Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five Steps to Choosing Paint Colors

by Sheila

Paint is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to transform a space.  As some of you know, I am in the process of updating a new investment property to turn it into a Vacation Rental.  One of the biggest changes I will make (in terms of overall visual impact) is painting every square inch of the interior, and some of the exterior.  The tricky part is selecting the right color(s).  Here are some of my suggestions to consider when selecting paint.

1.  Look for inspiration.  This might be a fabric that combines colors you love, art that is hanging on your walls, or a photograph that speaks to you.  Take this with you to the paint store to help you begin your color selection.
This pillow is my inspiration for the downstairs bedroom.  Paint color is Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams (sometimes looks blue, sometimes green).
2.  Start a board on Pinterest. I started one specifically for design ideas for my investment property (called Cairo Design Ideas)  and I put my color and other design ideas all together here.  I can add to this and browse for inspiration whenever I need it, and it is all at my fingertips.
My Pinterest Board for this house project.  I have become a Pinterest junkie.  We learned at Blog World Expo that the average person spends one hour and seventeen minutes on this site at a time.  Wow!
3.  Bring paint swatches home and tape them up in the actual room you are painting.  You will often see differences in paint that you didn't see in the store.  Does that beige color look too pink or too green in this room?  Eliminate it.  Too light or dark?  Keep in mind that color intensifies when you paint an entire wall or room, so when in doubt, go lighter.  Also, you can have the paint store mix a color you like with 25% or 50% less intensity, making it a lighter shade.  I sometimes do this with my samples (see #4), custom mixing a color I really like, and then have the paint store color match it. We recently visited my son and daughter-in-law in the house they have just moved into in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She has mixed her own paint color and has the formula saved with Sherwin Williams under her name "Margo".  This is a great idea!  Lowe's will save your paint formulas also with their "My Lowe's card".  They need to scan the paint bar code and the color mix bar code in order to for this to work, so keep an eye on this when you are checking out.  
Yes, I really did go through all of this to pick a very neutral color; Benjamin Moore's Muslin.

4.  Once you have narrowed down your choices, get samples made of the possibilities you are considering.  Don't skip this step.  They only cost around $3 and it will save you time and money in the long run, by helping you select a color you really like.  Paint these samples either on a large poster board that you can move around to look at on different walls, or use my method and just paint a large swatch right on the wall.  Hey, this means I better get the job done, so I don't have to look at splotches on my walls!  The color will look completely different depending on the light and the other colors in the room, so this will help you decide. 

Can you tell this room needed paint?  What a yucky orange-brown!

5.  Buy quality paint.  I like Valspar (Lowes) paint & primer in one, Behr paint & primer (Home Depot) for wall paint and Benjamin Moore Advance for trim.  My daughter, Elizabeth is a serial painter (like me) and she recommended this Benjamin Moore paint which I really like.  I recommend you select one paint color for trim throughout your house and stick with it.  It unifies the space and makes touch-ups easier.  There are other good options as well, but these tend to be my go to selections for paint.
This paint dries very hard and goes on smooth.  My only complaint is that with the dark colors in this house, it is taking two coats.  Way more time and money!

On our recent visit to see my son and daughter-in-law, we painted the living room in their new home. We changed it from a dark red to her very own color mixed "Margo" paint.  It transformed the space from a dark, bold room to a light, open, welcoming space that works much better with their furniture and style.   

Margo's formula for the color named after her!

The supplies...

Margo & Ty's dark red living room "before"

Margo at work.  We used Lowe's Valspar paint & primer (yes, they color matched from the formula we gave them)  and it covered beautifully in one coat! 

The rest of the crew at work.  Tyler and David are the roller operators.  I think Charlotte is attempting to paint Papa's leg.

The youngest painter in the crowd - my granddaughter Charlotte.  How could we have managed without her?

Color selection made - it's time to get to work.  See my blog posts I Love Paint I and I Love Paint Part II for more info on painting and let your transformation begin!


  1. Fabulous to have a whole team painting!
    I love some coloured walls in my house and currently I am thinking of repainting my living room. Often I only paint single walls like around the dining area or bed to give it special attention or accentuate these areas.

    Annette | Lady of Style

  2. Great tips, Shiela! I actually have my bedroom painted navy blue after falling in love with a quilt that was given to me as a gift. Everything from the walls to a few new pieces of decor followed after that. That said, it was really cool to see your whole family get in on the painting action. I'm sure that made everything even more fun. :)