Ambiance
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From Start To Furnish

Please enjoy my musings on all things interior design!

How To Select Paint Colors

You know what I get asked more often than any other question? "Jill, I need to refresh my house, but I'm not sure what to choose - how do I pick paint colors?"

Well, isn't this quite the struggle for so many people? I can't think how many times I've been called just to help someone out of the mire that they find themselves in among lots of little paint swatches on the wall.  I get there and their walls look like Joseph's Technicolor Dreamcoat (little Donny Osmond reference there) with dabs of paint all over the walls. 

Folks, it doesn't have to be that painful.  Let me walk you through it.  Here's my secret recipe for how to select paint colors.

Step 1

Identify your projected ambiance of the space, whether it be one room or a whole house.  Are you looking for relaxation or drama?

Consider, if you will, Exhibit A.  My edits to a typical "fan deck" that you would see at any paint store.  I cut a wedge out of it.  Above the wedge are what are considered warm colors; reds, oranges, and yellows.  The wedge represents cool colors; purples, blues, and greens.  Warm colors are known to invoke excitement and appetite and are more flattering to skin tones.  Cool colors are more relaxing.  I generally prefer cool colors in bedrooms and warmer colors in bathrooms.  

Have I lost you yet?  Stick with me.  So consider what the mood of the room is and that will whittle down your paint color possibilities.  

Step 2

What is the inspiration for the color and mood of this room?  Don't just go willy-nilly random on me now.  Is there a piece of art, a rug or an upholstery fabric that will be the focal point of the room.  Choose a color from your inspiration.

Consider Exhibit 2.  The inspiration for this dramatic red powder room was the stained glass window.  I drew the plans for this lovely couple and this custom stained glass window had been a gift years before.  The location of where it would be in the house was a critical decision.  We decided to put it in the powder room and honor it with the red wall color (also the family loves red).  And the extra added benefit is that the framed turquoise jewelry just happened to pop against the red wall.

Step 3

So you've selected the perfect color that matches a color in your inspiration but when you look at the color alone maybe it's not quite what you can imagine a whole room.  Adjust it a little.  In the picture above, a powder room provides the perfect place for the drama of this color.  But maybe you wouldn't want that much red in another room, say, a bedroom.  Are you kidding?  I'd never go to sleep!

Adjust it.  Make it a few shades lighter.  Always remember, a color on your walls will most often appear much darker than the little paint swatch.  Go a little towards the cooler end of the spectrum from the perfect match.  I'm loving more and more colors that are not a perfect dead on match.  It's a kind of Wabi-sabi, the art of imperfection.  (Go back to read about it in last week's blog post.)  

This butter yellow bedroom was inspired by the photograph of the Aspen trees above the bed.  And the client's daughter wanted a yellow bedroom.  But wait!  Yellow is a warm color.  Cool colors are more relaxing.  I matched the yellow, then cooled it and lightened it so that it was a much more soothing color.  Get how that works?

Step 4

Be confident with your decision and go for it.  Buy the paint and make it happen.  Don't second guess and please don't go back to painting 100 swatches on the walls.  You've done the work to select the perfect color, just do it.  You'll love it!

Extra Help

There are those cases where there is no inspirational art or rug or anything, you just need a good overall color...a basic neutral to make the house flow.  In this case, I'd look for inspiration online on  HOUZZ or Pinterest.  But beware!  You can lose a lot of time here.  Don't overthink it.  If you see a nice neutral, look at it on a paint chart and decide if you need to edit a bit (adjust the temperature or intensity) and go with it.

Try it out.  Test out this method and let me know how it works.  Pin this post for later when you need to select a paint color!

Jill OrnelasAmbiance