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The Recipe For How To Get The Perfect Wall Color

Recipe For Selecting Wall ColorPicking a paint color or selecting wallpaper is not quite as easy as apple pie, but then making a great tasting apple pie isn’t all that easy either.   This is where following a recipe comes in handy and why I’m here to help you.  Wall color selection Do'sWall color selection Don'tsOne of the hardest parts about picking a wall color, especially a paint color is to avoid gravitating to only the colors you love.  No I’m not kidding.  This simple mistake can trip you up every time.  Even as an interior designer I have to resist the gravitational pull towards the “pretty colors.”   It could be a color which is lighter, darker, a different hue or a color which is not obvious.  Sometimes your gut will tell you, but you have to listen.

This can take a turn for the absolute worst when a color or wallpaper is picked, just because:

…I love it

…It is beautiful in my friend’s house, on Pinterest, in a magazine, etc.

…I always wanted a (fill in the color) room

No, no, no, all bad reasons to lead with for picking a color.  One of two things usually happens after the wall color is up, nothing coordinates with it or it practically screams at whomever enters the room.   This is not to say if you like blue you can’t have a blue room.  But do not trot off to the paint store and pick a color based on absolutely nothing but the beating of your heart.   (Doesn’t work for a spouse either.)

The wall color of a room HAS TO go with something.  It has to be BASED ON something.  This is why one of the first things to do is determine what is going to be the star or focal point in the room.  Every room has one and they can be different for everyone.  Often the star of your show is a piece of artwork, possibly a key fabric used on furniture or draperies, a fabulous decorative rug, some item or object is the catalyst for choosing the wall color.

This gets a little tricker with highly patterned or graphic wallpapers because in the right location these can be like the guest star of the room, not the star but guest star.  Walls should not be the only thing one see’s in a room, otherwise the room could basically be empty and be a success.  This doesn’t work, does it. Kitchen wall color blends away as it shouldIn this kitchen the walls match the cabinetry so they blend away and do not become more important than they should be.  The star in the kitchen is the bountiful meals which are created, everything else is background.

By now you can understand why a wall color is not the first choice in decorating a room, more often than not it is the last selection.  Unless again we are talking about highly pattered wallpaper, but even then are you really going to build a room around a wallpaper?  Beautiful walls enhance the artThis wallpaper is a bold pattern, but the art and colors found in the pieces are clearly the stars.

This next point may be hard to digest and only because I live it on a daily basis, can I promise you it works.  The right wall color may just be a color you do not particularly care for.  Remember when we were talking about the star and the focal point above?   Anything selected for a room needs to be weighted visually for how it enhances for detracts from the star.

The right wall colorTry to imagine this room with hot pink walls to match the flowers in the sofa cushions (stars) or painted the vibrant green or the purple.  Ewe!   The walls, ceiling, carpet and main body of the sofa are all the exact same color of yawn-able taupe (gag me) but this is what works.

If there is a point worth beating into anyone’s head is to don’t solicit or listen to advice from the wrong people.

Want to watch an interior project slide off a cliff?  Even in a designer’s world a project can come to a screeching halt because someone’s friend, mother, brother, the cable guy, the housekeeper or anyone else not 100% invested in the specific details of a room renders their opinion.   Without knowing all the parts of the recipe, one can’t weigh in with a relevant opinion.  It doesn’t matter if your mother doesn’t like cayenne red, if it works for your home and with all the components in the room for the right reasons, mom’s opinion is, though well intended, meaningless. Fabric is the star not wallsThe same can be said for viewing a color online or in print, even if one see’s the name of the paint color – don’t trust it.  If you’ve ever edited a photo on your computer or used filters on your Instagram photos to enhance a color you understand how a color can be manipulated digitally.  Any color, every color or wallpaper has to be sampled in the desired space, WITH the appropriate lighting at varying times of the day.

If you follow these do’s and don’ts as your recipe for selecting a wall color, the next time you need to choose a wall color it will be as easy as baking an apple pie.


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4 Responses to The Recipe For How To Get The Perfect Wall Color

  1. Well said, Lisa. And it can’t be said enough. Paint is plentiful and relatively cheap.

    It’s also a matter of logistics. There are millions (literally) of paint selections. There may be only one, ONE, copy of your piece of art. It is so much easier to work with paint than with piece of art when trying to make things look right.

    Same with rugs. Do the rug first. Then you can grab a book as thick as the IRS code full of paint samples to build the room. Doing the opposite can take years off your life. Trying to find a rug to match a paint color????

    Here’s our take on it. Build Your Room Design on the Rug.

  2. Harry you are so right! Too often people work backwards by trying to find a rug, a piece of art or fabric to match a paint color is. This is putting the cart before the horse. I love the “take years off your life” comment, makes everything so much harder. Paint is last, should be last, must be last – unless one likes to make hard work out of what can be really easy.


  3. Totally agree with Harry – well said!

    You are so right when you say that a color should be sampled in the room with the correct lighting at different times throughout the day. Oftentimes, it has to be sampled on every wall in a room, because the angle of the lighting affects the color as well. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “It looked great on the swatch .” of “It doesn’t look like the swatch”, when in fact it is the same color. It may take a bit more time and effort on the front end, but it saves LOADS of frustration, regret, money and as Harry mentioned “years off your life” on the back end!

    On another note, love the room using Chiang Mai Dragon. Funny – A few weeks ago I pulled the same combo of fabrics for a project I’m working on. I must show my client your pic!

  4. Very few people can get away with not sampling a color. There is a whole science involved when one adds in lighting, the angle of the sun in their geographical location, what is going on outside their window, objects in a room which absorb or reflect light. People will ask me all the time the specific color of an item or room on the blog and I caution them very heavily. I once, only once, bought a rug from only an online photo only to end up returning it because IRL the colors were not the pretty ones I saw online.

    Thanks for your comments Jeanne!

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