IT’S ONLY PAINT: How To Select A Paint Color

  • I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a new client’s first question “What color should I paint the walls?”   Invariably that is always #1, or at the top of the list anyway of any interior designer’s consultation, sometimes before anything else has been purchased or selected for the space.  And the answer is… spread out the fan deck, close your eyes and pick one.  Wait!  Don’t do that!  But if you were to do that you would have just as good a chance of selecting a good paint color as your interior designer would at that point in the design process.  The point is paint color is relevant to other pieces of the design.  It certainly is not the starting place.  So what is the starting place and how does one go about selecting the perfect paint color?

    When starting an interior design, your first selection should always be the floor.  And the floor includes an area rug if you plan to use one.  Why is this the first place to start? There are less choices for you to select from for the floor than the paint deck.  From a paint store, there are an infinite number of choices of color to choose.  With computer matching, the color technician can match virtually any color you present him or her.  That isn’t the case with flooring.  Now I know what you’re thinking…”But there are many choices of floors!”.  True, flooring possibilities are also endless…tile, wood, laminate, vinyl, carpet, area rugs.  But you more than likely have a budget, which limits the selection set you have to choose from.  You know you hate green, so all greenish floors are out, and so on and so forth.  I’m sure you get where I’m taking this.  Your choices are narrowed before you ever start.  Hard surface floors are pretty easy to select.  You have a preconceived notion in your head of what you want.  Area rugs on the other hand are a whole other subject that is best left for a future blog entry but suffice to say a selection is best made early in the process so your colors and patterns coordinate.  After the floor, other selections should come about fairly easily.  Don’t forget about fabrics at this point.  Even a small bath design includes some fabric, i.e. a hand towel.

    So now comes the arduous task of paint color selection.  Paint should be the last thing you decide on.  It could be an easy task at this point, particularly if you want to match specifically to something.  But what if you have a fairly generic room and you want to add some character with paint color? Character is good.  Just keep in mind when you enter a room, the first thing you should notice is NOT the paint color.  The paint color should be a backdrop for your personality.  You will no doubt place furniture, pictures or photos, or ‘arts de object’ on the wall and in and around the space.  Those “things” should be the focal point.  Or maybe a beautiful view, or a fireplace, but never a colored wall.  Walls by themselves, are not particularly attractive so why call attention to them?  The only exception, as I see it, is when you have interesting architecture that you want to accentuate or feature.  Then you can play with color a bit, making the architecture stand out.

    When the process gets hard is when you’ve narrowed down your paint colors to a hand full.   How do you know if that lovely beige is actually pink in disguise?  The easiest way to judge color is to compare it to a similar color.  The best example I can give is when you have your eyes checked.  The doctor asks you if “A” is better or “B” over and over again with both being similar.  Do the same with your colors.  You’ll be able to tell right away if that perfect beige, “A”, is pink or not.

    And finally, and this may be the most important step of paint color selection. Do purchase a sample or quart and put a sizable paint swatch on the wall.  A one-inch by one-inch swatch on a paint fan deck is next to impossible to judge from.  Good paint companies offer their paint in small samples for $5 or $6.  Invest in the paint sample before you invest in the entire completed paint job.  It is well worth the time and money saved if your choice is way off.

    Please do consider calling an interior designer in for a color consultation if you just cannot decide or maybe you can’t see the colors.  The older we get color recognition becomes distorted as the cornea ages.  A good percentage of the population is colorblind.  As interior designers, we look at paint decks each and everyday.  We know them like the backs of our hands and we are happy to help you.  And remember: IT’S ONLY PAINT.

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