general, a room with more natural sunlight can take a color that is deeper and still seem larger. If you use that same darker tone in a low-light space, it will create a cozy feel.

A basement with no natural light can enhance yellow tones. Try instead colors with cool undertones, like cool blue grays. Even make sure your white paint has more of a cool blue undertone, like Benjamin Moore's White Dove. If you do want a gold tone in a window-less room, try a paint that has more of a peach undertone than lemon yellow. 

Notice the complementary colors.

Lights is not the only thing that affects color; other materials in the room will affect how it appears. Have you ever seen those diagrams that fool the eye, so red colors look orange on part of a page and purple on the other depending on the background tone? This happens in a room as well. Complementary colors are colors that are on opposite sides of the color wheel, and using one will enhance the appearance of the color directly opposite. Red-Green, Orange-Blue, and Yellow-Purple are the complementary color pairs.

A gold tone wood floor will bring out blue tones in a gray paint swatch. A green rug will bring out pink tones in a taupe paint.  Even white tones will change. A slightly warm white paint will look like a cream next to a grey marble, and a cooler white tone will look gray next to a gold travertine. 

When I was in design school, one of my instructor's once worked on a project with Donald Kaufman, the famed paint designer. Kaufman supposedly cupped his hands around his eyes so that he could see the true color undertones in the space. While this approach may not work for you, keeping in mind undertones is important for everyone when deciding paint color.

Go big with swatches.

Unfortunately paint swatches are too small to see the way a color really looks. You need to go big and purchase a large paper sample. One one the community members in my Facebook group let me know about large sticker samples that you can order online at www.samplize.com. Another option is to take several of the small swatches and tape them together to make one big piece. 

When I do color consultations I use a professional book of large swatches of every paint color. And though I have been working with it for over a decade I am often still surprised how the swatch will appear in a room. Color selection is something that has to be experimented with in every space in order to find the perfect tone.

Now that you know the palettes to look in, the undertones to pay attention to and how to decide intensity, I hope you experiment and find beautiful paint colors for your home.

I'm a designer on a mission to help homeowners have more beautiful and less stressful renovation projects. Follow me on Facebook for advice, support and inspiration for your project!