Deciding what color to paint your home’s interior can be challenging. Swatches from the paint store may not precisely represent the way certain colors would look in your house, and the sheer number of available paint colors can be overwhelming. Luckily, certified color expert Kate Smith
has distilled the process of choosing colors into manageable steps, which she explains in her Squidoo lens “7 Steps to the Perfect Paint Colors for Your Home’s Interior.” Her tips, though fairly simple, can help you figure out what’s most important in your quest for the right colors.
Like Shakespeare, Smith advises: Know thyself. To her, this means thinking about favorite colors and styles. If none come to mind, it may be time to start what she calls a “style file” – a collection of magazine clips and other images of color schemes and design choices that appeal to you on a gut level. The next step is to search for commonalities among the images. Are you consistently attracted to warm colors? Bright colors? Neutrals? This technique can effectively clue you in to your unconscious preferences.
As an interior designer, Smith understandably wants people to pay attention to the space they’re working with. Some furnishings and other elements of a room are permanent, while others are so important that you’d hate to move them. Take these into account, Smith recommends, and then focus on how you want the room to feel. Keeping both factors in mind, rule out color families that wouldn’t work in the space, then choose one or two that might. Smith notes that a color scheme must harmonize with preexisting décor, but it doesn’t have to match everything exactly.
If you’re still stumped, look for sources of color inspiration. Smith has several different color lenses; in them, she playfully lists 26 potential sources, one for each letter of the alphabet. Her list includes both the expected – art, books, fashion – and the unexpected, like gardens, quilts, travel, and fall leaves.
Smith, like many designers, sees mood as a vital component of color. She gives the example of a young girl who wants her room to be pink, and her mother, who wants the room to inspire restfulness. In Smith’s opinion, a color and a desired mood are, together, an excellent basis for choosing the right shade of paint. She provides examples of other moods – like warm, welcoming, and energizing – that people strive to create in their homes. Smith also suggests picturing your family in the rooms you want to paint, and then imagining the feeling you want those rooms to have.
Going to the paint store with a few color families in mind is great, but two other variables matter as well. The first is lightness or darkness; the second, brightness or dullness. While the former refers to the composition of a color, the latter concerns its intensity. If you’re still confused, a quick chat with a paint-store employee should clear things up.
Speaking of the paint store: Smith advises three separate trips. This may seem like overkill – can’t you just go once, make the decision, and be on your way? – but she wisely observes that many people who make only one trip end up unhappy with the color they choose. Not surprisingly, a considerable percentage of the house paint sold in shops is intended to correct a previous wrong choice.
The first trip, Smith says, is about picking out swatches. Arrive with a few color families in mind, and perhaps with some magazine clips and fabrics for reference. Select a range of swatches; if you’re interested in green, choose several shades. Any color will look different in your house than it does at the store.
On the second trip, pick up some paint to sample. Once you get home, you can put it on large cards, and then hold the cards against various walls in the room to be painted (or even attach it). This will help you better understand how the colors would look in the room’s natural and artificial light, and at different times of day. Finally, on the third trip to the paint store, you can commit to a color and buy enough of it to complete the project.