Sunday, October 14, 2012

Six tips for picking the WRONG paint color

I looove my RH paint deck, but even with it, sometimes things go awry.

No, not tips for picking the "right" paint color.

I'm not an expert at that. Besides, there are probably loads of tutorials on picking the right color for the inside of your house.

I'm pretty good at picking the wrong color.

Let me give you some tips:

1. Pick a color you like without confirmation that it works with what you have. In other words, pick up a Restoration Hardware fan deck and decide that you really like color "A" even though when you put it next to your off-white kitchen cabinets, it makes them look too yellow. (This makes you kind of happy since you've wanted to paint your off-white cabinets true white ever since they were installed.) And when you put your paint sample next to your quartz countertops, it makes them look unusually blue. But you really like the paint color by itself, so pick it anyway.

2. Pick a color you like on the paint chip even though when you put a sample on your wall, the sample sometimes looks pink. That strange color cast must be because the sample is a little tiny island of color in a sea of a sage green wall, and so with the green around it, the sample color looks more pink than it really is. It must be something about the contrasting color bringing out the warm tones in your sample. (Hint: it's not a trick. It really is more pink than you thought it would be.)

3. Only paint color samples at eye level. Don't worry about the up highs and down lows. I'm sure they'll come out fine. Besides, getting out the big ladder is way too much work just to get some samples up high on the wall.

4. Buy five gallons of the wrong color because, after all, it is 40% off THIS WEEKEND ONLY and even though you won't have time to paint until next weekend, you should definitely get it all now without testing a gallon first. Remember that it is a custom-mixed color, so it's non-refundable. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

5. Paint one small section of your house first -- preferably the only part of your house that gets no natural light so that the color will look consistently good all day and all night. This is a great way to trick your mind into believing you've found the perfect paint color. This will come in handy when you start painting the rest of your house and think your eyes are tricking you. Because the color looked so perfect all week long in that hallway downstairs!

6. Do not, under any circumstances, trust that voice in your head that is saying you might be looking at the wrong color. After all, you are not a color consultant nor are you an interior designer. What do you know, anyway? Besides, you're in kind of a hurry and need to get it done, like, yesterday.


It's possible that I have quite a bit of experience in picking the wrong paint color. And since about half of the interior of my house is visible from the three main rooms (the kitchen/dining, family room, and loft are all one voluminous open space) and because the walls in the main part of the house peak at 22 feet tall, when I make a mistake here, I make a BIG mistake.

Not only are paint mistakes here BIG mistakes, but it's a tough space to get the color right to begin with. Light comes into the main part of our house from all angles -- we literally have light coming from the north, south, east, and west plus light coming from above through two skylights. Wall colors change dramatically at different times of day. While I love the openness of our house, it does prove difficult to find paint colors that are either (a) consistent or (b) pleasing as they shift from morning to afternoon to evening light.

I've included a few before photos to whet your appetite for some good before and afters later this week. We are just about done painting (it takes longer when you have to do some of it twice). I'm hoping to get some photographic evidence of this color-shifting so that you can see for yourself what we're dealing with!

Before. Restoration Hardware Sycamore Green.

Before. Restoration Hardware Sycamore Green + The Right White on the brick fireplace.

Restoration Hardware Sycamore Green + Restoration Hardware Flax

Restoration Hardware Flax


  1. ok,Hill, I am dying to know..... don't keep a colorist in suspense..... what is the new color? Flax? or is that one of the " before " picture photos?

    1. Haha! I knew you would care about this topic. I wish you lived closer so you could give me advice in person! :)

      This is going to kill the suspense, you know? I started with Stone and ended up going over it with Graphite on the walls that get southern exposure. There are a couple more that I might end up re-doing, but I want to live with it for a while before I decide. :) All of the painting kind of killed Scott's back, so now I have the extra pressure of doing it by myself when he won't notice. Fat chance.

  2. Heehee! Sounds like something I'd do...

    Stumbled across your blog while I was looking for a bedside table on CL. :) We have a lot in common. I just bought some Mystic Paint at Interilife so I can attempt to repaint my very dingy baseboards...just as soon as I get 5 minutes to think about it. ;)

    1. Hi, Sara! It is great to meet you! I think we do have a lot in common -- I just checked out your profile and saw Rachael Hope Photography on your blogroll! I follow her too. Rachael taught my daughter Callie's first ballet class.

      I hope we'll run into each other in person. :)

  3. I taught Rachael piano lessons years ago. :)

    1. No way! Too funny. Okay -- I just followed you on Twitter and Pinterest. Love your birth story on your blog. Awesome. Looking forward to getting to know you better!

  4. Cool! I liked your FB page. I feel like we must have more mutual friends. You guys look awfully familiar!


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