When I moved into my first non-rental property about three years ago, I knew from the beginning that there were many things I wanted to change about the small, 1960’s ranch-style home my husband and I purchased.
As young newlyweds just starting our careers, we had a limited budget, limited time and limited patience for redecorating. I knew that painting the walls would be a quick and inexpensive way to make some big changes to our love nest. The salmon pink dining room would be the first to go at my husband’s request.
So, off to the home improvement store we went to select a new color for our dining room from the wondrous wall of paint sample rainbows. We were completely overwhelmed by the selection and nearly annulled our marriage trying to find a paint hue on which we could agree. After causing a rather uncomfortable scene in the paint department, we finally settled on a deep royal blue.
Our color selection was disastrous, as were several subsequent paint colors we chose for various other rooms around the house. We wound up painting the same rooms over and over again. The dining room, our two spare bedrooms, a hallway, and one of the bathrooms all got at least two coats of paint in drastically different hues. We couldn’t seem to get it right.
Perhaps it was the nearly constant odor of paint fumes that made me come to my senses. As I stood contemplating the color of our den one sunny Saturday, I decided I needed professional help. Hiring an interior designer was (and still is) out of the question. Instead, I took a trip to the bookstore and came home with a thick book on interior design and few decorating magazines.
I hungrily read the advice of the designers until one very important point had sunk in: color is the last thing one should choose when decorating a room – not the first (Peterson, Lyn “Real Life Decorating”).
This was a real dilemma for people who were still sitting on a circa 1970 garage sale sofa. The rest of our house was similarly furnished with remnants from our college dorms. I knew it would be years before we would be able to accumulate all the furniture, art and accessories the designers said we needed to make appropriate color choices for our walls.
I should have practiced patience and painted all of our walls white until we could afford new furnishings. Instead, I took the decorators’ advice and brought it down to a much simpler level.
I have found that one can choose the right paint color based on just one appropriate inspiration piece. To begin, choose one special item that can serve a permanent focal point in the room you are planning to paint.
In most small bedrooms, the bed is usually the focal point. Choosing an inspiration color from your duvet, comforter, quilt or sheets is the easiest way to go. Whether you buy new bedding or stick with the quilt your grandmother made for you, selecting a paint color from your bedding is an easy way to ensure that your wall color will make sense.
In smaller bedrooms that do not receive much natural light, it is a good idea to select one of the lighter colors contained within your bedding ensemble. Picking up a lighter accent color will ensure that the room does not end up too dark and cave-like. Try to avoid painting the room the same color as the main color on your bedding. If you do choose to paint the walls the same color blue as your mostly blue bedspread, your focal point will disappear. Stick with accent colors that pop out from the fabric.
Keep in mind that you will have more color options for your walls if you have chosen bedding in a plaid, floral or other multi-colored pattern. If you have chosen mostly white or solid color bedding, you might have to look beyond your bed for inspiration.
The next logical place to go for inspiration is your art. Perhaps you have a print that you have been saving until you can afford to have it framed? Unroll it and match it up with some paint samples. Search your home for a special figurine, or other object d’ art that you cherish and study its coloring.
If you don’t have any special inspiration pieces on hand, national home stores are a great source of inexpensive and beautiful art. Try not to think too hard about color when selecting a piece of art for your inspiration piece. Simply choose something that speaks to you and evokes a good feeling.
Once you do find an inspiration piece, it is a good idea to try and finagle a color-wheel from your local paint or home improvement store. Most stand-alone paint stores will give you a color wheel for free. Having the entire selection of colors from a particular line of paint in your possession will help you to avoid repeated trips to the paint store to pick up sample strips.
Study the sample strip next to your bedding or piece of art in the room you are planning to paint. This will give you a good idea about how the color will look within the context of that room. It will be impossible to find or create a paint color that is exactly like the color you have chosen from your inspiration piece. A color that is very similar to your inspiration color will do just fine. Even a color that is a shade darker or lighter than your inspiration color will work well.
Once you have chosen a color, you will have to choose a type of paint and a finish. I highly recommend using latex paints. Latex paints are non-toxic and much easier to clean up than oil-based paints. Most walls are painted with latex paints.
It is best to use a satin finish on bedroom walls. A satin finish is just reflective enough to allow light to bounce around the room a bit. The slight reflective quality is helpful in small rooms that do not receive much natural light. I recommend that baseboards be painted in a neutral shade of white with a semi-gloss finish. The glossy finish adds polish to the room and is easy to clean. I recommend a satin finish for ceilings, which should be painted in the same white hue as the baseboards.
Even if you feel pretty confident about your color choice before you go to purchase your paint, there is still room for error. I recommend first purchasing a quart of the paint color you have chosen. Paint one wall with your quart of paint before you make your final decision. Allow the painted wall to dry completely (at least 24 hours). Live with the color for a couple of days and view it at all times of the day next to your bedding or piece of art to test how light plays off of the color.
If you are happy with the color on your test wall, keep in mind that you will have to paint over the wall once you buy a full gallon of paint. Paint color will differ ever so slightly from can to can. This difference in hue is more exaggerated from quart to gallon.
I hope this simple advice has shown that one need not be wealthy or particularly gifted to select the right paint color. Best of luck to all of you out there who are enduring the paint color selection process. May you make wise and well-informed decisions.