Here’s What to Do If You Hate Your Wall Color, but Don’t Want to Repaint

published Jul 25, 2020
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Kitchen In Modern Design Home
Credit: Trinette Reed/Stocksy

Nothing makes the look and ambiance of a room feel off-putting quite like choosing the wrong paint color. Paint is not always something that can be predicted, either. Even with the most diligent research, color matching, and swatching, sometimes a shade you loved on a paint chip or in someone else’s home can turn out to be a dud once you’ve gotten it up on your walls. That said, if you’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and money into painting a space, you might not want to do it all over again—at least not right away.

Not to worry—many designers have gone through this same situation and come out on the other side of it. So I asked a few color-savvy interior pros for advice on how to work with hues that aren’t quite what you thought they’d be without fully repainting a room, and here’s what they suggested as solutions. 

Change your lightbulbs

Before you get too upset about a poor paint color choice, designer Rachel Cannon suggests swapping out your incandescent light bulbs with LED ones. “Fluorescent light bulbs always throw off the paint shade,” she explains. “I prefer LED bulbs in the 4200 to 4500K range because they instantly soften a space.” 

Offset the color with complementary textiles

Designer Monet Masters of Forbes + Masters says a little fabric can go a long way when correcting a room that’s painted in a not-so-great shade. “Incorporate complementary fabrics and textiles to help blend the room color with better-looking additions,” she says. For a better sense of what shade to look for in a material for, say, pillows or even a piece of furniture, start by looking at a color wheel to see what’s opposite your wall color. That way, you know you’re working with something, in theory, that will balance out the walls. 

Designer Hilary Matt agrees, adding that any contrast in color with accessories and larger furnishings can help draw attention away from the walls. “This will almost mask the off-color of the walls and save you from repainting the entire room again,” she explains. 

Conceal with wall decor

According to designer Breegan Jane, the easiest way to rectify a bad paint job is to minimize how much of it you can actually see with strategic wall-mounted pieces. “Utilize mirrors to reflect other areas of the room or oversized art to cover wall space,” she says. “This can help soften the appearance of the walls and make them less apparent.” 

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Wallpaper FTW

If you can’t find any complementary art or textiles to hang, designer Tavia Forbes of Forbes + Masters recommends framing a large swatch of wallpaper instead. “Find a wallpaper design that includes the wall color, and simply order a sample large enough to fit in a frame that you can hang as art,” she says. 

Expand upon your “off” color palette with decor

When faced with the wrong paint color, designer Carneil Griffin of Griffin Direction Interiors suggests hanging wall decor in similar hues to subdue the shade. If you find that creating contrast hasn’t helped, then this should be your next move. “Use art canvases or picture frames in the same color or tone as your paint to create balance,” he explains. “Strong room design starts with color harmony—not color specificity.”

Bring in a favorite shade

If you aren’t over the moon about your wall color, designer Christopher Kennedy says it might just be that the hue isn’t meshing with the other items in the room. “Try some inexpensive fixes with new throw pillows or artwork that relate to the paint color,” he says. “Or do the opposite and choose soft goods and accessories in a color you do love, so that the errant paint fades into the background.”

Credit: IKEA

Switch up your curtains

With the right window treatments, designer Genevieve Trousdale says you can subdue just about any paint color. “Neutral drapery treatments with wide panels can obscure an overwhelming wall paint color,” she explains. You don’t have to spend a fortune here either—IKEA has lovely, inexpensive solid drapery in both cotton and velvet fabrics.

Buy: TIBAST Curtains, $34.99 for a set of two panels from IKEA

Add more of the same color

If you ask designer John McClain, more is more when it comes to the wrong paint color. “Blend the color by adding towels, rugs, and accessories with the odd hue incorporated into them,” he says. “Add some toss pillows, throws, or lamp shades in the same tones of the mistaken paint color. By repeating the color around the room, the repetition makes it feel more on purpose instead of an accident.” 

Try tricking your eye with trim

When decor changes don’t do the trick, design blogger Victoria Ford of Prepford Wife suggests repainting the trims of your walls in a hue that enhances the other colors in the room. “Sometimes adjusting the color of the trim can draw attention to accent colors in the space,” she explains. “By picking a color that collaborates well with your [off] color, it can begin to feel intentional.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the pretty white walls in the above house tour image, but the same idea is at play with the green painted woodwork. Not only does this color choice contrast with the white walls, but it also matches the desk chair in the space perfectly and plays well with the warm natural wood finishes throughout the space. When you look at this spot, your eye goes straight to that lovely jewel tone—and the white just recedes (in the same way your slightly off wall color should, too). Plus, painting trim is a lot less daunting than a whole room.