Your Guide to Picking the Perfect Paint

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The #1 question I’m asked is “How do I pick the perfect paint color?” (or a version of that question, such as “How do I come up with a color scheme?”). Of course, designers have an easy formula for picking the perfect paint color and coming up with color schemes, and I’m happy to share it!

Step 1: The very first thing we look for is inspiration from an existing piece in the room. For example, is there an integral art piece, a patterned rug or an eye-catching multi-colored item that grabs your attention when you walk into the room? If the answer is yes, then your color scheme and perfect paint are hiding right in front of you! If the answer is no, skip to Step 3.

Step 2: Once you have the inspiration piece, then you need to determine the style of the room — traditional, contemporary, transitional? What look is desired? As a very general rule, bold, bright cool colors are representative of contemporary design, whereas muted, deep, neutral tones are associated with traditional looks. EXCEPTION: Any high-gloss paint, no matter the color, will have a more modern feel. Look to your inspiration piece for your color scheme. In keeping with a traditional style, we choose a neutral hue for the wall and glossy red and black for the built-in bookcases to flank the art. Gold accents create a sense of cohesion in the room.

Step 3: If you do not have an existing inspiration piece, go find one! The easiest plan is to choose your fabrics first. It’s much easier to find your paint color than try to find fabric that matches a specific paint color… We can always custom mix paint!

Choose one multi-colored feature fabric (the fabric that will be most used and prominent), then you can choose three or four coordinating fabrics for pillows, throws or small upholstery pieces. Again, decide what style you’re going for…traditional, contemporary or a transitional combination of the two.

Seen here, we’ve chosen a beautiful Ikat woven fabric that can be incorporated into any style. It has blue, beige, gray, yellow and orange, so there are several colors and schemes we could create from this feature fabric. To make this fabric work in a traditionally designed room, we would go with a neutral beige wall color and burnt orange tones for accent. A transitional version, using this fabric, would be to choose the burnt color for the main paint — a traditional color done in a bold way is transitional.

For a more contemporary look, we would chose a cooler gray color for paint, and the bold yellow and slate blue for our accents.

Remember: If you don’t find the exact color you want, bring your fabric to your local paint store and have your paint custom mixed to match. Get a small sample and test, test, test it on the wall first!

Photo credits: Kelli Ellis

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