5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Paint Color

published May 11, 2019
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Legendary artist David Hockney once said, “I prefer living in color.” Okay, we weren’t in Hockney’s head when he uttered the famous quote, but there’s always a chance he was talking about the importance of painting a room.

ICYMI: Painting a room is so much more than an obligatory home chore; it’s your chance to give your place some personality.

“How you feel when you walk into your room is so important,” says Nicole Gibbons, interior designer and founder of Clare, a direct-to-consumer paint company. “The mood of your space can really enhance your life in so many ways.”

But, contrary to popular belief, selecting a color for your room is no easy feat. With dozens of nuanced shades to choose from, starting your search can feel like a trip down the rabbit hole. After all, does anyone really know the difference between ecru and alabaster?

Painting your walls is a time-consuming process and, if you’re enlisting a professional, expensive endeavor, so you might as well get it right the first time.

To help, Gibbons is sharing five questions everyone should ask before adding a gallon to their cart.

1.“How Do I Want to Feel When I Walk in the Room?”

We’re not going to sugarcoat it for you: First impressions matter. The color of your walls is the very first thing you’ll see when entering the room—not that fabulous side table in the corner of your space—so it has the power to instantly set your and your guests’ mood.

The question is, what’s the vibe you want to convey?

“If you want to feel relaxed and peaceful in your space, maybe you want to go for calm, airy blue or a neutral,” Gibbons says.

Of course, not every room in your home needs to be a soothing, serene oasis. If you’re looking to pump up the energy in your foyer or living room, for example, opt for a brighter, bolder hue. According to Gibbons, Clare’s “Golden Hour” shade knows how to pack a punch.

2. “Will I Be Tired of This Color in Five Years?”

Design trends will come and go, but your walls should withstand the test of time. It doesn’t matter if you select a classic neutral or opt for one of the big paint companies’ annual “Color of the Year:” It’s important that you’ll like the shade for many years to come.

“It’s easy to bring in new, smaller accents or switch up your throw pillows, but it’s more time-consuming to repaint your place,” she explains. “You want to make sure you really love your color and won’t tire of it.”

Instead of impulsively splurging on a few cans of millennial pink or Gen-Z yellow, take your time. Leaving your test swatches on the walls for a month or two will help you figure out if the shade has staying power or if it’s just the flavor of the week.

3. “How Will This Color Play with the Light in My Space?”

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Light can seriously make or break your room, not to mention affect how a paint shade will look.

“A color can look totally different in the store, on  your screen, or in someone else’s home than in your space,” Gibbons says.

Depending on the position of your window, light can hit each all differently, so you should always test a color on all walls.

“Make sure you love the way your color looks in all areas of your room,” she says.

If that particular shade of white looks good on some walls, but cold and sterile on others, try an option with warm undertones.

4. “Am I Concerned with the Size of My Space?”

Call it a magic trick or master class in color theory, but different hues have the power to make a room appear larger (or smaller) than they actually are. The key is to figure out which colors do which.

“If you want a small space to appear larger, opt for airier colors,” she says. “The lighter and brighter the color is, the more light it’s going to reflect around the room.”

Want to give your space a cozier feel? Gibbons recommends darker colors like “Current Mood,” Clare’s deep green.

5. “Does This Go with the Rest of My Stuff?”

In a perfect world, you’d paint your room any color you choose with little regard to the rest of your stuff. Why care about the color of your couch or area rug when a matcha green paint is all but calling your name.

But unless you have purged all your belongings and are starting from scratch, it’s important to factor in the pieces you already have.

“Most people aren’t working with a blank space,” she says. “Make sure your paint color jibes well with the rest of your decor.”

Does that mean your paint color has to perfectly match your throw pillows? Not exactly. However, your walls should at least complement the rest of your space.