How to Pick a Paint Color

“Paint is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to freshen up or transform an existing space,” says hue guru Peggy Fortuna of Pound Ridge, founder of, “but a lot of people are afraid of it.” Fear no more, county color-phobes and all those lacking color confidence. Fortuna, a color-selection specialist, shares seven easy steps to help you choose the elusive hue that’s just right for you.

1. Consider the room’s purpose. Calming colors like light blues, greens, and yellows work well in bedrooms; dark, dramatic colors like deep reds, eggplant, terracotta, and chocolate brown in libraries and media rooms; and vibrant, bright reds, yellows, and oranges in high-traffic areas and kid-centric spaces like playrooms.
2. Tune into your personal color preferences. Look at the colors in your favorite pieces of clothing, artwork, etc., and then select the one(s) that will best enhance your room’s furnishings. Pull out colors from the room’s existing carpet and upholstered furniture and try looking for the not-so-obvious color in the room—say, a secondary color in a rug—and consider giving it greater prominence in walls and trim. (PS: Ignore the myth that you can’t use a dark color in a small room; the effect is quite warm and cozy, rather than claustrophobic, says Fortuna.)
3. Head to the paint store, bringing swatches of colors you like (say, pictures from shelter magazines or samples of fabrics). Review color choices offered by Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams, Fortuna’s top recommended paint brands.
4. Choose paint chip samples and/or buy a small can of the color(s) being considered. Put the samples up in your room and/or paint a small section of the wall. Be sure to look at your selections in both day and evening light.
5. Make sure the color(s) you are considering work well with the adjacent rooms in your home. This is especially important, says Fortuna, in living room/dining room and family room/kitchen areas where rooms tend to flow into one other.
6. Choose a paint finish. Fortuna recommends a flat or matte finish for walls in high-traffic areas (it’s easy to scrub clean), semi-gloss for trim, and eggshell for moisture-intense spaces like bathrooms and kitchens.
7. Paint—then pat yourself on the back. No more boring white walls for you!

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