The selection of paint color for our walls, the largest area of color in our homes, is the decorating challenge that causes the most angst for many of my clients. This decision may be less daunting if a few rules of thumb are followed.
While painting is one of the first things we ‘install’ in a redecorating project, it is always one of the last things we select. Since wall color needs to be guided by the color of the floor (the second largest area of color in any room), fabrics, cabinetry, and art in the room, it is usually a mistake to paint before selecting these design components because it limits other choices.
The first step in the color selection is to gather the small paint chips from your paint store. Or, your decorator can bring a full set of larger paint chips to your home to begin the process. When the possibilities have been narrowed to 3 or 4, it’s time to apply them to your walls for a real visual test—the most important step in the decision process. The samples should be painted about 3’ wide and extend all the way down to the base trim, ideally on walls that get good natural light. If there is a particularly dark corner in the room, it is a good idea to paint a smaller square of each color there to see whether that area looks too dark at night. Apply two coats to each of the squares so that the existing wall color doesn’t bleed through. After the paint is dry, study your squares in morning, afternoon and evening light. Take your time….you will live with this decision for quite a while.
After you’ve made your decision, you must then decide upon the finish of the paint. The general rule of thumb is that the rougher the texture of the wall, the flatter the paint finish needs to be. The greater the sheen, the more obvious any blemished will appear. Generally, flat finishes look more appropriate with traditional decors, while glossier finishes seem right for contemporary styles.
Monochromatic color schemes in a room tend to provide a more serene ambiance, while a room with highly contrasting colors will impart a sense of excitement. Accent walls are a simple way to add a splash of color without committing to a whole room of a strong hue. Ideally, accent walls will start and end at inside corners or another area where the transition is subtle.
Remember that fifth wall…..your ceiling! There is no rule that says all ceilings have to be white. Especially if you have crown molding, consider a shade for your ceiling that is just a step or two lighter or darker than your walls. If you are a little more daring, choose a color from a different palette altogether. Saturated colors can go a long way towards making up for a lack of architectural character, as does crown molding, which is best installed before you paint.