How to Pick Paint Colours for your Home or Office

Mar 4, 2020

I see it all the time – people pouring over the paint chip wall at Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore and then walking up to the counter and ordering the paint! If this is you, please read my previous post – How NOT to pick paint colours.

After 20 plus years as a Calgary painting contractor and colour consultant, I’ve seen countless people see a room brought to life over the right colour. I’ve also seen them frustrated and nervous that they got it wrong.

There’s so much to consider when picking a paint colour for your walls or cabinets. It’s a choice you’re going to literally live with for several years. The right colour should hug a room, making everything in it look a little better. Its not always about the paint colour on the walls – but how the wall colour affects the whole mood and atmosphere of the space.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

TIP #1 Always, always, always pick your paint colour in the space where the paint will go!

Colour is subjective. It’s literally just your brain’s interpretation of how the light reflecting off an object hits your eye. colours change space to space depending on light and other colours in the area. The lights in a hardware or paint store are almost always big bright florescent fixtures with a garish glow. While the lights in your home are likely softer and gentler. The paint colour you pick under those big commercial lights will never have the same feel in your home. You’ll bring them home and think that maybe your picked up the wrong ones – wondering why you ever picked them in the first place.

Always pick your paint colour in the room it’s going in. It’s the only way to get a somewhat accurate interpretation of the colour.

TIP #2 Think about mood and use of the space

When picking your paint colour, it really pays to consider the mood and use of the space where the paint will be applied. Just because you loved that happy yellow in your laundry room doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate choice for your theatre space or bedroom.

Some rooms you relax in, some you work in. Some rooms you need to be calming and others you may need to energize you.

Paint colours are chosen for the practical use of the space as well. Dedicated theatre rooms are often moodier, darker. You want a room that doesn’t reflect strongly in the screen. Areas where you work out or children’s play rooms are bright and energetic. You can play with a powder room colour – try something bold, you aren’t in there that long so you won’t get sick of it so easily. But a master ensuite where you may be applying make up or ensuring that the socks you just put on for your big break interview are actually black and black – not black and blue – should be well lit and a relatively neutral colour to facilitate it’s use.

TIP #3 Use fabric or art as inspiration for your paint colour

Consider the items in the room that you plan to keep long term. Drapery, bedding, rugs and furniture upholstery can all provide excellent sources of reference for the colour that you paint your walls. Pick the fabric that speaks to you, the one that brings you joy. Now take a super close look at it and pick apart all of the multiple shades and nuances in the threads. Taking a closer look will often reveal far more colour choices than you ever noticed before.

Which colours strike you as an option for the paint colour in the room? Perhaps it’s the neutral background, perhaps it’s some bold fun colour that makes you smile. Maybe you’ll choose both and opt for an accent wall. Or maybe you’ll be really brave and do the whole thing a beautiful glorious colour that just makes you feel good.

TIP #4 Utilize the 3 shade trick

Very often our clients are looking for a neutral palate but worry it may read as too boring. This is where the 3 shade trick comes in handy. Pick the colour you love for your home – then go up and down a shade or two. Use your favourite predominately throughout your home. Then lighten up in areas like an upstairs hall or laundry room that doesn’t get much light. Use the darkest for an accent wall, master bedroom or to add a little flair to the dining area.

The slight change in colour from space to space adds a little organic flow to your environment, cohesive yet not identical in every single room. The changing shade brightens utilitarian areas while adding drama and interest to entertaining or even ‘curl up’ spaces.

TIP #5 Think about what you hold your paint colour up against

What does every single person do when testing a paint colour in their home? They hold it up against a wall to see how it looks.

Remember that colour is subjective and highly dependant on the colour you hold it against. Now think about the fact that when you hold it up against a wall – you are looking at the colour against the one thing that isn’t going to be there any more! If you are picking a wall colour, don’t hold it against the wall you’re about to repaint, hold it against your trim, your flooring or cabinetry. A rug or the sofa would even work. Choose something that is going to continue to live in the space – and not the very thing you plan to get rid of.

TIP #6 Don’t copy someone else

Your best friend just painted her house the perfect shade of greige! Should you copy it? Maybe. Actually, probably not. Use it as inspiration for sure but be sure it has the same feel in your own home. Does it go with your flooring? How about the granite? Does it make your white window trim seem yellow somehow?

Unless everything is identical in your friends house and your own – and I’m talking even the way the sun shines in the window – no colour will ever ‘read’ the same in both houses.

Don’t blindly follow trends or ‘colours of the year’ for the same reason. Take a good hard look and above all……..

TIP #7 Trust your gut

I don’t care what is in vogue at the moment or how much you wish you loved that current trend like everyone else – the best homes are always the ones with personality. When you walk into Michele’s house, you should look around and say to yourself – ‘Yup, this is Michele’s place alright!’ Whether you are crazy for colour or you just love a gallery style white, your home should ultimately reflect you. Be brave, trust your gut and go with what you love. Who cares if it is perfectly in line with the latest design magazine? Your friends love you – so when they walk into your home and it feels like you, they will love that too!

TIP #8 When all else fails, hire a colour consultant

If you are completely at a loss and just can’t choose, bite the bullet and bring in a colour consultant. This could be a designer or someone from your favourite painting company that truly understands the subtle nuances of colour.

They can usually bring colours with them so you can view in your own space and not have to deal with the paint wall at the store.

Be sure to pick someone who really digs into what you’re looking for and cares what YOU think and not just what will look good to their eye. There has to be a balance. Sure, they have the expertise but you’re the one who lives there and has to surround yourself with that colour every day.

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