This Is Joanna Gaines’ Method for Picking a Paint Color (It’s Not What You’d Think!)

published Jul 10, 2024
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headshot of joanna gaines
Credit: Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Design: Apartment Therapy

When there are so many beautiful paint colors out there, it can be overwhelming to look at a paint deck — or a massive array of paint chips in a hardware store — and land on the perfect paint for your project. That’s especially true when you have to pick multiple colors to suit both walls and cabinetry, like in a kitchen. And it doesn’t help the selection process that kitchen cabinet colors really run the gamut right now. Everything from burgundy to navy to white to just plain wood is in style. 

Don’t panic! Instead, take a cue from a pro. When Apartment Therapy recently sat down with Joanna Gaines to talk about her latest project, Fixer Upper: The Lakehouse and the new Magnolia paint collection inspired by lakehouse living, Gaines revealed her method for picking a paint, and it’s so smart. 

Credit: KILZ
In the Fixer Upper: The Lakehouse kitchen, Joanna selected a warm green, Magnolia Paint's Remote Trail, and she says green is her favorite color to use in kitchens right now.

Gaines says she always starts by asking her clients a question: What do you want the room to feel like? 

In other words, she starts with words and feelings rather than visuals. “I can understand how hard it can be to go to a hardware store and see a million different options,” Gaines says. “Well, you can curate that down really quickly when you can figure out what feeling you want.”

Gaines says she finds the feeling method more helpful than trying to color-match a room you’ve seen somewhere else or match an inspiration image, and she thinks it’s important to trust your gut when it comes to color. “Understand, instinctively, you’re going to either like it or not like it,” she says. “And if there’s a little bit in you that says, ‘This doesn’t feel right,’ find a different tone — because I’ve done that too many times where I haven’t listened to that, and I’ve had to repaint multiple projects.”

For instance, Gaines says, you could start with the concepts of “comfort” and “down-to-earth” and choose what colors you associate with those feelings. “Color has that way of making us feel something — whether that be calm, whether that be hungry, whether that be excited, whether that be moody — and so defining those words is really key,” she says. 

From there, you still might have a few options, she says, and that’s when it’s really important to get swatches into the actual room to see how the color works with the lighting — after all, that can wildly vary from home to home — what it looks like in different times of day, and what it looks like with your other furnishings and finishes. But starting with what you want the room to feel like, and how you want it to make you feel, can help you get most of the way to “done.”