How to Pick a Paint Color (and Not Regret It)

Nesting on 09.21.11
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Photo Credit: Sarah Fernandez

It's one of the easiest ways to change the look of your home-simply change the color on the walls. But when you get to the paint store the options can be truly overwhelming. Who knew there could be so many different shades of white? While picking the wrong paint color isn't the end of the world seeing as it can easily be painted over again, it's still a giant hassle and expense to have to do so. But if you follow these easy steps to picking your paint color, you're sure to be happy with the results.

1. Choose Colors that Occur Naturally- Matching your daughter's bedroom color to her favorite Disney princess dress is probably not going to come out very well as the color was likely created in a manufacturing plant. While it may be just the pink she loves, it is likely also going to be a bit overwhelming and the room will have a "manufactured" look instead of that of natural beauty. Think of it like the difference between wearing bright pink lip stick versus wearing a light pink lip gloss. Look to colors that naturally occur in life. Pick your favorite flower and take it to the paint store to find the closest color chip to it. Nature provides a wide range of colors from petal pinks to bold oranges. Benjamin Moore offers a great smart-phone app called Color Capture which allows you to photograph an item you like and then it provides you with its closest color match from their line of products.

2. Pick Items that You Know Will Be a Focal Point in the Room First- While many people like to pick a paint color first and then work around it when selecting their fabrics and accents, it is much better to determine what is definitely going into the room before picking the color. If you know that you'll be keeping the same curtains or couch, look to that fabric and see if there are any colors in it that you would like on the walls. Or even if you are getting everything new, pick the fabrics first. Sometimes even the faintest accent color in a fabric makes the best paint color. It is virtually inevitable that if you paint the walls and then decide what goes in the room that you'll likely feel like things are just a little bit off.

3. Sample, Sample, Sample- Those little paint chips at the hardware stores are great (and free!). Bring a bunch of them home and put them on the walls and look at them up close and from afar. There's a good chance that you'll feel differently about the colors once you see them in your space. Once you've narrowed down your choices, go back to the paint store and get the paint samples that you can apply to the wall. If the light in your room varies greatly from one area to another (which it likely does), be sure to paint swatches in more than one spot. Then live with those swatches for a day or two and make sure to take a peek at them at various times of the day to see how the changes in light throughout the day affect the appearance of the paint color.

Avoid These Mistakes

People are so often afraid to go bold with color because they're afraid it will be too dark, but if there are plenty of other light colored items in the room to offset it, it can be really beautiful as long as you pick a naturally occurring color. My bedroom is Bittersweet Chocolate by Benjamin Moore which looked like melting dark chocolate when the paint was going on the walls. It's common for people to get scared and go a shade or two down from the color they really love which can be dangerous in the design world. The wrong shade of brown and you'll be constantly reminded of your diaper changing days.

Another mistake people often make is just buying a color they love that they see in someone else's home. While that can be a great starting point, it's still important that you sample the paint and make sure that it really works with the light and items in your home. I constantly get compliments on my living room color (Ocean Air by Benjamin Moore), and when my sister was renovating her new house, she wanted to use it in her dark hallway to make the space seem light and airy, but when we put it on the walls it looked like an entirely different color. They hadn't changed the formula. My living room is a large space with an eight foot sliding door that is flooded with light from the southwest. Her hallway is long and narrow with one east facing window at the end of it.    


Whatever you do, don't let fear of picking a paint color stop you from changing the look of your home. Color can have an amazing effect on your life whether you're looking for a soothing space or fresh look. Life it too short to live within contractor white walls.

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