Interior Painting - choosing the right colors

Painting trend photos
Painting is a quick and economical way to enhance your home’s appearance. Here's help on how to freshen your walls, trim and ceilings, and quickly boost the value of your home.

Painting is a quick and economical way to enhance your home’s appearance. With interior paint, you can freshen up walls, trim and ceilings, helping make your personal space a more enjoyable place to live and entertain while quickly boosting the value of your home.

Gorgeous gray 
The go-to neutral color that’s in demand today: gray, replacing the earlier popular neutral of the beige family.

“Gray is one of the colors that has been in the marketplace for about three years now,” says Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, www.sherwin-williams.com. “It is really continuing to evolve and people are embracing it more and more. We will see that trend continue to move forward and see beige kind of take a back seat.”

“The beautiful thing about gray and, I think, why it’s so classic and endearing is because it is a really true neutral, so you can balance that out with either warmer or cooler tones in a lot of the other accents and accessories,” says Sharon Grech, a color and design expert for Benjamin Moore, www.benjaminmoore.com.

Gray also is showing up in kitchens, making for a “gorgeous” look, says Rebecca Ewing of Rebecca Ewing Color & Design, www.handsonhues.com, in Atlanta. Juliet Jones of Juliet Jones Studio, www.julietjonesstudio.com, also is noticing a new trend when it comes to colors for kitchen cabinetry. “I see a lighter color spectrum — not necessarily white or cream — with beautiful new glaze recipe colors,” Jones says. “My customers want something more unique than the typical tea-stained cabinetry.”

Also making a comeback are pastels, Grech adds. In fact, Benjamin Moore selected Lemon Sorbet as its 2013 color of the year. Pastels combined with gray, Grech says, take on “more of a sophisticated feel.”  

Set the mood
In addition to the feel that paint colors can give, they also can affect the mood in a room, or the home overall.

“For many people, a bright bold color will inspire energy, while softer more subdued tones of taupe, brown, tan, green or silver will create a more relaxing environment,” says Bill Sharp, franchise owner, CertaPro Painters, www.certapro.com. “The real trick is to find which colors trigger which emotions for each individual.”  

According to Jones, red signals romance and, in some cases, aggression. Blue-green, she says, represents tranquility, peacefulness and a free feeling. A “great accent color,” according to Jones, purple is regal, “dominates a space,” and should be paired with a lighter color “to calm it down.”

White and black, Jones continues, can be paired with any color, while pastels make a room feel light and airy.

Additionally, jewel tones, Jones believes, “are very heavy and need to be paired with lighter colors.” And while yellow reflects happiness and sunshine, it is one of the more challenging colors around which to decorate, she says.

Choose your colors
Once you know what moods colors evoke, how do you determine what colors work best in what rooms? For Ewing, the answer comes from a pair of considerations: “How do you need to feel in this space and how do you need to behave in this space? For a bathroom, a lot of people will default to it being something that repeats what’s in the master bedroom,” Ewing says. “My strategy for a bathroom is the walls, especially, need to be a color that makes skin look good. Very few people look really good in mustard. I’m never going to put mustard in a bathroom. I want something that’s going to make skin look good and make them look healthy.”

While Grech is of the mindset that “any color can go in any space,” she does offer some recommendations: blues and blue-greens for bathrooms and home offices. “If you’re staring at a computer all day, the blue-greens and greens are fantastic because they won’t interfere or distract you,” Grech says. “They won’t call your attention away from what you’re working on.”

“For a bedroom, you might want a more restful color like gray-green or gray, light blue or tan,” Jones says. “These and dark colors like bronze and brown will make the room an easier place to fall asleep.”

In kids’ bedrooms or game rooms, Jones suggests using softer colors “if your children are hyper”; brighter primary colors or bolder colors if the youth are a bit more on the passive side. And, let’s not forget Dad. “For a man cave,” she says, “use earth tones.”

Finishing touches
When deciding on best colors for different rooms, be careful not to overlook finish or sheen. Finishes include flat, eggshell, satin, semi gloss and glossy.

The beauty of flat paint is that it will hide imperfections in your wall,” Jordan says. “Eggshell — probably one of the most-popular finishes — has a nice subtle sheen to it.” Eggshell also is more durable and “slightly trickier to touch-up,” Sharp adds, while also tending “to highlight poor construction or other defects in a wall.” 

Glossier finishes such as satin and semi gloss, professionals say, work better in high-traffic areas or areas where regular cleaning may be needed. Satin typically is not recommended for interior use.

“The finish should be based on function of the room,” Ewing says. “I never use flat on anything other than a ceiling, for it chalks if you try to wipe it off. It gives a soft, matte finish. At the other end, glossy is a hard finish, therefore more durable. Despite being ideal for trim and high-traffic or high-kick areas (the wall beneath a breakfast bar, for example), I rarely use high gloss because it tends to make antiques and organic colors look drab. I much prefer satin or semi-gloss instead. They are only a bit less durable, [and] much less glaring. For walls, I use eggshell, pearl or satin — eggshell for most rooms, and pearl or satin for walls that [you’ll need to scrub].” 

Get inspired
If you’re looking for inspiration or even to get an idea of the color of your paint choices before applying, you’ll find a wealth of resources online.

“All of the color companies offer a way to look at a photo of a room (or upload your own) and change the wall, ceilings and trim colors,” Ewing says. “It’s really quite cool. It is, however, only for reference. Never select a paint color from a computer monitor! Get the actual chips or, better yet, paint a swatch or sample board. The real thing may be similar to what you see on your screen, but it will never be an exact match.”  

Sharp echoes that sentiment. “I much prefer to get larger samples of the actual color up on the walls, and even still must always accept that the only real way to see what it will look like in the space is to paint the whole room.”

Ewing suggests www.design-seeds.com as a resource for inspiration. Some of the online tools from Sherwin-Williams include ColorSnap Studio for iPad, through which you may take a photo of a color you like and match that color to a Sherwin-Williams color or virtually paint a room; and Color Visualizer, where you may upload a photo and drag and drop a color or use a brush to paint. Benjamin Moore offers the Color Capture app that allows you to snap a picture of a color that catches your eye then find the paint company’s match. 

“The main thing to keep in mind is that it is your home,” Jones recommends. “Make it yours. Make sure to keep the colors transitioning from room to room. You want to make the overall tonality of the house come off well.” 

Ask an Expert 

Q: If I am painting my walls do I need to paint my trim?

A: It depends on budget but it really finishes off a room professionally. Most of the non-trim jobs we complete are followed up with trim work. You might not notice it, but the trim in houses with multiple kids is in desperate need of a touchup. It likely has shoe scuff marks and nicks from moving or carpet installation. The trim is doing its job by protecting the walls and sealing the wall and floor connection.
Scott Specker, owner, Five Star Painting

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