Pro Tips For Choosing a Color Scheme You Can Live With…And Love!

Color is a power which directly influences the soul.

Wassily Kandinsky

Cool, calm and serene. Bright, bold, and energizing. Classic. Modern. Cool. Warm.

When it comes to paint colors, the choices are literally endless. And once you’ve settled on a color family, you’re faced with differentiating all the shades and hues. Don’t stress about choosing paint colors. With a little bit of thought and some good resources, you’ll find a color combo you love.


What’s your personal style? Your closet can be a great indicator when it comes to choosing paint colors. Do you love a riot of bright colors, warm accents, and eclectic patterns? Your paint choices will probably be similar. If your wardrobe is mostly neutral tones and clean lines, a palette of cool grays, tans, and creams may suit you best. Maybe you like to stick with neutrals with a few pops of bright jewel tones. In that case, a bold accent wall might be the right choice for you.

On the exterior, pay attention to your neighbors. Some neighborhoods – especially in historic districts – may have strict covenants that restrict your choices. Even if yours doesn’t (most don’t), you’ll want to take note of your neighborhood’s style. If you’re surrounded by traditional suburban homes with classic palettes, bright pink may be a bit too bold. Live in a funky downtown district with eclectic architecture? That same pink paint shade might be just the ticket to make your home – and your style – stand out.


When it comes to choosing paint colors, it pays to have a little patience and plan ahead. Whether you’re looking for exterior colors, interior colors, or both, you should pay attention to the natural light during different times of day and different weather patterns. The same paint can look quite different depending on the quantity and quality of sunlight that hits it. Almost every painter with a little experience has found themselves facing a homeowner who is certain that they used the wrong paint. In most cases, it’s not a mistake, just a trick of the light.


If your home receives lots of bright, unfiltered sunlight (we’re looking at you, Florida), you can safely go bright and bold. All that intense sunlight will wash out the colors a bit, making them appear more muted in life than they appear on the chip. In many coastal locations, you’ll see these brighter hues – especially blues and coral shades – inside and out. Neutrals also work in well-lit environments as well. Keep in mind that a light gray or cream shade may appear virtually white when flooded with sunlight, so you may need to choose a more saturated hue to achieve your desired effect.


A home surrounded by large trees or otherwise sheltered from the sun will often look best with a more subtle palette. If a bright color is calling you, consider choosing a slightly muted shade of the same color. Neutrals can also be a great option, but remember that some shades of gray and beige can look drab when used in a low-light environment. If those colors appeal to you, focus on light, bright versions that will help reflect all the available light you’ve got.


When you think about light affecting paint colors, consider that it’s not just the quantity of light that matters, but also the direction it comes from. Good decorators pay attention to the exposures of the home when choosing color schemes and specific shades. Thinking like a decorator can help you fine-tune your choice and maximize your natural light:

  • Northern exposures: Light in these rooms is often blue-toned and cool and bluish. Bolder colors perform well; light colors can look very subdued.
  • Eastern exposures: East light starts out warm and sunny, then transitions to a bluer light in the afternoon. Warm tones – including reds, oranges, and yellows – work well here.  
  • Southern exposures: Almost any color looks great in a room flooded with coveted southern light. Dark colors will pop and lighter colors will appear luminescent.
  • Western exposures: The warm evening light in Western-facing rooms is lovely, lending a warm glow to the walls. In the morning hours, low levels of light can make mute and dull the colors.
Paint colors can change as the natural light changes.
The quality and quantity of sunlight can affect the way your paint color appears


Painting the exterior of your home white can make it appear larger, while darker colors can have the opposite effect. If you have a very large home situated on a small lot, choosing a darker shade for the exterior will visually ground your home and make it appear more proportional. If you have a tiny cottage, painting it white will give it presence and make it pop from the landscape.

The same relationships generally hold true on the the interior of your home. Small rooms often feel less “closed-in” when painted in light shades. Conversely, darker hues are great for creating feelings of coziness. They can be very useful for defining rooms in modern open floor plans.


Think about the architectural details of your home, and use your paint color choices wisely. If you have a gorgeous Victorian with amazing trim details, consider a bold or contrasting trim color that really makes that trim work stand out. On the flip side, if there are details you’d rather hide, choose trim paint within the same color family. Low contrast combinations will help disguise anything you don’t love about your home.

Don’t forget about trim and architectural details on the interior of the home. If you have high quality mouldings, unusual architectural details, or built-ins you want to emphasize, choose bold, eye-catching hues or high contrast color schemes. If you’re stuck with a dated fireplace surround or other details that aren’t appealing, pick a palette that de-emphasizes those elements.


No matter what colors you’re drawn to, we always recommend testing large swatches of your choices on the actual walls you’ll be painting. Many paint companies sell sample pots just for that purpose, but if your color isn’t available in a sample size, it’s worth purchasing a quart to avoid a costly mistake. Evaluate the color at different times of day and during cloudy and sunny days. That gray that looks perfect in the paint store might look purple on your wall, while the blue that seems too bright on the chip might make your home sing. Live with the swatches a few days if you can, and solicit input from friends and family.


If choosing paint colors makes your head spin or your blood pressure spike, rest assured that help is available. Pinterest and Houzz are great resources for inspiration, as are interior design blogs and home design magazines. Consider hiring an interior decorator to help you finalize your choices. You may be surprised by the affordable price if your project is relatively limited in scope. If you’ve chosen a great local painting contractor, check with them for design resources. Some contractors have designers on staff who can advise clients.


Paint can transform your home and breathe new life into your spaces. With a little research, some patience and planning, and the right help, you can de-stress, avoid mistakes, and enjoy the process of finding the right colors for home.

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