The other day a friend told me they were thinking of redesigning their kitchen, and wanted to know my opinion on a paint color. And I told them what I tell everyone, stop, don’t choose your paint color first, choose it last! I’m not sure how we ever got started with choosing paint first. I know I did the same thing before I began educating myself on the world of interior decorating. And boy, do I wish I had known the correct order, it would have saved me a lot of time, frustration, and money.
When you are decorating a room, any room, pick the paint color absolutely last. If you are painting a room that has soft furnishings, start with a fabric, rug, piece of art, etc. Use the colors from the piece you’ve chosen, typically 2 or 3 along with a neutral. If you’ve chosen a multicolored item, pick 2 or 3 of the strongest colors present, or whichever colors you prefer from the piece. That way you already know, these colors work together. The hard work has already been done for you, so take advantage of it! If you are painting a room that has hard finishes, like a kitchen or bathroom, you can either use a color that relates to the hard finishes, or choose a color that complements them.
Other than the fact that it’s easier to choose a piece whose colors you know relate rather than you creating your own color combinations, it’s also worlds easier to find a paint color to match or complement a fabric, then a fabric to match or complement a fabric. Paint colors are endless, fabric options, rugs, aren’t. You could spend months trying to find a fabric to match your existing paint color. Or, you could spend about 10 minutes trying to find a paint color that matches or complements your inspiration piece. So make life a little easy on yourself and choose the inspiration piece first.
Now, once you have chosen your inspiration piece, you know what colors you’ll be using in the room and have samples of fabrics or the rugs, choose a few different paint colors that work with what you have. And definitely don’t buy a gallon from a paint chip you like. Don’t choose because you think the paint name is cute, it’s hard I know, but unfortunately it’s no indication of how great the paint color will look. And also don’t choose a paint color based upon the color you like in a friend’s house. A million factors affect how a paint color will look – the way the windows face in a room, the time of day, the color of the surrounding furniture, the color of the flooring, etc.
What you need to do, is pick a few colors that you think will look great, and then buy samples. Benjamin Moore samples are usually about $8 each. The price does add up, but trust me, it’s completely worth it. Then, on your way home, pick up a few white poster boards or pick up some sample white boards in the paint store that allow you to paint them for sampling. Buy one more than the number of samples you purchased. I just use poster boards because of their larger size.
When you get home, paint each sample out on the board. Do at least two coats. And once they’re dry, take your white board (so your current paint color doesn’t affect your decision), and your sample board and line them up vertically against the wall. Then lay the inspiration piece, fabrics, etc. against the paint in whatever way they will naturally lay against the paint- lay fabric vertically, lay flooring horizontally, etc. Also, compare each paint color to one another. This will really help to give you a much clearer picture of what each color truly is. Compare them to each other, and compare them to the white board.
Once you’ve done your comparisons and have laid your flooring, inspiration pieces, etc. on the paint color, hang the sample up on the wall with some tape. And live with it for a few days. Move it around from one side of the room to another. The color will look different on each wall and at different times of the day. So, just because you like the color on the wall that gets all of the sun in the morning, doesn’t mean you will like it in the dark corner that never sees natural light. Experiment with your lamps as well and make sure the light color and amount they give off works with the paint color. It sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, it’s worth it. Whether you’re doing the painting yourself, or paying someone, the worst feeling is to repaint. Trust me, I’ve done it a number of times because I didn’t know the proper order before. It drives my husband crazy every time I tell him, guess what, we need to repaint that room because I chose it when I didn’t know what I was doing.
So next time you’re choosing a paint color, resist the urge to lead yourself by paint. Choose everything that you possibly can before the paint. Make sure you like your fabrics together, your rug with the fabrics, the leading art piece with your rug and fabrics. Then, and only then, start looking for your paint color. Trust me, you, your family, and your wallet will all be much happier.