“What color should we paint the walls?” That is often the first question a client asks us…and I mean the VERY first…before we have discussed if we are moving walls, adding cabinets, purchasing new sofas or replacing light fixtures. It is the first question they ask and typically the LAST thing on my mind. Choosing a new interior color is high impact and approachable for almost all of us. It is also one of the most affordable and impactful ways to update your home decor.
There are so many things to consider before we determine that final wall color. The first question I ask my clients is, “how do you want your home to FEEL?” When I ask that I mean everything–from the literal texture of the walls, floors, and furniture, to the emotions we all have around our homes like joy and comfort or excitement and serenity?
Understandably, clients want to see their personal favorite colors on the walls of their home. However, it’s actually more important to focus on the emotional goal of the space, first. For example, if you want your living room to be the room where you go to relax at the end of the day, then painting a favorite color like lipstick red or a cold, bright blue will not address those specific needs.
Prospective clients have called us for help when they’ve unsuccessfully tried painting a room a color their friend had used or from a room pictured in an online photo. Color does not transfer easily from house-to-house or from digital screen-to-wall. There is a multitude of factors which can impact the result, like natural and artificial lighting, the direction of the house, and ceiling height, just to name a few. We will take information from a client’s inspiration color and then pull colors that are right for the goals for the space. We will ask specifically what you like about the image or your friend’s home? Is it the precise color or rather is it how it makes you feel?
The other thing we remind clients about is to be aware that color appears in so many other areas of their homes–from flooring color, to countertops, to wall tile, etc. All of these selections help influence the time and place when and where we stand in an almost finished space to determine, indeed what color the walls will be.
When it comes to paint, we have more color options today than ever before! Technologies in synthetic color creation and cataloging since the mid-1800s have made it possible to access a seemingly endless depth of colors. Since budget is typically a limiting factor for most home remodeling projects, there will be a smaller array of options for furniture and finishes in your style and size than there will be with paint colors.
When we’re asked to start in one room of a house–often the kitchen, living room, or master bedroom–then we still consider the entire house when selecting a paint color. To accomplish a well-designed space, it’s important that we take a comprehensive approach to the project. The home’s architecture, existing finishes and paint colors are all things to keep in mind. Ignoring the rest of the house could enable a room that looks contrived. A flow and seamless transition in paint color from room-to-room will be much more successful.
Each decision that our clients make about their homes is an emotional decision (and one that ideally takes budget into account) but few things in life impact us as much as color. Whether it is wall color or fabric color, all of us possess our own emotional attachment to color. Color has different meaning for each of us.
Insights for Successful Interior Paint Selection:
- Paint boards are a designer staple and worth making on your own. Purchase small foam boards (about 10×12” sheets) and sample paint colors from your local paint store. Use the painted boards to hold up around the room at different times of the day. It is wild how color changes throughout the day and in different rooms. These are eminently better than tiny paint chips.
- Check your light bulbs. Lighting in the room will impact the performance of the paint color. Older LED bulbs have a pink or blue tone to them. Warm Daylight or Soft White bulbs are preferred for creating warm, comfortable spaces.
- Know that there are different paint finishes for a range of materials. Your trim and cabinets need to be addressed differently than your walls and ceiling for a polished look and durability. Applying wall paint to trim will be difficult to clean and show scratches quickly. Consult the professionals for each interior surface and especially exterior surfaces.
- VOC Paint – There are new paints available now for wall colors that are low VOC (volatile organic compounds) like ben® Interior Paint. This can be especially beneficial for homeowners who are concerned about reducing environmental toxins and allergens.
- One of the reasons your painted wall may not turn out like your inspiration image is because there may be a difference in your drywall texture vs. the texture pictured your inspiration room. A level 5 texture produces a smooth, graceful wall finish.
- Technique can influence the final finish. A professional painter will spray the room for an overall even application vs. the do-it-yourselfers with rollers and brushes
Keep in mind the following when selecting a paint color:
- How do you want your home to feel?
- What is the purpose of the room?
- What are your existing finishes? Do you plan to keep them?
- What is the overall plan and goal? What color will be cohesive with the rest of the house?
- Stuck or overwhelmed? Reach out to a professional.
If you are considering repainting your house, a professional designer will have invaluable experience with color. They will be able to share expertise and insight for your space before you make the investment in time and money painting your home. Interview a few designers you’re interested in after looking at their portfolio site or on a platform like Houzz. Often they’ll provide a complimentary consultation – just ask! It’s important to find a good fit!
We also discuss topics like color at our Design 101 events.
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Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.