How I Pick A Perfect Paint Color

How I Pick A Perfect Paint Color

There are a million guides on the internet to helping you pick a paint color. If you're a patient, detail-oriented person you can buy a ton of paint samples, paint swatches on your walls, consider your light and exposure, and look at the swatches at different times of the day. This is all good advice!

But I am not a patient person and I think the definition of insanity is trying to decide between different shades of white paint. Picking paint colors makes me think of this clip from the 1948 movie "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House." The wife spends like ten minutes describing the exact shades of butter yellow and soft white and cornflower blue she wants, and when she leaves the painter is like, "Yellow. White. Blue."

So usually I try to pick a classic color that isn't wildly too dark or too bright for the room, and not stress too much over the exact shade. In many respects, painting the wrong color is one of the easiest mistakes to fix, and if you stick to popular paint colors you're unlikely to go wrong.

For white paint, I like Benjamin Moore's White Dove (the color I painted my bedroom), Simply White, or Decorator's White. This Elle Decor article has a good overview of white paints if you're looking for inspiration. One thing to keep in mind with white rooms is that if you're going for a Scandanavian all-white vibe, make sure your room has enough natural light to make it work. If your room is small and dark, as this article details, white paint is probably not a great call -- it will make the room look dingy and sad.

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

So if you want color? Picking up a 3,000 sample paint book is another surefire way to go insane as well. I like fewer, better choices for all things, but paint colors in particular.

If I'm looking for colored walls, I head directly to Farrow & Ball. A British paint company with only 132 colors to choose from, they make expensive but gorgeous paint that looks timeless with any style. 

Even if you're a renter and don't want to spring for Farrow & Ball paint, it's easy to pick a color you like and have your hardware store match it with a less expensive brand. People have also published guides to finding a lower priced version, like this one

My bedroom used to be Farrow and Ball Cornforth White, which is a really pretty grey:

I'm obsessed with Ginny MacDonald's living room, which is Blackened by Farrow & Ball, and her dining room, which is Stiffkey Blue:

As I mentioned before, I'm dying to paint a room dark charcoal, like Downpipe here:

Photo by Farrow and Ball

Photo by Farrow and Ball

Or Hague Blue:

Photo via  Cote Maison

Photo via Cote Maison

Or Elephant's Breath, the prettiest grey:

Photo via  Olai Furniture

Photo via Olai Furniture

Or this pale shade of pink called Pink Ground:

Photo via  Domino Magazine

Photo via Domino Magazine

To me, all of these colors are classic and beautiful, and as long as you like the color itself, it's hard to imagine a room where they wouldn't look great.

Finally, when I think I've narrowed down a few colors, I head to Pinterest to see what they look like in real life. Pinterest is amazing for showing you at least a handful of rooms painted in any popular paint color. Make sure to click through for the source to double-check that it's actually painted the color you're after, but it can be a great way to see a variety of rooms.

Usually you can see both professionally painted rooms in that color, and poorly-lit kitchens in the same color. Making sure there isn't a huge difference between the two can be helpful. Here's an example of results for when I search "Farrow and Ball Hague Blue":

The only downside is that suddenly you'll want a brass shower head, or a dark library with a leather chair.

Next week, I'll break down how to paint an entire room once you've picked your color, from sourcing supplies to finishing touches, all in the course of a weekend.

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