The number one issue people have when it comes to doing their own interior design is the fear of making a mistake – and nothing seems to incite panic in a homeowner quite like paint.
While all seven fundamentals that make up “The Art of Space” family are critical, paint is the flamboyant child. Nothing can quite transform a room so dramatically as a change of wall color. But change can be scary.
It becomes even more daunting when you’re confronted by thousands of colors at the paint store. The clerk shows you how the swatches look under the store’s special lights, and you start to think, “But I don’t have lighting like this at home.” You’re right. You don’t.
That’s where common sense comes in.
You need to see color options, in your home, in the room you’re going to paint. So, how do you choose colors without making a “mistake?” Start by throwing out the word “mistake.” Interior design is a process; sometimes it involves trial and error. It should be a wonderful journey, not a trip through a minefield.
I’m reminded of a trip I once took to Tuscany with friends. We visited a vineyard where they made Chianti. At the tasting after the tour, the Master Vintner taught us how to determine if a wine was “good.” He showed us how to examine a wine for color and aroma. He demonstrated how to swirl it and watch the “fingers” slide down the glass to determine alcohol content and body. Then he said something I’ll never forget: “Most importantly, if you like the way it tastes, it’s good.”
It’s the same with color (and any number of personal matters of taste). If you like it, it’s good. It’s not a matter of right and wrong. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Take home the color chips you’re considering and look at them in the space. You should also buy a few of your favorites in quart sizes and paint test areas. Paint an area next to your woodwork. Repeat the swatches where the bright sun hits, and in a dim corner.
If painting permanent swatches on your wall fills you with dread, another easy method is to use squares of foam core (available at art supply stores). The surface holds paint well, and you can move the pieces around the room to test the color out under different lighting conditions and against existing decor.
Look at them throughout the day and into the evening to see how they’ll really look in your home. Live with them for a few days, or even a few weeks. See how you feel about them and how they make you feel.
Most importantly, once you’ve made you final decisions on color, remember that they’re not “final.” You can always repaint.
So when it comes to color, be fearless. The most impactful thing you can do in the whole design process is paint a wall. Paint is rewarding. And since you can usually paint a normal-sized room in a day, the results can be dramatic.
One last thing: if you decide you’ve made a mistake, don’t be too quick to repaint. I’ve seen many people who thought they made a bad decision, only to find it was a terrific one after they pulled the whole design together. Remember, design is an organic process that grows and evolves. Sometimes it even seems to have a mind of its own. Work with your design, but let it work with you, too. See where it leads you. Discover things along the way. Adjust. You’ll discover the real power of paint for your home.