Design Dilemma: Picking the Perfect Paint Color


Selecting colors for your home is like choosing a spouse: There are many great options out there, but pick the wrong one and you’ll regret it for a long, long time—not to mention the trouble and expense it takes to rectify the mistake.

As a color expert and the owner of G&R Paint Company, Philip Reno sees people with paint problems every day. He’s come up with six things you can do that will have you living happily ever after with your interior palette.


1. Pick up the paint chip.

Reno says the biggest mistake most people make is looking at their paint chips on a flat surface. “You’d think they were looking for floor paint,” he says. “You are painting your walls. Pick up the chip and hold it vertically, and you’ll be surprised how much lighter the color looks. People who choose colors from chips spread out on a table are usually unpleasantly surprised when they get it up on the wall.”

2. When choosing a color, start with a blank slate.

When picking a color, Reno says the best way is to make or buy an oversize chip (more on that in a moment) or to paint the color directly on the wall. But where many people go wrong is putting the sample paint on the existing wall color. “In order to really see what the color is going to look like, you have to put it on a white background, otherwise the wall color will effect the way the sample color looks, ” he says. “Either paint out a section white or put up a white cloth as a background.”

3. When it comes to paint, go big.

You wouldn’t choose a suit from a scrap of fabric, and you can’t really get an idea about how a color will work until you try it on. Reno suggests buying the super-size chips many manufacturers offer, or by making your own 18-by-24-inch squares with heavy paper or the sample boards many paint stores sell.

4. You aren’t as bright as you think.

“People usually pick a color that’s too bright,” says Reno. “It’s really a size thing: When put on four walls, colors tend to radiate on themselves and amplify.” So that warm buttery yellow you thought you were getting becomes electric when it surrounds a space. Reno says the solution is pick a more muted hue of the color you think you want.

5. The finishing touch is (usually) a light color.

When is comes to trim and ceiling color, Reno says the best choice is usually a light color. “Generally, and I mean about 95 percent of the time, the color that looks the best on trim is a light color,” he says. “Painting molding a dark color makes a room feel boxed in.”

6. Camouflage is an awkward angle’s friend.

Like most people, rooms have their flaws: weird angles, regretable trim or bi-fold closet doors, just to name a few. Reno’s remedy for these design disasters is to simply hide them. “If you treat things like this as trim and paint them a different color, you’ll just call attention to them,” he says. “Paint them the same color as the wall.”


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