Choosing Paint

I have a real love-hate relationship with paint: I love the results, but hate the work! It leaves you sore and kinda loopy, and always takes twice as long as you think it will. Plus, it’s a mess. There’s so much prep work and then a ton of clean-up.

That said, paint is still one of the most cost-effective ways to decorate a home and just changing the wall color can completely transform a room.

As described in my last post, most of the walls in our house were either tomato red or butter yellow, and neither fit our tastes or furniture.

When starting a paint project, the first and most important step is choosing a color. Decorators often tell you to choose a color in one of your fabrics or pieces of art, which is good advice. One of my favorite colors in my old house came from a shaded background in a photo. It was called Shale, by Martha Stewart, sold at Home Depot. My daughter chose her room’s colors by matching swatches to the pattern on a favorite pillow. Don’t be afraid to go bright! Paint isn’t permanent.

See Martha Stewart’s Shale here.

A color wheel can be a fantastic tool, too! You can use basic color theories to find complimentary colors.

Color Wheel Wiki

Also consider how and when the room is used, and the overall look and mood you want. Do you want it to be a calming color or energetic? Do you want it more sophisticated or casual? Consider the lighting, too. Does the room get sunlight or is it shaded? And for the sheen, how is the room used? Will it be a wet or dry environment? And, do you need it to be cleanable?

Visit local paint and home improvement stores for color swatches. Pick up a bunch, they’re free! Most people gravitate toward certain color groups. For me, it’s colors in the grey, blue, and green parts of the spectrum. Choose different shades of each color you like, more yellowish, more blue, etc. The colors will always look a little different in your home’s lighting than they did in the store.

When you’re home, put the swatches in several different areas of the room. Hold them up next to furniture, trim, and other materials like flooring or countertops to see how they all work together. Then, leave swatches in one area (I like to tape them to the wall) for a day or 2. Look at the colors in the morning light, and again at different times of day. Then, look at them again when it’s dark and you’re using artificial light. This will help you find the one you want to have on your walls all the time.

Once you’ve narrowed down the swatches to 2 or 3 colors, go buy some samples. They should run between $1.59 and about $6. Paint generously sized spots or squares of your colors in several areas of the room and observe the actual colors again in the different light, multiple times of day. Again, put the color samples close to trim and other materials. The actual paint may not look exactly the same as your swatch did. You may need to cover up areas around your sample to get a realistic view. The yellow on the wall in our kitchen made our gray-blues look very different until we held up paper to block the old color from view. This will help you find the one.



Once you’ve found a color, decide whether you want flat, some gloss, or glossy. My favorite sheen is satin. It has just enough gloss to be cleanable, but doesn’t look shiny like a semi-gloss or glossy paint. Most paint stores will have examples of each to show you. Glosses and semi-glosses are best for wet areas, like kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. All other indoor areas are more a matter of taste.

If the color you are painting over is darker or brighter than your new color, or is drastically different, I highly recommend either using a primer first or purchasing the paint + primer products. Expect to do 2 coats of paint + primer if you’re covering a very dark color or a red shade.

Now, use a paint calculator (on most major paint retailers’ websites) and you’re off to buy your paint.