How To Pick Paint Colors When One of You Hates Colorful Paint

published May 22, 2014
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

I recently confessed my Paint Color Prejudices (“white/grey/cream only, please”) to my color-loving partner, and admitted that I had no idea how to go about bridging our wildly-different tastes. Well, progress has been made. Here’s some advice on how to get from staring at each other incomprehensibly in the paint aisle to actually buying paint you’re both excited about.

Follow Topics for more like this

Follow for more stories like this

(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

1. Pick paint samples with abandon: they’re just pieces of paper. I got stressed and overwhelmed at the idea of picking out an entire house-worth of paint, but small, colorful pieces of paper? No problem. If there’s one that holds even the slightest potential, grab it. You can always use the rejects to leave each other festive notes.

2. Have the color-hater pick the paint samples. I spent a long time picking out paint samples at Lowe’s and Menards, painstakingly narrowing down all the whites/creams/greys, while also heroically picking colors outside my comfort zone. I thought about the colors my partner picked for our current house, and about what colors we both like, and about what colors would look good with our stuff. He also pointed out pictures of rooms that he liked, and I did my best to find versions of those wall colors that I liked.

3. Check out the colors under various lighting conditions. If you need to buy paint now, at least take your samples outside to see how they fare under natural light (assuming it’s daytime). Ideally you’ll take them home to observe throughout the day and evening. Some of the ones you liked in the store will look insane: don’t judge yourself.

4. Cull the definite No’s. Get rid of the insane ones, and the “cream” that’s clearly yellow, and the grey that turned out to be purple, and the blue that makes you depressed. Toss them aside and never look back.

5. Have the pickier person pick his/her favorites. Once all the colors we hated were out of the mix, I narrowed the field even further: the best creams, whites, pale greys, dark greys, blue-greys, grey-blues, beach glass blues, sage greens, and fun greens the 8-year old would like (but that we could live with). This sounds like an organized approach, but it took me less than a minute. I just went with my gut and didn’t second-guess myself, though a more methodical winnowing would work, too.

6. Place your trust in the color-lover. At this point, I bravely handed over my stack of colors to my partner and said, “Have at it”. I liked all of the colors in contention, I trusted his taste, and I figured it was good Relinquishing Control practice.

(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

7. Be the boldest in the least-used rooms. We picked a beautifully subtle grey-blue-khaki color for the living room, dining room, and entryway, and feel confident that it will look fabulous with everything we own and will own. The bathroom is my beloved pale, pale beach glass blue that I hope will function as a soothing neutral. On the other hand, the office/guest room is a rich grey-blue that intrigues us, a far cry from the bright white I would have picked. Our bedroom is a deep, complex grey, a million times darker than I would have tended towards, but I think/hope it’s incredibly bedroom-appropriate. The 8-year-old’s room is a delightful bright green that I actually picked out.

8. Save the putting-your-foot-down for when it really matters. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about kitchen color, and that’s because we haven’t decided. I can’t imagine dark and/or colorful kitchen walls, and might gently insist that pale kitchen walls would be an appropriate reward for being so adventurous and courageous with regards to all the other paint colors

9. Hope for the best, and remember it’s just paint. I’ve got the bedrooms done so far, and am feeling fine. The kid’s room is super fun without being ridiculous, and while the dark walls in our bedroom made me panic just a teensy bit, I think the room will look totally glam once we add our furniture and art. And if I/we end up hating it? Not the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to paint this whole house again, but I know that it’s entirely possible with some time and not too much money.

How do the color-enthusiasts and white/cream/grey-lovers out there pick colors together? Alternate rooms? Take turns every decade? Compromise somewhere in the middle? Are you both/all happy with the results?