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How to Pick the Perfect Paint Color

WellPaintedDinRoom400As an interior designer, the most asked questions I get are about paint color. It seems to be an area in which people feel an intense amount of distrust in their vision and ability to choose. Be true to yourself, use colors you’re extremely attracted to, and follow this advice from Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life.

Looking at paint swatches can be seriously overwhelming. There are SO many options out there for every color under the sun. Once you’ve decided on the color you want for the room, look for a color you are instantly drawn to and then consider one a shade or even two lighter and one a shade darker. Color looks very different on a small scale than it does on four big walls! Grays can look blue, and pinks and yellows are always MUCH more vibrant than the sample appears. The key is testing.

I always advise clients to buy sample pots of actual paint instead of picking from swatches alone (most swatches aren’t samples of the actual paint, after all). Apply a two-coat, 12-inch-square sample on at least two walls in the space you are painting, as each wall will get different light. Observe them in daylight, twilight, and evening light to see if the subtle color changes are ones you can live with.

The finish of paint you need depends on the space you’re painting. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:

MATTE/FLAT: Good for ceilings and rooms that don’t get a lot of traffic, as it is hard to clean.

EGGSHELL: The most popular finish for living area walls (living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, offices). Easier to clean.

SATIN: Use for high traffic or damp areas that are cleaned often, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and children’s spaces. A low-shine finish is a good choice for woodwork.

SEMIGLOSS: This is a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms due to its ability to resist humidity well. However, it does have a sheen to it. I use semigloss mostly on trim and woodwork.

HIGH GLOSS: A dramatic choice that only works if the surface you are painting is very smooth, as it reflects imperfections. Great for dramatic dark colors or woodwork.


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