Picking the Perfect Paint
In the midst of my very first meal, on the very first day, in my very first home (cold chick-fil-a on a stack of beat up boxes and a pamplemousse-flavored La Croix that I unearthed from somewhere in the depths of my backseat), I realized the magnitude of the (seemingly overwhelming) home design decisions on my plate.
Do white walls label me impossibly boring? Are grey walls going to make me look like I’m trying too hard? Will I wake up a month from now full of regret for being bold and deciding to go with color on the cabinets in our mudroom?
But let’s be honest. The pressure that accompanies finally getting what you’ve always wanted can feel paralyzing. Theoretically, I understood that paint, in the grand scheme of things, was a relatively inexpensive, easy change (and is widely considered the quickest and most cost-effective way to transform a room) - but, I was determined. Getting it right the first time was the only option.
Spoiler: I didn’t get it ALL right the first time, but I certainly learned.
Picking The Perfect Paint: Step 1
I’m honestly annoyed with how cliche I sound writing this - but throw open your closet and take a look at your wardrobe. Your taste in clothing says a lot about… well, your taste.
I wear a lot of neutral colors - BUT I also own pink Les Bonbons, yellow Stuart Weitzman ‘nudist’ block heels, and a cheeky blue and white jumpsuit waiting patiently for her grand debut on Cinco de Mayo.
You’ll likely never catch me decked head to toe in pink or yellow, but a pop of color I can handle. The same can be said for my tastes in home design.
If you need additional inspiration, browse Pinterest. I realize this particular advice is nothing new but you get the point. Inspiration is right under your nose. If you take a step back and consider the art, the flowers, the hotels you can’t wait to return to - you will likely see a few common denominators.
Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Everyone loves white these days, myself included, but if you’re all about blue (and many of you are) go for it.
When I purchased my home, every single room was painted an obscure shade of yellow. Swear. A few of the spare bedroom ceilings were even painted varying shades of grey. It was quite interesting.
One year later, and I still have dreams, nightmares really, of waking up to a sloppily painted ceiling. The horror.
Don’t get it twisted - I love yellow. And yet, a palate cleanse was needed. The time had come to put my overpriced interior design education to use. It turns out, those late nights spent in the studio worrying over tone and hue, light and value - all the tips and tricks I picked up from the pros, paid off.
I knew neutral paint colors would offer me the timelessness and longevity I was looking for in my home design. I’m in no way knocking color (I used color in our home too, more on this to come) but certain colors can easily become overused and “trendy.” I feel I should specify - relevant and trendy are two vastly different beasts.
Trendy is to be avoided at all costs.
Often, I feel neutral walls give your furniture and decor a voice they might not have otherwise had. Does that make any sense? Your husband's beloved first editions, your grandmother’s ancestral engraved napkin rings, the Louvre tickets you had framed when you got back from your honeymoon - let them take center stage. I mean, or don’t. It’s up to you.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Mashburn
There is certainly a misconception that neutral paint, while timeless, is flavorless and dull, that it lacks vibrancy or energy. I wholeheartedly disagree - and so does Ann Mashburn, by the way. Disagree with me if you like, but never - ever Ann.
Disagreeing with Ann is blasphemy.
Might I also lovingly suggest that black also be considered a neutral. Truth be told, I consider many non-stereotypical “neutral” colors to be neutral. Olive green. Various shades of blue. A range of burnt orange hues.
Picking the Perfect Paint: Step 2
I mentioned this briefly in my Paint Paralysis post, but I will repeat it because it’s crucial. Start with elements less flexible, more expensive, than a can of paint. Please - I beg you. Consider the fixed elements of your home. Hardwood floors. Interior brick or stone. Exposed beams.
Does your home have warm or cool undertones? This will affect your overall home design. If you’re starting from scratch, decide on a mood or a tone, but hold off on selecting a specific hue until you’ve purchased your investment pieces.
After finding inspiration and determining the general direction you’d like to head with your home design, you can narrow down your top paint colors by using your home’s undertones as a guide.
The undertones in the floorboards are likely the best place to start. You'll need to determine if your floors have warm or cool undertones to decide on your best design plan will be moving forward.
Determining the undertones in your hardwood floors is a piece of cake compared to determining the undertones in paint colors. See what I mean?
You'll also want to match the undertone in your paint swatches with the undertones of your existing elements - floors, brick, stone, etc. If you're looking at white paint, a great tip for determining undertone is to look at swatches online. When you can directly compare a set of whites, their undertones become more apparent.
Like when you’re squinting at a blazer trying to determine if it’s navy or black - but then you hold it up to something you’re certain is black, you’re instantly aware of just how navy it was all along.
The proof is in the paint (chips).
Picking the Perfect Paint: Step 3
When deciding on finish, take into account the purpose of the room and the level of wear and tear you can expect. Download our ultimate guide to picking the perfect paint below for the (nearly) universally agreed upon designer recommendations for picking your perfect paint finish, from the most sheen and highest durability to no sheen and low durability.
Picking the Perfect Paint: Step 4
Once you've narrowed your options down to just a handful of paint colors, it's time to paint samples on the wall - or as I mentioned my previous post, on a piece of foam board. Paint the samples on the wall, or prop up your painted poster board, so you can visualize your options in varying light.
You will be amazed how your absolute favorite is suddenly all wrong for the space. Too dark or too light or suddenly way too purple.
I say all of this to, in turn to say - do what you want. In my relatively short time on this big wide world I have come to find that very few things are black and white - both in home design and life. There are exceptions to nearly every rule.
The minute you obey them all, you’re DOA.
Design is important - but only in the sense that it should provide the ideal space for you and your loved ones to be comfortable and happy. It’s not all about beauty; it’s about confidence and style too. I want you to feel good about your home and to help you create your own style.
So - take your time, think it through, test several options before committing and trust yourself. The 4 T’s. I should license that, no?