Test Swatch Challenge: Help Me Choose a Paint Color

Test Swatch Challenge: Help Me Choose a Paint Color

Abby Stone
Jul 13, 2011

At night: Gray Owl on the left, Classic Gray in the center, Abalone on the right.

I love decorating except for one teensy weensy — okay, big — part. Painting. Not just the actual slapping of the paint on the wall (which I dread, especially in my large living room) but also the picking out of the paint color. It starts at the paint store, where I walk in, confident as can be, and then immediately crumple when confronted with over two hundred kinds of white paint. This time, I felt sure I had it easy. I only had to pick one paint out of three, suggested by my friends when I told them what I was looking for.

Early morning surprise! Gray Owl up top, Classic Gray bottom left, Abalone bottom right.

I'd like a very pale light grey with a lot of white in it that will give off a cool, contemporary, modern loft vibe. My choices: Gray Owl, Classic Gray and Abalone. My furniture: white Eames-style Plycraft chair, light charcoal grey couch, mostly brown and white hide rug, kilim pillows, Moroccan pouf, white curtains.

Looking at the paint swatches in the store, Classic Gray seemed like the obvious choice. But no, I was going to do things right this time and test out the colors at home.

Instead of painting straight onto the walls (my usual tactic), I picked up a couple of small 8x10 canvases at the art supply store (they come in a pack of 5 for about $5) and a mini foam brush. I slapped the paint onto the canvases one night and set them out to check out how the paint fared in my living room. Classic Gray had a yellowish tinge, Abalone looked brown and Gray Owl was a little cool and a little blue. I walked around the room with it, holding it against the items in the room and it made everything pop. Well, that was easy, I thought to myself, Gray Owl it is. And I went to bed.

In the morning, I went to collect my little canvases. Uh oh, what's going on? Gray Owl looked a little dark, like a dirty light blue in the morning light; Classic Gray read too light and Abalone, too brown last night, was the perfect pale gray in morning sun. I left the canvases, perplexed.

In the afternoon, things changed again. In the deepening shadows, Classic Gray was again the winner. I can't really paint my living room three colors! How am I going to decide which color to go with? Evening color, morning color or afternoon color? I work out of the house so I'll be living with the colors throughout the day.

I'd really like your input. What do you guys think?

Images: Abby Stone

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