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Picking A Paint Color: 10 Tips To Go From Boring Beige To Boldly Beautiful

Blue Paint Swatch from Behr for bathroom renovation

There is always a room in every house that is in need of an update. The easiest way to transform a room - and most cost effective - is by choosing a new wall color. This means selecting a different paint color entirely from the one that is already on the wall. Easier said than done, right? Yes, it can be an overwhelming process when you get to the store and see the many shades, tones, and variations of every color of the rainbow. Don't be afraid, paint is your friend!

Follow my 10 tips to picking your next paint color. These tips will take you from boring beige (you know you have some of that going on!) to a boldly beautiful background that sets the stage for your DIY room makeover or complete renovation!

  1. Consider what room it is: Is it a bedroom? bathroom? kitchen? Listen to your gut to gravitate to the color palettes that make sense for each type of room. This helps narrow down the multitude of choices. For example, bright fuchsia might be better used in a little girl's playroom than in your dining room. Sometimes realizing what doesn't work helps get you to what does before you take a spin on the color wheel.
  2. Think of walls in a room as the eggshell: Look at the angles, soffits, alcoves, windows, closet doors, flooring, carpets, etc. Focus on how much wall space you actually have for the new color. Often there is a lot less wall space than you think. Just like an egg, there is less shell than total contents. This should help you feel comfortable in surrounding yourself with more exciting choices.
  3. Forget the notion of a "hint of color": This translates to beige! There are an overabundance of beiges out there SO unless you are planning a creamy, monochromatic sand and white-toned room, OR have a real eye for color selection, let yourself experiment with other color options and try something new. Beige can be bland, lends itself to fading into the background, and looks old after about a week - would you want to be described this way? Then resist the urge to go the safe route with a beige... Time to break out and be bold!
  4. Have a light bulb moment: No, really... Have a light bulb moment by examining the kind of lighting in the room that exists. What will be added? Taken away? How much wattage will be in the room? Is there a layering of light sources? Look around with them all turned ON, check out the effect of the overhead light, lamps, vanity, uplighting, etc. Where are the shadows or darker areas that need some light? Most rooms need more light, and if you want to go bold, adding light is a way you can ensure the color feels welcoming and not overwhelming.
  5. Let the sun shine in: Similar to your light bulb inspection, check out the daylight that streams into the room. Will you be changing the window treatments to let in more or less light? How does the natural light, if any, move around the room? Most bathrooms these days don't have a window; if you don't, then you really need to focus on tip #4 and up the wattage.
  6. Bright white trim work: When I consult on a decor project, unless the room has a very specific challenge - like a curved ceiling - I always recommend bright white as the ceiling and trim color. It is a clean, neutral that balances against any color you pick, making that color pop, while allowing the millwork to accent the room. 
  7. Inspiration piece: This can be anything that speaks to you and helps you define your vision for the room. A picture, a trinket, a fabric, a bowl of lemons, or even something from your childhood. I picked my bedroom color from a peony in a bouquet. Usually there is something that you've held on to or that your eye is drawn to again and again. What is its color? Can you see it on the walls in your room? Maybe consider going up or down the swatch panel (see above picture) by a shade or two but staying in the same color palette. Extra tip: Try to pick an inspiration piece that you can bring to the store, if not, photograph it with the flash on and off before heading out to shop. This will help you to stay focused on your idea when you get in front of the paint selection displays.
  8. Narrow it down: When you think you know the color family - let's say blue like in the Behr paint swatch pictured above - bring home those swatches and spread them around or tape them to the walls of the project room. We want to narrow down your selection to three (3) swatches - yes, only 3! Use all the lighting sources to help you decide. Check them in the a.m, and the p.m, then eliminate the ones that are not working until you get down to 3. Remember to enlist your inspiration piece in the room as you do this step. If you haven't already, tape up the 3 competing swatches and live with the colors for about a week, then narrow it down to 2 swatches. Depending on the paint company, you could have a minimum of 6, maximum of 8 colors (between the 2 swatches) to now choose from. Next, consider eliminating the lightest and darkest colors on each swatch. AHA! Using this process of elimination, you are now down to either 2 or 4 colors!! This is getting much easier. In a recent renovation I consulted on, we used this exact process, and selected "Shipyard" from the swatch in the photo above. It was a perfect choice, not too light, and not too dark, and this was for a small bathroom. The owner went from a washed out periwinkle blue to a rich, deeply pigmented jewel-toned blue that made a dramatic difference in this bathroom. Blue paint swatches on the  bathroom wall
  9. Don't cheap out: Take your 2 or 4 colors to the store and buy the sample sizes to paint on the wall (see photo above showing "Shipyard"  and "Infinite Deep Sea" in satin and semi-gloss that the homeowner wanted to test - they both look very dark in this photo but "Shipyard" won the battle!). I usually suggest a satin finish for bathrooms and kitchens, an eggshell finish for all other rooms, and semi-gloss for the trim work. The samples may cost you an extra $20- or so and a week of time, but both are worth it. Roll out approximately a 12 x 12 inch square of each color NEXT TO each other if possible (or stack them) AND remember to write above each square what color and finish it is - this is a very simple but important tip. You want to live with the color on the wall. Give it about a week and check the colors morning, afternoon, and night. One of the shades will start to stand out as the "correct" color. 
  10. One coat or two: There are a few "one coat" paints on the market. Don't rely on this, most paint still needs two coats to really show its true color (no pun intended). If you are going bold, then go boldly beautiful, and don't panic if it seems like a lot more color when it's on the walls. Again, live with it, put a few items back into the room and let it envelope you and guide you on the completion of your room update.

Bathroom Renovation: vanity against dark blue paint

Watch out for my new Here We Are video on the "before and after" process of this bathroom project. Here is a sneak-peek picture of the "after" results so you can see the final paint color on the wall. It made such an improvement in the updating of this bathroom renovation. Remember, whether your project is a complete renovation or a simple makeover, paint creates a huge difference in a room, so enjoy the process and pick a color that you love. 

Have fun and revel in your selection of a new color. Look at magazines, online pictures, television shows to see how color is used in various settings. Don't be concerned with budget when you are getting your ideas together. Follow my 10 tips and you will be fearless on future projects. You can always write and ask me a question. I love to talk decorating! Good luck, and I hope this helps you. Let me know how your project turns out. ~ Luci

You may also like these HWA articles: 

Chandelier Lighting: Bright Light, Right Light

Walk Up To A Welcoming Front Door: 10 Tips To More Curb Appeal By Using Color



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Luci Weston

Thank you!

I totally agree about the importance of color in a room. Plus, that jar (of the color you select) is great to keep for touch ups.

Luci Weston

Thank you! I've put it all to the test, and all the tips work individually and collectively. Glad to know it will help you!

Michelle F.

Great article. The right color can have such a tremendous impact on a room and a mood. Many places now let you purchase a small jar of paint. If one can live with, say, a 2'x 2' trial block of color on a portion of wall that catches some of the various lighting elements of the space to be painted it can be extremely helpful.


A lot of practical advice for an important part of a project. I will use this list as a guide, thanks Luci.

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