This Paint Hack Was a Lifesaver at My First Home

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

E. L. James might have had a big hit on her hands with “50 Shades of Grey,” but I have a bone to pick with the bestselling author: There are more like 50 million shades of gray. Don’t believe me? Just trying picking a gray paint color for your home.

That was the dilemma facing me when buying our first home two years ago. I wanted to move in as soon as possible, which meant getting the house painted (while empty) ASAP. So, during that seemingly endless period between our offer being accepted and the closing, I was spinning my wheels, trying to figure out a way to pick the perfect warm gray paint color before getting the keys to our house. (I typically don’t rely on those pre-made paint swatches provided by paint companies because they have led me astray in the past.)

One day, I was at Michaels buying some craft supplies when I walked by the aisle with the paint canvases. Inspiration struck: A small blank canvas was the perfect portable way to test different paint colors in various lights in various rooms, both at my current apartment and at my future home.

I bought a cheap canvas, measuring about 11 inches by 14 inches or so, for $6. Then I picked out pint-sized samples of four different gray paint colors from the hardware store. I swatched them on the canvas and spent the next week or so gauging how my husband and I liked the different options in different lights.

We picked two we liked, had them lightened up slightly at the hardware store to better suit our preference, and re-swatched them on the canvas again. Bingo–we had found our frontrunner: Behr Ground Fog, lightened up about 20 percent.

After we closed on the house and got our keys, we excitedly brought the canvas to our new home to see how our favorite color and chosen finish looked in different rooms and with the tile, wood, and carpet. It looked really great. So, we bit the bullet, bought a few gallons, and had the painter there the next day.

The end result? We absolutely love it. It’s not too warm, too cold, or too dark. It’s just right. In fact, when my office recently redecorated, I convinced my bosses to use the same gray. And, every time I look at our walls, I thank my handy canvas trick for helping me come to a sound decision.