My uncle Roger worked in interior design for over 22 years. He was part of a team that worked all across North America, decorating houses of all different types and styles.
In the past 14 years, he’s lived in three very different locations: Idaho, Maine and New Mexico, where he recently retired. His homes are always modest, yet beautiful tributes to the local culture and climate. The photos in this blog post are from these three homes.
Here is Uncle Roger’s advice on choosing paint colours for your home.
How To Pick Paint Colours For Your Home
You should enjoy the process of painting your environment. It’s an easy way to freshen and change rooms and make them personal.
Here’s some general advice on how to choose colour:
- While the internet has dramatically changed the way we do things, it is wholly inadequate when it comes to colour. Screens are not all created equal in how they display colour. DON’T use the internet to pick out a new sofa, draperies or rugs.
- DON’T decide to paint a room because of some image you saw online.
- The best way to really see colour is to compare it to paint chips of similar colours. For example, if you pick out a beige paint chip, then compare it to a paint chip that has more yellow in it, suddenly the beige might look too gray. Or if you put a greenish tone next to the beige, it might look pink. If you keep doing comparisons, then you will have studied the colour for long enough to finally find the exact shade you want.
- Use restraint when choosing paint colours. It gets tedious if every room is a different colour. The space will feel choppy and you will soon grow tired of it.
If you are totally flummoxed seek help and advice from those you trust or that have experience.
Once you have decided on a colour, it is important to test the colour in the lighting of your space. Most paint stores have fluorescent lighting which will make colours look totally different from how they will appear in your space.
When applying paint samples:
- paint it near the baseboard or next to the door or window trim.
- paint an area at least one-foot square. You want it to be large enough to hold up your hand and block out the exiting colour, so you can just see the new sample.
Location and Climate in Colour Choice
Where you live is as important as the colours you use.
- If you are in a place that is cloudy in the winter, DON’T pick a gray colour. It will make for a very drab environment in the cloudy season. Instead, use peach and yellow tones that will brighten up rooms in the winter.
- If you live in a warm climate I would avoid reds and oranges, as they are “hot” colours and won’t make you feel good when the temperature rises.
- Likewise, if you have a cold winter season, blues, teals, grays are going to make it feel cool.
Colours in an Open Concept Home
Many contemporary homes are very open and flow one room into another so you don’t have a place to start and stop a paint colour. There are a couple of options for this.
- Use complementary colours. Colours that are quite close in depth of colour and in the same family provide a nice flow as you go from one room to the next. Change the colour on an inside or outside corner that runs floor to ceiling. The colours will flow together as you move through the spaces.
- If you have high ceilings, and the ceilings change in height from room to room, another look is to have all the walls painted in the same off-white and paint the ceiling a different colour to give the space some interest. This technique defines a room by doing a bold look on the ceiling.
I recently made this suggestion to a friend who has a large upstairs hallway with ten-foot ceilings and lots of windows. The walls and trim are off-white, and the floors are wood. She painted the hallway ceiling aubergine.
The same colours were in play in the master bedroom, and because the ceiling was high and angular, she used a nickel gray metallic wash that matched the charcoal and white geometric tile in the adjoining bathroom.
Using Dark Colours
If you haven’t done much painting it can feel daunting to use dark colours because it is a commitment and you want it to turn out well. Don’t be afraid of dark colours. They can add interest and drama to a room.
- Dark colours are ideal for bathrooms because they usually have good light, so it won’t feel dark. Even in a bathroom that doesn’t have windows, it’s fine because you will always have bright lights.
- It’s important to leave the ceiling white (or very light-coloured) to keep the room from closing in. Don’t paint the ceiling the same dark colour as well or the room will become cave-like.
- In a dark room with lots of windows, your eye will always go to the view as you will be drawn to the outdoors.
I had the experience of seeing two bedrooms in the same home across the hall from one another that were identical in size and layout. One was a black painted teenager’s room and the other a wheat-coloured guest room. Both felt equally spacious, but the black room was quite dramatic.
There is something to be said for simple off-white walls. We are conditioned to seeing off-white in rental units and when we finally purchase our own home we want to get into colour.
- Off-white expands the size of a home and provides clarity and continuity.
- You don’t get tired of off-white, it is easy to live with. You can change other design elements to give you a refreshed look.
I worked with a client who had purchased a small old Victorian home. She was a very detailed and sensitive individual who decided to paint each room a different off-white based on its light and what direction it faced. North facing rooms had more yellow-toned whites and south, sunny rooms a cooler and slightly darker whites. In the end, she had eight different off-whites!
When choosing exteriors colours for your home:
- Always look at your roof colour before you decide. I’m amazed when I pass by a home and there is no connection between the roof and siding colour. Sometimes it really clashes!
- There are some neighbourhood covenants that dictate what colour you can paint your outside. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Always try to select a colour that compliments your neighbouring homes.
- There’s no need to draw attention to your home by painting it pink or purple or mint green. Understated is never a bad thing on the outside. Let the architecture speak for the house, not the paint colour.
- A personal peeve is when I see a house out in the country with grass, trees, a beautiful natural setting, and the house is painted green. Mother Nature has done an excellent job bringing together all the wonderful colours of the outdoors. Let it be. Use white, beige, rust, barn red, yellow tones, just no greens!
- DON’T accent gutters or downspouts. You don’t want to draw attention to them.
- Off-whites, beiges, grays and yellows complement brick or stone features and allow you to accent architectural details or elements like doors or windows with a bold colour that adds nice interest.