I’ll tell you a little secret … I hate being asked to help someone pick a wall colour.
Not because I don’t love browsing paint chips, but because people expect so much from it.
I hear tales of boring beige and people unsure how to pick something different. There’s a common feeling that the ‘right’ wall colour will somehow make the room.
But here’s the deal: if you’re relying on the wall colour to change a room you don’t like into a room you love, you’ll be disappointed. It can’t do that. It’s just a coat of paint.
The mother of all painting mistakes is actually expecting too much from the wall colour.
Stop thinking of it as the star of the show
Honestly, if the wall colour’s the most interesting thing in the room, you’ve got a problem.
Think of it like the background of a painting. It’s suppose to make the rest of the room look better, not command your attention.
Ever wonder why designers love white walls? This is why.
It’s easier to make the room look great when your eye isn’t always being pulled to the walls.
I’ve been guilty of this one too
I’d be so excited to get started that I’d head straight for the paint store. I’d search through the endless shades until I found one I loved. Usually, it was something ‘interesting’ – no boring beige for me.
Then I’d get it on the walls as soon as possible. But then I was stuck.
Almost without fail, I’d end up with a fabulous wall colour—and nothing to go with it. Has that every happened to you?
It took me years to stop breaking the cardinal rule …
Don’t start with the paint colour
Yes, the walls have to be painted before you put anything else in. But that doesn’t mean you choose the wall colour first. Not at all.
When you do, you inevitably get stuck like I did.
It’s a mistake to think about the wall colour before anything else. I thought it would give me a direction and help me figure out how to pull it all together.
But that’s not how it works.
The simple truth is that paint can be matched to anything. But the same cannot be said for upholstery, fabric, tile, furniture, bedding or artwork.
So, like an artist, you need to know what the focus of the picture is before you choose the background.
This is why I talk to my clients about colour last—when we’re ready to start fine-tuning the feeling of the space.
Otherwise, you end up with a colour that overwhelms the room rather than complements it.
And this happens quickly because people often choose colours from the wrong part of the deck. So …
Don’t choose from the rainbow-coloured samples
Trust me, if it looks anything like a crayon, it has no business on the walls.
My dad taught me this. Unfortunately, because he had a talent for choosing colours that looked better on the chip than on the wall.
The trouble was he didn’t choose muddy colours. He chose ones that were too bright, without enough grey mixed in.
Most people do this too. They choose their colour from those bright, vibrant ones on the chips with the progressive samples.
Don’t do that. Instead check out the historical colours, the off-whites and the shades that look drab next to the Crayola colours.
Choose something both lighter and ‘muddier’ than you think you want. If it looks kind of pale and you’re not sure a five-year-old would know what colour it was, then you have a contender.
But don’t forget to test it!
Yeah, I know you just want to get it on the wall.
The painter is ready to go. You don’t want to buy a bunch of different colours. I get it.
But all the same, try it before you buy it.
Get a few contenders and then try them in the corner of the room. Paint a two foot square on each side of a corner. It’ll give you a better sense of how the colour will look when it’s reflected onto itself. And you can put furniture and fabrics in front of it to see if they play well together.
I can’t tell you how often this has saved me.
Colour looks different on the chip than it does on the wall. The paint chip is printed, it’s tiny and it’s hard to see how it will really look when the light hits it. It’s just different so test. Testing will save you a lot of time, effort and money in the long run.
I know it’s tempting to focus your attention on the wall colour – but don’t give in.
Don’t let the walls become the focus of the room. Don’t choose your paint colour first and then try to get everything else to work with it. Skip over those clear, saturated colours and head straight for the pale, greyed shades. And remember to always test your contenders in the room.
No painter wants a garish, flashy background on her painting – neither do you want one for your room.
How about you?
Ever made any of these mistakes – or a different one? Don’t be shy. I bet you’re not the only one. I’d also love to hear what stumps you about choosing paint colours—click here to share your thoughts.
Ready to make your room a place you love?
I’m working on something just for you … but until then, if you’d like some free advice about where to start click here. In exchange for answering some questions of mine, I’ll answer yours.