Interior Decorating Information

The Stress-Free Way to Add Color to Your Walls

Looking for the most impact from a small decorating budget? Or are you tired of the 'builder's white' that is still on your walls since the house was built? Painting walls a color other than white can be both exciting and daunting, here's how to do it and get the job done without having an anxiety attack!

Painting Walls with Color is Addictive!

It's true. Just as many women find that cutting off their long hair releases some hidden desire to cut it shorter and shorter, painting with color can become addictive and you will crave color - bolder and more distinctive.

You can take advantage of this common phenomenon by choosing a softer, more muted color for one room and building your confidence. Soon you will be making trips back to the paint store with more confidence and know-how.

The truth is, color does not have to be dark or jump out at you to have an effect. Selecting tinted whites (not necessarily pastel) can be a great start. For a bit more drama, choose a tinted beige or gray. These colors, while neutral (beige or tan for warm looks and gray for cool) have hundreds of slight variations in the undertones which can mean more yellow, red, blue or green depending on the light and surroundings.

Some paint stores can provide you a 'true gray' color swatch which will be composed of only black and white. Ask for this swatch as it may not be discernable in a sea of color swatches. Compare the swatch to other grays and you will notice that some have hints of lavender, blue or green that may become even more pronounced when you get home. You do want some undertone as this is what gives the room a vibrancy that straight gray could never do, but just be sure it's the tone you want.

Trust Your Instinct

Do not worry that you aren't coming home with the 'perfect' color. There is no single wall color that is or isn't right for the look of your home. Keeping in mind the look you want - either cool and airy, or warm and cozy - is quite enough to get started. You now have about a thousand colors to choose from.

What I've found personally, and friends have confirmed, is that going with your instinct tends to be the best deciding factor. If you are not going to take the time to paint large test areas in your home and view them in different lights (a technique employed by interior decorators) than choose the color that draws you the most. Our experiences confirmed that we were most happy when using the color we originally chose from the swatch or from an object we liked, rather than trying to apply too many design rules to our decision.

Many people assume that they should go one or two shades lighter than the color swatch they've chosen assuming the color will intensify on the walls. I've heard decorators both confirm and deny this rule. If you really are torn between two or three, then consider buying test cans of each and trying them out. Otherwise, when choosing color for your own home, you probably won't go wrong choosing the color you like the most.

If you still can't decide, than try a program like the one at swatchit: Using a photo of your room you can view different wall colors before making your choice.

Lighting and Color References

The only design trick you should likely consider is the lighting coming into your home. Eastern light can wash out colors, so intense colors work well in this light. Western light intensifies color, so toned down wall colors may work best unless you want the full drama. Southern light warms a room while northern light cools.

If you don't want your rooms to look like an icebox, then you'll wan to be careful using blues and grays in a northern lighted room. However, using blues and grays with lavender or green undertones may reduce the effect if that is your chosen color scheme. The same with Southern light - yellow and red based colors will intensify and cause the room to sizzle with heat. You may choose green or even use beige with cool undertones, to reduce the effect and still be using warm colors.

If the outdoors has a lot of trees or water, you must also anticipate that the green or blue will reflect into the home and affect your color choice.

How Color Helps

Color is a great way to disguise other design flaws. Even a deep beige or grey can immediately give your room a pulled together look that cannot be easily achieved otherwise. If you have white walls, everything (and I do mean everything) stands out because of the contrast.

If you have a home full of designer furnishings or antiques then shades of white may be perfect in highlighting your collection. If, like the rest of us, you are putting together some discount furniture with a selection of special pieces, then you don't want every piece showcased. A darker wall removes the contrast and will cause the eye to view the room as a whole rather than jump from piece to piece. This will also give a cleaner, less distracting appearance to the room.

Color also sets a mood. As discussed in reference to lighting, color can give a cool, airy look or a warm, cozy feel. It also adds your personality to the room, giving visitors an instant impression about you. What do your walls say about you?

Shannon Emmanuel is a freelance writer avid home decorating enthusiast. You can find great sources for your home or office decor projects at

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