Paint can be one of the least expensive, most high-impact ways to completely revolutionize a room. But as anyone who has ever gone to the paint store to pick a color can attest, it can be totally overwhelming deciding between the thousands of options. There's a ton of nuance involved-and making the wrong decision can be a costly, messy pain.
To help the rest of us navigate this process, I turned to interior designer and professional color specialist Shannon Kaye for advice. As the host of the DIY network home makeover show Fresh Coat (which is all about the transformative power of paint), and the resident paint expert for CertaPro Painters (where she also has a handy online forum to answer individual questions about colors, finishes, techniques and any other painting woes you might have), Kaye knows everything there is to know on the subject. Read on to get Kaye's take on how to select the just-right shades.
Make Home A Haven: Where should one begin when choosing a color?
Shannon Kaye: First, consider what each room is used for and how you want it to feel. Rooms that are gathering spaces-kitchens, family rooms, living rooms, dining rooms-tend to work best in warmer colors like coral, blush, raspberry or red because they're more energetic and social. On the flip side, for more solitary spaces like the bedroom and bathroom, it's good to choose fresh, relaxing hues.
Also keep in mind how much maintenance you want to put in. If you have a big family you're probably not going to want to do a really crisp yellow in the living room, since with kids you have to consider things like smudges and food much more than if you're living alone or as a couple. If you live with a lot of people, earthier colors, like a medium taupe or muddy grey, will hide wear and tear much better than really clear hues.
MHAH: How do you avoid choosing the wrong paint color?
SK: People make the mistake of trying to choose the right color at the hardware store. Lighting makes such a difference, and the lighting at the paint shop is going to be a lot different than in your house. Also remember that the front of your house might have totally different light than in the back, and rooms will also look completely different at different times of days.
With that in mind, take an array of paint chips back to your house to check out in all the different spaces you plan to paint, and make one more trip to get a quart or two to test the colors you think are right for your walls. It pays off-if you pick the wrong color you'll have wasted money, you'll feel overwhelmed, and you'll have lost your confidence. Another thing you can do is take something from your house-bedding, a throw pillow, artwork-to the paint store to help make your decision.
The second mistake people often make is trying to look at paint colors on the computer. The biggest issue is that the walls in your house are lit from the front and your computer screen is lit from the back. So there's really no way you can get a sense of how the color will translate to your space. It's also wrong to try and choose paint colors before you move in. You need to see your things and how they look in the space before making paint decisions.
MHAH: How important is it to paint the ceiling?
SK: In the 80's, people said a white ceiling was expansive and made spaces feel taller. I disagree. If you have white trim and white ceiling you've shortened your ceiling, and lost the architectural detail. I use the ceiling to make a room feel more spacious. It's nice to paint ceilings a pale blue or soft grey, which references the sky and makes the room feel so much bigger. You can also base the ceiling color off what's on the walls. Go a couple shades lighter to make the area feel roomier, and go a couple shades darker if you want the space to feel more cozy and intimate.
MHAH: How many different colors does one need in their house?
SK: It can be nice to paint all the common spaces one color-like the hallway, dining room, and living room-but use different accent colors for your accessories. Continuity can be a great thing so everything works together though it's key to play with the accent hues to make sure each space has its own identity. Your bedroom is a place where you should choose a color that's just for you, and you shouldn't worry about what other people think about it.
MHAH: What are some of your favorite colors at the moment?
SK: Lately I've really been loving muddy lilac colors: lavenders, purples, mauves, and violets. All these purple tones are so reassuring, and they're not too girly nor too masculine. And with muddy undertones, they're much more neutral than you might think. Plus, they work with so many different colors from marigold yellow to berry red to brassy green.