8 Tips for Choosing Paint Colors

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 Permalink 0

Walls cover the largest area in most rooms, so it stands to reason that they set the tone and mood for everything within them. Choosing paint colors wisely is vital to great interiors, but with literally thousands of colors to choose from, where do you begin?

There are lots of opinions on how to choose paint colors. Some say choose paint last, and some start with the paint color and work from there. Here’s how I do it.

1. Start with the floor

Image of a green room courtesy of Cafe Mom

Photo Courtesy of CafeMom

The floor is the foundation of any room, the anchor, and unless your building from the ground up or completely remodeling, it’s difficult to change. Besides the walls it covers the largest area, so  it’s an obvious place to start. Is it dark or light? Does it have a hue or is it neutral?

The floor and the walls don’t need to match, they just need to go together. If it’s a neutral color on the floor, anything goes on the walls but if the floor has a hue you’ll need to do some color coordinating. Either way, understanding how colors go together helps immensely when choosing colors.

2. Go to the light

Light Filled Living Room

Light Filled Living Room

How is the room lit? Does it have lots of natural light or is it already a fairly dark space? Tons of natural light leaves your paint palette wide open.

Also consider the warmth of light. Cool light can be warmed up and warm light can be cooled down with paint choices. Once you’ve taken note of the light in the room, consider the mood you’d like to reflect.

3. Choose your mood

Image of a dining room with blue walls and red vases - photo courtesy of bilvil architecture

Photo Courtesy of BilVil Architecture

Color is a great way to reflect the mood you want to create, but it also influences mood. Here’s a brief lowdown on color and mood:

  • Red is strong, sexy and vibrant. It can raise energy levels and is a great choice when you want to create drama. It’s wonderful for dining rooms to keep the energy up as the food goes in. Plus, red can actually stimulate appetite.
  • Yellow is happy, energizing and uplifting. It captures the joy of a sunny day and is a great color for water closets, small kitchens and hallways. No matter where it is, it’s an attention grabber. Not great as the primary color for large areas, as studies have show it can actually increase aggression in children.
  • Orange is young, kitschy, and fun. In chromotherapy it’s believed to heal the lungs and increase energy levels. It has a strong, vibrant energy so it’s not recommended for bedrooms.
  • Blue is peaceful, serene and relaxing. It’s the color of the sky and the ocean both of which are calming to look at. Blue is perfect for bedrooms and bathrooms where you want to relax.
  • Green is the color of trees, grass… nature. It’s a relaxing color. People waiting to go on TV sit in ‘green rooms’ for that reason. Darker greens are masculine, conservative and imply wealth (think old school lawyers office). Greens can work in any room.
  • Purple is regal, sophisticated and elegant. Darker shades bring feelings of luxury and drama to a room while lighter shades offer the same relaxing qualities of blue but it’s slightly warmer.
  • Brown is the color of the ground beneath our feet. It’s solid, safe and reliable. It’s considered a neutral so can be paired with just about any color making it very versatile.
  • Black is deep, dark and dramatic. It’s the color of authority and power. Black absorbs light and can make a room seem smaller, so carefully consider where you’re putting black. It’s great for a tall feature wall in a large space.
  • White is the color of purity and light and it goes with everything. White makes rooms seem bigger because it reflects light. A room with white walls and lots of light gives a great blank canvas to create the perfect bright space.


4. Consider the architecture

olive green walls in living room - image courtesy of buffalo parade

Image Courtesy of Decozilla

If you’ve got great moldings, trim and built ins, your room will look great in any color. If your architecture is lacking then whites and beiges are only going to highlight the boring.

Using bold colors in an otherwise lackluster room will create interest where the builder didn’t.

5. Look at your furnishings

image of retro furnishings and pop art with a blue wall - image courtesy of bole floor

Photo Courtesy of Bole Floor

It makes more sense to paint a room than buy all new furniture, so consider what you’ve got. Taking color cues from your furnishings and art will help you finalize your paint color choices.

6. Consider your home as a whole

Image showing color flow room to room - image by birgitta Wolfgang Drejer and courtesy of Dom & Wnetrze

Image by Birgitta Wolfgang Drejer – Courtesy of Dom & Wnetrze

There shouldn’t be an aesthetic disconnect from room to room. This doesn’t mean you have to paint your whole interior the same color but there should be a flow as you move through the house. Paint colors can be cued from accessories, furniture and other things in the house, as long as the colors flow from one room to the next.

7. Use a visualization tool

It’s easy to see how a wall color can dramatically change the look and feel of a space using a visualization tool. Most paint companies have visualization tools where you can change wall colors.

8. Try it at home before you commit to it

Image of paint swatches on wall to see which works best in the room - courtesy of Fresh Coat of Paint

Image Courtesy of Fresh Coat of Paint

Looking at swatches and even using a visualization tool may not always be enough to know how a color will look in your space.

Every room has unique ambient light that affects how color is perceived, so it’s best to paint a small area before you commit to the whole thing. Spend time with the color and see how it changes from day to night. Most paint companies offer sample pots so you can try before you buy.

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