Choosing paint colors without losing your mind

Joan Fieldstone

September 10, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Home ImprovementPaintingInterior Design

Painting an open plan, two-story house can pose all sorts of difficulties. Just picking paint colors can be enough to test the patience and sanity of emotionally stronger individuals than myself. I blogged about the challenges I had choosing paint colors two years ago.

As if that wasn't enough reason to leave the rest of the walls the uninspiring shade of builder's white the whole house was painted when I bought it, I have been thinking lately about the day when I will put my home on the market - meaning, it's time to finish the paint job I started and cover some of the personalized colors I chose then as well as the poor-quality paint the builder used. How poor is the original paint? Well, I once tried to wipe a mark off the wall, and the paint came with it - right down to the drywall. In other words, new paint was inevitable.

It's just a matter of choosing some nice neutrals that go with the colors I'd like to keep on the walls while I still live here. I was once pretty happy with the few colors I'd chosen and painted on the walls of the two-story living room, the adjoining open kitchen and dining room, foyer, and the first landing of the U-shaped staircase.

After all, I'd spent weeks deliberating on which of those lovely colors to choose, testing samples and spending so much time in the Home Depot paint department that I wondered if the paint guy thought I was stalking him. As my BFF told him on our recent recon mission for paint, "We're ba-aaaaack!" I'm not sure whether he smiled or grimaced. Certainly he was surprised to see us again so soon. More surprising, however, was that we were pulling paint chips in neutrals - taupe, tan, even - no joke - beige. I like beige even less than I like white.

50 shades of beige

Switching to a neutral palette that works with some of the colors I already have seems to be the wisest way to go to entice those hypothetical future buyers. At least that is the logic that urged me to have BFF wall-test paint colors ranging from Classic Taupe and Sonoran Desert to Almond Latte and Rice Crackers. It also made me wonder what kind of rice crackers the folks at Behr eat because this color had way more pink tone than the customary tan of the rice crackers I'm familiar with. However, when I saw the sample on the wall in the morning light, it seemed browner than it did the previous afternoon.

neutral paint

how to pick paint

And that is the problem with choosing paint, especially when you have a home with lots of natural light. Some of the color test patches on the wall look very, very light during daylight but take on a richer hue in the evening. Before making a decision on paint colors, BFF suggested I change the fluorescent lamps in my kitchen fixture to a cooler spectrum that was more like daylight. Big mistake! The house took on an eerie glow. I had to put back the old, soft white fluorescents that were much more subdued for the adjoining living spaces.

It occurs to me that many people just go to the nearest discount or dollar store and buy a few cans of whatever is on sale. No need to decide on color, just pick whatever is available for the cheapest cost. I'm so frazzled by trying to pick neutral colors that I've actually thought about just painting the whole house white again, but if I have to live in an all-white house for any length of time…

In that case, I might consider an LED lighting system like Phillips hue. Then, I could control the light and change the colors of each room to suit my mood no matter what the time of day. But I can't imagine what it would be like looking at everything - and everyone - bathed in, for example, green light. Talk about an eerie glow!


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