Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ask the Designer - Choosing Paint Color

I would love to paint my living room but having a hard time with picking a color.  I would love to do a dark color but I'm afraid it will make my already small space look smaller.  And if I go like, I'm afraid it will clash with my floors. ~Monica

Despite what you may see on HGTV or read in magazines, choosing the right paint color isn’t easy. The real proof of that can be heard from friends and family who’ve repainted their room 3 different yellows. Or it can be seen any day in the paint section of a local hardware store where you will find at least one shopper staring at the wall of paint swatches looking more than overwhelmed.

Understand Your Undertones
The most difficult part of selecting paint is working with the correct undertone. The undertone varies by color but it vitally important. An undertone is what Designers mean when they say things like “that is a blue red”. While that statement appears ridiculous, it actually means that the red has an undertone of blue (or cool colors) instead of an undertone of yellow/orange (or warm colors). And this undertone makes a big difference in the success of that paint color in your room.
Step #1 in your paint selection process is to look at your room and understand the undertones in the pieces you already have. Overall, does your room have more cool undertones (blues, grays) or warm undertones (yellows, oranges).  Then opt for paint colors that have the same undertones.
If you’re not sure of the undertone of a paint color, place the sample on a white piece of paper. The neutral background will usually make the undertone easier to identify, even if you don’t have a lot of experience with colors.
Here the colors are very similar, but the color on the left has a cool undertone while the color on the right has a warm undertone. 

Go Bold Or Don’t Go At All
If you do decide to go bold, then really go bold and pick the darkest color of the paint swatch. If you ease off and go with a lighter color, your red will really be pink and your Navy Blue will be a watered down overcast day. Dark colors don’t always make a room feel smaller. That’s a blog post for another day, so stay tuned!

Making The Final Selection
Be warned, making the correct selection will involve multiple trips to the home improvement or paint store over the course of a few days.  There is no way around it. Never make your final selection under the fluorescent lights of the home improvement or paint store. Always take a few samples home to see what they look like in your room, with your lighting and next to your furnishings, flooring and artwork. After you look at the samples at home, choose a favorite or two and buy the sample pots.
Here is a point when buyers go really wrong, again. Typically people will buy sample pots and paint a 3” x  3” square on 2 different walls in a room, then make a selection. This sample is not nearly enough to make a good choice. Instead, I recommend painting the samples onto 1-4 poster boards that you can get at a craft store for $0.50 or less. The boards are much larger and can be moved around the room, placed next to flooring, or behind furniture, draperies or artwork. 

Live with these samples for at least 3 days. Look at the samples on each wall that will be painted and at different times of day. The direction and type of lighting will dramatically alter the color. What looks beautiful in daylight may look terrible under artificial light. Now you should have enough information to select one of these paints or to know if you need to try more colors or a different undertone.
Good luck!

Beautiful Habitat: Interior Design & Decoration www.beautifulhabitat.com


Dori said...

This is a timely post for me as I am going to the paint store this week to buy samples. I no longer need to wait until my drywall is ready as I am going to get poster board instead! PERFECT!

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

I definitely will be using sample boards in the future. Could have avoided a flesh-toned neutral paint disaster at my old place that way!

Beautiful Habitat said...

I love the sample boards! They have saved me from bad choices many a time. It has also gotten some clients to go a little more bold with color after they see it in a bigger impact than the little swatches. I'm glad it will be helpful to you also!


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