Planning on painting a room in your home? Don't forget your compass!

Paint selection, although not often discussed here, is often a big part of my projects. Painting a room or several rooms is a big decision, but just a reminder, it's just paint! If the color doesn't work, you can switch it out easily and quickly, so don't treat this as a life or death decision, because it's not.  

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I own a rental unit and I, or more accurately my contractors, did some light renovations on the unit during a turnover in tenants. I thought this would be a great opportunity to show how the right paint color can truly transform a room, and to discuss how to choose the right one. There are a million sources on the internet for the best white paints, best green paints, etc., this post isn't about showcasing the best paints of any color, but just some general considerations and principles I use when helping my clients to choose the right colors for their rooms. 

Here we go! Here is the rental unit before. I believe it was painted in Benjamin Moore's White Dove throughout. Excuse the floors, we just had some old carpet removed, so now you can admire our subfloors. 

Time to use a compass. 

When I walk into a room to help a client decide on a paint color, the first thing I pay attention to is which way the room is facing. If you don't know, now you have an excuse to finally use the compass feature on your phone. The direction that a room's windows face and the resulting natural light can have a strong influence on how any given paint color will look in that room. That paint chip from the paint store can look very different in a south or east facing room versus a north or west facing room. Of course there are caveats - if your south facing room has a large tree that blocks most of the natural light or an extended porch, the general rules regarding paint for south facing rooms won't apply. 

This rental unit is a first floor unit with all windows pointing north. Although it does get great natural light for a north facing unit, the amount of light it receives is somewhat limited. White Dove by Benjamin Moore is a great white color, a go-to for many designers, but in this lighting, it looks a little sad and grey. It's not bringing the best out of this room.  

For my own projects, I have an affinity for white and gray rooms, and often choose those colors in south and east facing rooms that receive an abundance of natural light throughout the day. The challenge for most of my clients that have north or west facing rooms is that they crave the look of the light and bright living areas they see in shelter magazines and blogs, but in practice white can look sad in their space. 

I'm going to depart from the conventional advice given on the internet and elsewhere to go with a darker color or a paint color with yellow tones. Dark colors in a room can work, and can be very lovely, but maybe it's not your cup of tea. Similarly, colors with yellow undertones can quickly look dated. Most of my clients have a more modern bent that yellow-hued paints don't always match.  

If you have a north or west facing room and want a light and bright space, choose a pale neutral color and forgo the white. Just be aware that the light received by a north facing room can be especially cool, so green and blue undertones are magnified. Does that mean you have to give up on your dreams of a gray room? Not at all. A good compromise is greige, a made-up word that describes the color between beige and gray. It has warm undertones derived from the beige, but is still modern in tone from the gray. I painted our unit my favorite greige, Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore. See below!  

Such an improvement! The living room now looks light, bright and modern without resorting to white walls.  I know the new floors, curtains and flowers help, but seriously, the majority of the work is done by the difference on the walls. 

Choosing the right paint finish. 

The finish is often just as important as the paint color.  

For walls I often opt for flat or matte.  Here, we used matte.  The walls are plaster and although their texture is great, a finish in a higher gloss will highlight any imperfections on these 80+ year old walls. The unit was painted in an eggshell finish before, so if you scroll up and look closely at the before photo, you can see a shine on the walls. If you have walls that aren't in the best condition, I would definitely recommend going with a flat or matte finish. For newer homes, with drywall in good condition, I will on occasion recommend eggshell finish in higher traffic areas allowing scuffs to be magic erased off easily. 

For doors and trim, pearl, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss are recommended.  

And last but not least, for kitchens and bathrooms, I would recommend a higher gloss finish such as matte or eggshell to keep the walls in the best condition possible for as long as possible. 

Go forth and go bold!

My last piece of advice, don't be afraid to go bold. Here, the front porch for this unit was simply embarrassing. The prior owner, for no reason I can discern, decided to install carpet on an outdoor porch! Unsurprisingly, the carpet didn't age well. Here is the before. 

Even my dog Morgan can't make this sad porch look good.  

I took this as an opportunity to go bold, make a statement and check off an item on my longstanding bucket list to own a home with a blue door. 

It was going to be impossible to match the stairs with the exterior accent color of the door. Instead, I decided to go in a totally different direction, a traditional yet modern blue, Covington Blue. It adds the ideal amount of cheer to a previously drab entry. Try out bolder, more saturated colors in smaller spaces and accent walls, you can take a small risk in a small space and become more confident in your color choices while you do it! 

And just because I couldn't help myself, even knowing it was most likely too twee, I added a rabbit door knocker. Feel free to judge me, I love this bunny.  

I hope this post helps you when you're choosing a new paint color for a room in your home!