To a new homeowner, painting rooms might seem like the ultimate dream. After years of renting white walls that weren’t yours to alter even a smidge, you finally get to slather your home in whichever colors you desire. Freedom!
But if you’re gonna do the job right, there’s way more to do than sifting through fan decks and playing with online visualization tools—there’s actually a lot to consider when it comes to painting your home. The wrong move could ruin your decor (at least temporarily) and fill you to the brim with regret.
So before you pick up that brush, learn the most common painting mistakes homeowners make—and save yourself some heartache.
1. Getting tiny samples
When it comes to swatches, size matters. Ask a color expert for an oversize sample or fan deck, and make sure that when you test different shades, you paint swatches that are big enough to evaluate how the color will really look.
“It’s essential to paint large blocks on every wall to see what they look like in each light and gloss level,” explains Sara McLean, color expert and stylist for Dunn-Edwards Paints. And don’t crowd samples, she says. “You need room between swatches to focus on each color.”
Next, try not to rush the testing process. “Live with your color choice to be sure it’s the right one for you,” urges Kaitlin Willhoit, a Realtor® with The Boutique Real Estate Group.
“Many homeowners are nervous about using shiny semigloss, but it’s more durable than flat or matte and more moisture-resistant, which makes it perfect for bathrooms and the kitchen,” points out Kristen Chuber, marketing director at Paintzen.
On the other hand, flat and matte finishes allow for easy touch-ups, so save those for high-traffic spots like hallways and the kids’ rooms, she adds.
You should also consider the room’s undertones. “Your color will look off if you pair a pink undertone with a yellow one, so look at the counters, the stone fireplace, and cabinets when choosing paint,” says Karen Gray-Plaisted, a home staging expert with Design Solutions KGP. And don’t forget about your flooring—a warm mahogany hardwood might look off-base when paired with a cool gray paint.
3. Choosing a boring palette
Photo by RLH Studio
Beige on beige with some white trim? Zzz … sorry, we dozed off there for a moment.
“Some homeowners stick to dull colors so they never have to repaint, but color is a reflection of your personality,” McLean says.
Plus, using the same color throughout will create a decor scheme that lacks depth. “It’s important to develop a complementary palette, and it’s trendy to mix neutrals, like warm grays, beige, and soft colors,” says Dessie Sliekers, an interior designer with Slick Designs.
4. Picking the wrong white
Photo by Crisp Architects
If you’re new to the world of paint, we’ve got news for you: You can’t just pick “white” paint and call it a day. Even white has different levels and shades, and you need to know what you want before you head to the store.
“Some whites are cool, others warm, still more are neutral, so the one you pick will depend on the room’s finishes and undertones,” Gray-Plaisted explains.
Another common mistake is using too much white—it makes a room look gray and drab, says Liat Tzoubari, CEO of Sevensmith, a home decor boutique. “Instead, choose a white with a slight pink or yellow tint such as cream,” she says.
“Red, for example, has been shown to raise the heart rate and blood pressure, so it’s a good choice in a room where you’re entertaining, but poorly used in a bedroom,” Chuber says.
Amy Bly, a home stager with Great Impressions, prefers navy blue in an office and calming shades of green or blue in bedrooms.
Also, whatever you do, never paint a bathroom brown or yellow, says Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency. They don’t send the right message. Instead, he says, “White exudes cleanliness.”
“Accent walls seem to be the go-to solution for homeowners who are afraid of using color,” says Liz Toombs, president of Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors.
But think carefully about saturated color on one wall. You don’t simply want the loudest color you can think of, cautions Bee Heinemann, interior designer with Vant Wall Panels: “For an accent wall to work, the bold hue needs to be within the overall color scheme of the room or house.” Plus, going too bright may turn off a potential buyer.
Be cautious about where you paint an accent wall, too. Certain rooms are more appropriate than others.
“Accent walls are supposed to draw attention to a beautiful area, like the dining room—but not the bathroom or toilet area,” Willhoit says.
8. Ignoring the light
When you see a color in the paint store, the lighting is often harsh and industrial. But at home, you have softer bulbs with a warm glow, plus some natural light to work with.
“Test your color swatches in different lighting, or you’ll end up with a shade that’s all wrong,” Chuber recommends.
And you’ll want to consider the direction your rooms face, Bly adds. “North-facing rooms give colors a cool cast, while rooms looking south make colors warmer.”