With decades of experience in interior design, we've seen A LOT of paint color missteps.  We've curated a list of the most common pitfalls we see homeowners run into when it comes to selecting paint colors for their space, so you can avoid them, and find your perfect color!  
Picking Your Paint Color First

We often see homeowners pick the paint color first, but this should actually be one of the LAST steps.  There are four billion paint colors, but probably only a couple of rugs, pieces of artwork or upholstery that you absolutely love.  So pick those items first because the options will be so much more limited, instead of trying to reverse-engineer rugs and artwork and upholstery to work with an arbitrary paint color.

Wall Color Informing Your Samples
picking the perfect paint color

I often get the call for help when the client is at the end of their rope.  I get there and there are 400 paint colors taped to the wall, or they will have brushed a bit of the new color option onto their wall - and they are overwhelmed and incredibly frustrated.  

When paint colors are taped directly to your wall or painted on your existing wall, the existing wall color is informing all of the paint samples, which will make it absolutely impossible to truly see the color of the paint sample you're looking at.  

It is infinitely better to tape a piece of copy paper to the wall and then put the paint sample on top of that, or to paint a piece of 2’ x 3’ foam core.  Make sure you are looking at the foam core against a white backdrop, or it will be hard to see the color paint clearly.  

Pro tip: Take a look at the paint color in your space in the morning and in the evening to be sure you love it at varying light levels. 

Builder Ceiling White
settling for basic builder white paint

Often we spend all this time and energy on finding the perfect wall color, and then see homeowners just do a basic, builder “ceiling white”.  That would be like putting on an evening gown and sliding on an old, beat-up pair of flip flops on your way to the party, just because they were the shoes you came across on your way out the door.  

Builder white created by paint companies is often a lesser quality paint, and it has a blue or chalky undertone, and can skew your wall colors in a way that diminishes or cheapens the overall effect. 

Paint Sheen Level

Sheen levels are such a powerful design tool.  When you are painting trim and doors and ceilings and walls, you want to pay as much attention to the sheen level as you do to the color. 

  • For walls, we typically do a flat or eggshell finish. 
  • Flat finish paint is best for walls that are in less-than perfect condition - a higher sheen level will broadcast every dimple where your son blasted it with nerf gun assault, oh wait, maybe that is just my house.  Flat finish is also easiest to touch up. 
  • For trim, I often see clients picking something without enough sheen, particularly in historic homes, where the sheen would have typically been pretty high.  Trim for doors and windows should at minimum be a satin finish, but is even better in a semi gloss.  That sheen difference against your flat or eggshell walls is really lovely and gives your trim work a lot more depth and interest. 

Historic colors

Historic Paint Colors

When in doubt, pull out the historic collection from your paint manufacturer.  You don’t have to live in a historic home.  What is great about historic colors is that they are based on colors used in historic homes.  

Centuries ago, paint was created from natural pigments, clay, minerals, etc., and the magic for us is that the colors already have a healthy dose of gray or brown in the background as a result of these natural pigments.  That means that these colors have already been muted out a bit, and are so beautiful and easy to live with.  Often these colors will be the most likely to change in your space over the course of the day or with changing light.  Those are absolutely the best colors, because we can’t quite put our finger on them - is it blue, is it gray, is it green?  We can’t quite tell, and it is hard to get tired of a color that is nuanced and constantly changing. 

July 16, 2023

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