Tips for getting room color right
November 2, 2009
There’s nothing quite like committing to a paint color only to find that once it’s on the walls, it looks nothing like you envisioned. Or, you realize too late that while you may love the color orange, it really doesn’t work as a living room wall color. Or maybe you just can’t decide which color is right for your bedroom. Color dilemmas happen all the time, causing more than a little frustration.
The first thing to keep in mind is that light has a huge influence on color. Fluorescent light brings out the blues and greens while making reds look duller. Incandescent lighting – like what you have in your home – gives off a warmer light that makes yellows and reds brighter while dulling blues. So that soft yellow that looked nice in the store may look a lot brighter on your walls at home, simply because the light is different.
Natural sunlight gives the truest color – but even that has its variations. Southern exposures tend to have brighter, warmer light, while northern facing rooms will seem cooler and have more of a blue light to them. And at night, incandescent light casts shadows, so painted walls look darker.
So what can you do to make sure your room turns out the way you really want?
• Find the inspiration: If you’re not sure what color you want, it really helps to find an inspiration piece to get you started. Maybe it’s a favorite vase or the quilt on your bed. Use two or three colors in that piece to be the color palette for your room – one main and two accent colors.
• Forget the chip: Paint chips just aren’t big enough to give you a good idea of what a color will look like in your room. Once you’ve narrowed down your color choices, buy a small sample of each. (Some companies offer samples of just a few ounces, but if you can’t get one, buy a quart.) Paint one sheet of poster board with each color. Now you have a paint “chip” that will really help. Move the boards around to different parts of the room at different times of day. And put them next to furniture pieces and fabrics in the room, too. You’ll be amazed at how different a single color can look!
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• Find the balance: There’s a color principal commonly called the 60-30-10 rule that helps keep a room’s color in balance. Sixty percent of a room – usually the walls – should be one color of the color scheme. Cabinetry and/or furniture make up 30 percent, and accents and accessories – linens, art, plants, decor items – make up 10 percent. So if orange really is your favorite color, find a neutral color for your 60 percent, and let orange show up in your accents and accessories. You’ll get the bright color “pop” you want without overwhelming everything in the room.
Take some time to experiment – when you get the color right, you’ll have a room you can feel good about.