Column: Color and your corner of the world

paint pot and swatches

Wall color … it is as easy as picking a pretty color on a strip, right?

Not at all. Color is a make it or break it element of any space. Get it wrong and you either live with the constant reminder or pay the price to repaint. Get it right and everything looks and feels better in a room.

I have witnessed even the most opinionated of homeowners turn into a quivering “color weenie” when faced with the magnitude of this selection. At face value, it all seems so simple, but soon into the process even the savvy can be heard mumbling, “Just paint it neutral.”

Before succumbing to “neutral” nothing color, consider the following questions and answers.

What is the best way to select a color? 

First of all, don’t depend on color advice from your paint store professional. That individual, while he or she knows paint, does not know your home, the elements, your lighting, and your design goal. Instead, determine a palette by considering existing furniture, window treatments, and accessories. Identify the colors that repeat and you have identified a palette.

Color chips from the paint store are just the beginning of the story as they are really a “suggestion” of color. These chips are not actual paint … they are printed on paper and can change dramatically when transformed into paint.

 The color and sheen must be observed in daylight, artificial light and at night.

 Before you allow even a drop of paint to touch a wall, purchase a quart in the desired sheen and roll it on white poster board. If rolled directly on the wall to be painted, the current color will interfere with the visual processing of the new color.

Will the paint look lighter or darker once the room has been painted? 

Over a larger surface area, most colors appear somewhat darker. Also, undertones will be far more obvious when painted on a larger surface! Undertones can be pinks, yellows, grays, and browns. Study the color and determine the undertone to insure that there is not a conflict with flooring, ceiling color, etc. Your paint store professional should be able to give you an idea of the undertone by sharing the tints that go into creating a color.

How do colors affect the perception of a room’s size? 

In general, strong, warm colors like reds, oranges and yellows tend to close a space. These colors are known as advancing colors because they jump out and meet the eye. Receding colors like blue, green and violet tend to make a room look larger because they stand back visually. Remember, these are generalities and just because a color tends to close a space does not make it the wrong choice.

Another way to think about the issue of size is to think of deep saturated colors as cozier … a room painted with a mid to deep tone is like putting a warm coat on in the dead of winter. Light colors are breezier. Consider your goal and remember that the room dimensions do not really change based on color.

What color should the ceiling be painted? 

While it is customary to paint ceilings white or off-white, simply skipping to the lightest color on the color strip will provide a ceiling color that is interesting and complimentary to the wall color. This works well in rooms that lack interesting architectural details and moldings.

Medium colors from your color strip will allow fabulous moldings to shine with contrast.

Dark colors will create the illusion of lowering the ceiling, which can create a cozy look if the ceiling is higher than usual.

Color is the most direct path to a fabulous room. So relax and start painting.

Vicky Earley

Vicky Earley is the principal designer for Artichoke Designs located in downtown Carmel. If you have an interior design question, please contact

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.