Your home's walls are what surround you and they are the canvas that reflects the rest of the room.
How can you be sure not to corner yourself into ending up with a paint color that you don’t really enjoy? Your home's walls are what surround you and they are the canvas that reflects the rest of the room. So how can you be sure you will love a color you are considering? Let’s take a look.
An abundance of delightful hues exists in nature, fashion and design. In my years as a designer, I’ve definitely found that color gets the first—and usually the strongest—reaction. Long before color choices even need to be considered for a project, clients will ask, “What color do you see this room done in?” My typical answer is this: “I have no idea!” While I firmly believe that color can and does take a powerful directive in a home’s design, lots of work needs to be done before identifying a color language for a room.
While selecting paint colors, keep in mind that design is departing from the trend of having a different wall color in each room. This is a good thing because stocking 20 cans of paint, in every color of the rainbow, is not only costly but makes storage and minor touch-ups a hassle. Today’s more streamlined thinking favors a less-is-more approach. I firmly believe in using one well thought-out generic wall color for most of your public areas and allowing yourself the fun and creativity in your private areas, such as bedrooms. As I have said before, a home is nothing more than a collection of boxes, and what you paint the walls of your boxes is literally the backdrop for all the wonderful items that make your house a home. Ask yourself this, “Is the paint on the walls going to be the focal point?”
My primary goal with this article is to help you make wise, logical, lasting choices in paint colors for your home. If you are making a large leap into a new color palette for your home, meaning all the public wall areas are going to see a fresh coat of paint, here are some considerations for you.
Step 1: List Your Don’ts
When working with clients, the first thing I always ask for is a list of colors they absolutely cannot tolerate living around. This way, I know right up front what colors not to even consider. Ask yourself the same question. If the very thought of a particular hue makes you almost ill, don’t waste another second thinking about it. Regardless of who suggested it, it is not for you. Move on!
Step 2: Study Your Home
Before you head into the paint store with a decorative pillow and ask them to match the color of a particular flower, stop! I have often overheard similar requests and it makes me cringe! You may love that color in the pillow, but painting hundreds of square feet of that color without other considerations is likely to produce very undesirable result. Instead, stop and study the aspects of your décor that are not likely to change soon—for example, favorite artworks, upholstery pieces and floors. Then, consider the millwork and ceilings (whether you plan to change them or keep them the same) as well as the lighting in the room. Put all these considerations together, add your personal preferences, and you will be successful with locating the perfect hue for your home!
Floors: If the floors aren’t changing soon, consider the color of the carpet, wood, or tile. For example, if wood flooring has a very strong gold tone to it, you can’t ignore its intensity when making paint choices.
Millwork: The doorway frames, doors, baseboards, crown molding, trim around windows and, yes, cabinetry all need to play into your paint selection process. If the millwork in your home is stained, take note of what undertones the wood might harbor, such as a touch of gray or red. These details matter!
Ceilings: While choosing wall paints, consider the current color of the ceilings. If you want to take this opportunity to change the ceiling color, choose the wall and ceiling colors together. The safe, typical white ceiling always seem a bit harsh to me. I think the contrast between a rich, strong wall color and a bright, white ceiling is too dramatic. Consider choosing a white for the ceilings that is tinted with the same color as the walls. For example, if the walls are a wonderful warm gold, select a white with strong gold undertone to it. Another option is to use the same color on the walls and ceiling—a technique that lends a wonderful coziness to small areas such as powder rooms, entryways and halls.
Light: Finally, take a look at the location of the room and the natural as well as artificial lighting that occurs there. What does the sun do to your rooms during the day? How about sunrise and sunset? What does lamplight do to the wall color in the evening? Think about what hours of the day you are really in your home. A good share of us spend more time in our homes in the evening, when walls are bathed in lamplight rather than the brilliance of the sunshine. This is a true consideration.
Step 3: Sample, Sample, Sample
I believe the best way to really study wall colors—and how they look throughout our home—is to sample it. Find a paint store, such as Benjamin Moore, that has “wet samples,” which will cover a 4'x 4' painted area. If you are considering 2 or 3 choices, use poster boards for your samples and paint each board a different color. Then position each board behind window treatments, furniture pieces and behind art and study what happens with the changing lighting conditions. (Applying paint samples directly on walls can cause confusion and make the selection process more difficult. If putting the paint on the wall is really what you would rather do, paint a corner so you don’t have as much of the existing wall color around the sample. This allows you to hone in on the new color better.)
Step 4: Choose a Paint Finish
Your final paint-related decision is the finish. Personally, I am a huge fan of eggshell. In fact, my beloved mentor Ardon said, “Each home should have an internal glow.” I believe eggshell paint finish offers that glow through its slight shimmer, luster and light reflective qualities. There’s also a practical reason for an eggshell finish: It resists stains a bit better than flat paint. Take a damp cloth to eggshell paint and you likely will remove the stain, leaving no evidence behind. But with flat paint, the finish can absorb the water and possibly leave spots on the wall. Then it is back to the garage or basement to retrieve the paint for a repair.
Flat finish has its place, though. Flat-finish paint is less expensive and produces an even and uniform finish when walls are not prepped to their finest (making this a good choice for drywall). Flat finish is also a better choice for ceilings because of the lack of reflective qualities prevents haloing from lighting fixtures.
Storing and Marking Paint Cans
Once you’re finished painting, get out your Sharpie and label every leftover paint can. List the paint color and sheen and then all the rooms and surfaces where it was used. When it’s time for touch-ups, you won’t have to pry open every can—or end up using flat white to touch up the gloss in the bathroom.
Take the time and effort to arrive at the perfect color or colors, and you will be rewarded with the background that works with all of the attributes of your home and showcases your gorgeous furnishings. Well done, my friends! And is there anything more pleasing than the smell of a freshly painted home?
A few words from the great designer Albert Hadley: "Ceilings must always be considered. They are the most neglected surface in a room!"
Have a wonderful week, and I will visit with you next Saturday!