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The Art of Selecting the Perfect Wall Color

My son asked me yesterday, "Mom, why don't people paint their houses every color in the rainbow?" My answer, "Dude, imagine yourself in a room with bright yellow walls. How would you feel if you had to be in there for a long time?" His response..."Oooooohhhh, I get it!"

Forget the fact that my 7 year old was able to grasp a concept faster than many adults (his third word was 'sample', after all) Let's discuss how to go about selecting paint colors for your home.

1) Start with your furnishings:

Your wall color is the backdrop for the furniture and other details in your room, not the main event (except in 'accent rooms') Begin your color styling by evaluating what would be a good backdrop color for the furnishings that you already have. So many are looking for their walls to make the design statement, and while there are always exceptions to every rule, when you try to get a lot of bang out of your painting buck, you might end up with an explosion.

2) Decide what feeling you want out of your space:

Colors make you feel things. This is a fact, not a theory. You will never go into a fast food restaurant and see blue, I promise. Always red and orange, as these colors make you hungry. Red can make you feel angry as well, yellow-agitated, blue-lethargic, and pink is generally calming. In general, lighter, neutral colors like white, ivory, beige and grey are more or less neutral in emotion. As your color moves on the spectrum towards any of the previously mentioned colors, the emotion it is tied to increases. Many people have mentioned that a yellow room makes them feel happy, this is because an excited feeling is very similar in physiological reaction to being overly excited or agitated by something. So, select a neutral yellow and you get a subtly excited feeling by it. So, then, decide: do you want this room to make you feel calm, happy, hungry, energized or neutral. Here is a great visual from

3) Don't be fooled by a picture of a room that you are just drawn to

Often, I am handed a picture of a room and told, "This is the color I want for my walls" Most of us can be easily fooled by an artsy photo that has great styling. This is a trick of the design trade, and don't be fooled by it! Before you commit to bringing a photo to home depot and asking them to color match it, try imagining yourself in the beautiful chair that is located in that picture, you know, the one with the designer pillow and the amazing lamp behind it. Envision sitting their reading a book, or chatting with a friend, imagine looking around you at the room all in that bright yellow (or purple, or blue) More than likely, this room will feel a bit distracting and not really one that you feel inclined to sit and relax in.

4) Decide how much you care about what other people think

It is easy to say, "I don't care, I just want a color that makes me happy." But you have to actually feel that way, and it is ok if you don't. It is absolutely fine if you want the vast majority of your house guests to walk in and feel comfortable (and maybe even jealous) of your fabulous wall colors.

In general, if you care to be mindful of the majority, you should maintain the following rules:

Social Spaces (kitchen, living room, hallways)-go for neutral

Guest Bathrooms and Powders-either neutral or make a statement with the walls, depends on the overall style of the home

Guest Bedrooms-neutral, there is nothing worse than staying at someones house and trying to rest in a room that feels, to you, less than restful

Personal Bedrooms and bathrooms-go with your personal style for these spaces

5) Understand that your lighting makes a huge difference

See the previous post about lighting, and how it affects the colors in a room. This is soooo important. This is why the samples you see in Home Depot, and Sherwin Williams look amazing in the store, but completely different in your home. The color of the light, essentially blends with the color on the walls, and changes is. Pick your sample, then grab three samples that are warmer and three that are cooler, bring em home. Hold them up against every wall-Light hits each wall differently. Bring your top three back to the store, and without looking at them again in the store, have samples mixed (if you look at them in the store, you will change your mind, I promise, but this is a trick that the light plays on you)

Paint big swatches on the wall, and paint them on multiple walls. Then, make your final choice!

6) A few more rules to live by...

For darker colors-always go flat finish. This is the key to a dark color that looks rich

Always get a sample can to paint-this will save you more pain and suffering in the long run

Trim and door colors should be the same throughout the house-this ensures that your home has a cohesive style. If you have to change the trim color to coordinate with the color in a specific room, it is likely not the right color for your home.

Powder rooms are a great place to have a little fun-guests spend little time here, but the time that is spent can be colorful. Don't be afraid to have some fun, in here, and maybe, just maybe, consider some wallpaper!

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