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Choosing a paint color doesn’t have to be difficult.

For most of us, picking the wall color is the first step in creating your space.

I’ve heard tv designers tell their audience to pick neutral furniture so your walls can be any color. And it’s only paint, so you can easily change your mind by buying a gallon of paint. And they’re correct.

Except that paint isn’t cheap. And it’s not so easy to move the furniture around and just paint any time you get a whiff of inspiration. And some of us? Buy couches that aren’t so neutral.

I’ve also heard designers suggest that you start with an inspiration piece. I like this idea better since I start with the major elements I want to include in the room. Your inspiration could be a painting, photo, scarf, tablecloth, or piece of furniture. Pick a major or minor color in your inspiration piece and use it on the walls.

Go to your home improvement store and pick up a bunch of color chips. They’re free, so don’t feel guilty about taking a lot of them. Some stores even have booklets now that group colors together. I have one of those large fan-like things that has a ton of colors. It was given to me by a paint rep at a paint store. Lucky timing on that one.


When you’re able to pick a few favorites, it may be a good idea to buy a few small samples of paint. Put them up on the wall and live with them for a while. See how the lighting in your room affects the color during the day and night.

I’ll use my living room as an example of how I pick paint colors using inspiration elements.

The couch and chair are reddish-orangey and I knew I was putting up a large painting with reds, oranges, and yellow dominating. I had decorated a prior living room with the same furniture using a light yellowish green on the walls. So I knew greens would work with the couch. But the greens competed with my paintings and made them look pretty dull. In my last house before I moved here (same furniture), I painted all of my walls stark white. It worked with the paintings and with my furniture. And I could have repeated this idea, if I was the type of person who repeated my decor from house to house.

My old house also had dark, almost black, floors. So the overall look was high contrast contemporary. My present home has off-white carpeting that I am not planning to replace in the near future. Maybe someday? But not now. So while I’m comfortable using whites for my walls, I didn’t want it to be a look of sterile and uninviting. I should also add that I have an open concept floor plan, so whatever I chose had to work with my entire first floor.

Considering I have a palette starting with reds, orange, and yellows, you might think I’d go with a paint color in that zone. Even if it’s a white, it’ll have some yellow in it. Well, that’s an easy guess, but no. That’s not what I did.

I love warmth in a room. In this case, the warmth already exists in the painting and the furniture. It also exists in the off-white carpet, that has a slight yellow tone….not enough to consider it beige. But enough I could see that the wrong yellowish white may make my off white carpet look dirty.

I also like contrast. Knowing I wouldn’t get the stark contemporary contrast I had before, I decided to incorporate a warm-cool contrast. Did I lose you yet?

My painting also has some purples in it. The purple plays a minor role in the painting, but it does exist. And it’s not such a horrible idea to bring out a recessive color in the overall palette.

I decided to pick a lavender tinted white. It is so subtle, I really can’t depict this color via camera… I photoshopped the pic a bit to bring out the lavender. The truth is, the color changes as the light changes thru the day. Early in the day, it looks very white. Later, it looks more lavender.


It contrasts all the warm tones in the room.
It enhances the main painting I want to hang in the room.
It doesn’t make the carpet look dirty-dingy.
It’s a color I can live with in the living room that is also open to the kitchen, dining area, hall, entry, and staircase.

The color I chose?
Melodic White (Behr, premium plus ultra in satin finish). I used this on the walls, ceiling, and trim.
The navy chip in this pic is what I used for my fireplace trim.