10 Common Color Mistakes You Should Stop Making

10 Common Color Mistakes You Should Stop Making

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Adrienne Breaux
Sep 6, 2015
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Color is kind of tough, if we're being honest. Or more accurately, a lot can go wrong when attempting to use color in your home, even with the best of intentions. Here are ten of the most common color mistakes at home — and how you can fix them.

1. Not considering light

Without light, color wouldn't be much to look at. And as much as the right light can make a color sing...it can also make a gray go lavender or a white look dingy. Before painting a wall, use a sample painted or taped up to view your potential new color in all light of the day — as well as artificial light. If a color you thought would work doesn't, take it back to the paint store and explain to someone working there which type of light made the color go wrong — someone with the right experience should be able to point you in the right direction.

2. Mixing too many colors at once in the wrong balances

There's no official limit of how many colors are allowed in one room. But the saying "the more the merrier" doesn't always apply when it comes to color. Want to know whether or not you have too much color mixing in one room? The room will feel the opposite of peaceful — sometimes it even feels like it's closing in. You can eliminate colors until you start feeling balance. Or you can pay attention to the amount of each color you use (aim for one or two primary colors and a handful of secondary, accent colors), as well as where the colors are located (spread around evenly to carry your eye through a room).

3. Being too matchy-matchy with your color palette

Opposite of the problem above is not having enough of a variety. The point of having a color palette is of course to create a visual story — to present a style in an understandable array of hues. But only stick to two or three colors in a room (or the whole home) and it could start feeling repetitive, predicable and without any real soul. The way to fix it? Add in a handful of elements spread around the home that have nothing to do with your color palette at all. They'll infuse the space with more life and interest.

4. Not creating a cohesive home

And this is the opposite of having too matchy-matchy of a color palette! Every room of your home can be done in a different style and color palette if you want to. But if you're feeling like your home is a mess or too hectic or you just want to make more peace, you might consider creating more cohesion with each room. Not necessarily using the exact color palette in every room (because then you'd be too matchy-matchy), but having colors that you can view from another room complement. Adding in an accessory in a primary color from another room. Create tie-ins so that your home feels like a total package, and not just a few disconnected parts.

5. Not giving the eye places to rest

As much as we love wall-to-wall boldness, even the most colorful spaces need spots for the eye to rest. Make sure you incorporate empty space in rooms, or include large elements in neutral colors that balance with all that color.

6. Playing it too safe

You didn't paint the walls the color you really wanted to because you thought it would be too wild. You've always dreamed of a bright blue couch, but went with a neutral one because it's more practical. Red kitchen cabinets? You fantasize about it, but would never dare. You'll avoid making huge color mistakes if you always play it safe, but sometimes letting your home be more boring than it has to be is one of the biggest mistakes of all!

7. Using the wrong finish/sheen

This has a surprisingly huge effect on the success of colors you choose to paint in your home. Have you ever put the right color on the wall or a furniture piece, but something still felt off? You may have had the wrong finish. Something with a bit of sheen could have been better if you went full glossy. Or something too shiny really could have been softened with a nice matte finish. The remedy is the same with trying to get the right color — pin up or paint up a sample of different finishes when picking out color to see it in the space and in the light.

8. Not applying it properly

The great thing about using barely-there, light neutral colors on your wall is that the borders and edges are nearly invisible — you can mess up without much worry of it being very obvious. But mess up the edge where a bold accent wall meets the ceiling? That sort of thing can be seen from space. When applying intense colors, spend extra time on the prep work of taping off, and splurge on tried and true tools to get the job done correctly.

9. Going too bright/harsh

There's a phenomenon that people who paint bold colors on walls come across often. And that's choosing the perfect paint color sample, putting it up on the wall, and it being WAY too bright. Much harsher than you would have imagined. If you try out a sample and the same thing happens, don't give up on the color, just get it lightened a few steps to be a little more palatable.

10. Not considering how you actually want the room to feel

The way a room looks has a lot to do with the way a room feels. And liking a color doesn't mean you'll like the way you feel when you're surrounded by four (or more) walls of it. I personally love the look of bold reds and other strong colors, but it's not what I want to wake up in (or try to fall asleep to). Magic happens when you combine colors you love the look of with a way of creating a feel in a room that does just what you want it to, whether that's energize you or calm you down.

What are color mistakes you've made in the past, and how have you fixed or worked around them? Let us know in the comments below!

- Re-edited from a post originally published 9.28.2014 - CM

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