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How to Select Interior Paint Colors for Your Home

Stephanie has published many articles on inviting home décor, entertaining ideas and recipes.

Interior Paint is One of the Least Expensive Ways to Update a Room

Thinking about home improvement projects? One of the easiest, least expensive ways to update a room in your home is with interior paint. But what color or colors should you choose?

The answer to that question depends on a number of factors:

1. The mood you are looking to create (calm, bold, exciting, soothing);

2. The purpose of the room (relaxing, entertaining);

3. Artwork, furniture, pillows, window coverings, carpet/floor coverings, and other décor in the room;

4. The colors to which you are naturally drawn (peek in your closet for this answer!);

5. The amount of light in the room - natural or lighting fixtures; and

6. Existing paint colors (if any)

If you're ready for a fresh coat of paint, let's figure out how to select interior paint colors for your home!

So many paint colors to choose from!

So many paint colors to choose from!

Decorating With Paint: Color Tips

White walls are usually boring, but there is something to be said for selecting a relatively neutral color as the anchor color, used throughout your living spaces.

Whether you go with a warm ivory, a cool gray or soft beige (or yes, even white), applying the anchor color to about 60 percent of the wall, ceiling and trim surfaces in your home will help create a unified look (this is known as the 60:30:10 concept). Consider whether you wish to paint doors to match surrounding trim.

The secondary color is where you can have some fun! Using any shade that has the same undertones as the anchor color, paint about 30 percent of the surfaces. The remaining 10 percent of the surfaces are painted with a third, accent color, that also has the same undertones as the first two shades.

But don't let the 60:30:10 concept limit you to only 3 colors of interior paint! The more shades you choose, you will probably still want to have one, dominant anchor color (maybe it covers 50% of the surfaces instead).

Select Interior Paint Colors to Set the Mood

Interior paint colors can help set the mood of a room. For example, the walls in our kitchen are a warm, brick color reminiscent of a brick oven. During winter months, its very cozy and welcoming. We love entertaining in the kitchen.

Our bedroom has classic pale blue walls, in a soft, soothing color. Although we have not repainted recently, I would probably choose a warmer color, like a soft butter yellow. The tone would literally warm up the room and it might feel less chilly than it does right now.

In the playroom, we've used bright, cheery colors on the walls. Using a chair rail, only the top half of the walls are painted, with the bottom half covered in white beadboard. This prevents the loud colors from feeling overwhelming.

The guest bathroom is painted a deep eggplant, which lends a luxurious, pampered feel to the room. But the walls in our own bathroom match those in our bedroom. The two rooms are adjoining, and the continuous "soothing" blue paint actually makes the two spaces feel more expansive.

No matter the color you like best, interior paint is an affordable home improvement project!

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How to Select Paint Colors for your Home

Select Interior Paint Colors to Complement Furnishings and Décor

Its one thing to select interior paint color that you like and that you believe will suit the mood of the room. You should also consider the furnishings and décor that will fill the room after you're done painting. A bold wall color may help showcase a special piece of art work, or complement beautiful tiling or cabinets. On the other hand, if the focal point in the room is a gorgeous Oriental rug, you might want to keep wall colors neutral and low-key.

Don't forget window coverings and carpeting. You will want to have enough contrast between the colors of all three to keep things interesting. Ivory curtains hung over beige walls might be boring.

Before choosing your paint colors, take a look at the colors you already have in the home - whether on artwork, rugs, pillows, towels or bed coverings. Chances are you will find a common theme that will be a great anchor or secondary color (mine is sage green). Either bring a sample with you to the paint store (a swatch of fabric or throw pillow itself), or take home a number of paint chip cards to compare and contrast to see how certain colors will complement furnishings and décor in your home.

Remember that when you initially apply paint, the effect is not the same as when all coats are applied and have dried. Colors may appear darker or brighter when first applied, rather than later.

Select Interior Paint Colors to Match Your Personal Palette

This paint selection tip is probably the most important of all. After all, if you dress in certain colors and are drawn to certain colors, shouldn't you ensure that your interior spaces feel completely comfortable? Let's say you love warm colors like orange tones or sepia. Painting your walls blue or purple probably will not lend a familiar feel for the rooms in your home.

Not sure what tones speak to you? Take a look inside your closet, and consider what shades draw you to them when you go shopping. For me, the shades are often deep, eggplant purple, biscuit tan and sage green. Accents of brick red work well with these colors. There are many variations across the color palette in these tones.

Interior Paint Colors for Living Rooms and Dining Rooms

Work With Existing Interior Paint Colors

If you don't want to entirely repaint the interior of your home, you can work with existing paint colors and update from there. Perhaps you want to leave the trim, or an accent wall, as is. Choosing a complementary color is now your task.

Before you head to the home improvement store, take a look at the paint colors to determine what undertone exists. Every color on the spectrum - including white - is either warm or cool. Warm undertones include yellow or pink. Cool undertones are bluish. You will want to match undertones when selecting new paint colors for a unified feeling at the end of your paint project.

Just remember that you don't have to repaint everything! You can update the look of your home with a few rooms, or even just a few walls. Give your interior a quick update without breaking the bank. Why not undertake an interior painting project this weekend?

Stir up some beautiful interior paint colors for your home

Stir up some beautiful interior paint colors for your home

© 2011 Stephanie Marshall


Rg on February 21, 2015:

I love that soothing blue color you have used in your bedroom and bathroom. Could you please share the brand and name of that color?

explorations from Philadelphia on August 23, 2012:

I find this post to be very informative and detailed, and I couldn't resist not to feature/link to my blogpost. Good job! Thanks!

ignugent17 on August 20, 2012:

Very useful. I will read it again before we decide to paint our living room. Thanks.

interior paint colour on February 15, 2012:

Today’s interior designers often recommend an accent wall – this is a wall painted in a strong color which sets the tone for the room There’s nothing like a bright, fun whimsical style kitchen to really wake you up in the morning the interior paint colour is useful for home and garden the decorative and attarctive colour for use the paint the interior paint is to design some different shine with the home The popular trend is to use warm neutral color combinations such as taupe, brown hues and soft grays in shared living areas – family rooms, living rooms, kitchens, hallways and foyers – and a combination of bold and neutral colors in bedrooms and bathrooms.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 12, 2011:

Thanks BonFiya,

Excellent idea for a follow-up hub. My in-laws have slanted ceilings in their home and have addressed the same question you pose about painting. Best, Steph

BonFiya on October 12, 2011:

Great Hub Steph! I wonder if you could write a follow up addressing paint/design ideas for rooms with slanted ceilings. I've often wondered of the pros/cons of 1)painting slant same color as walls and 2)painting slant same color as ceiling...

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 07, 2011:

Thanks anginwu,

Next time you have an interior paint project, I hope these tips help. Cheers, Steph

anglnwu on October 07, 2011:

Good tips. I recently have to have our rental property painted--wish I had read this before the project. Rated up.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 07, 2011:


That is so funny about blue making people want to stay at the pub all night. I wonder if painting the walls red makes it more likely that people will break out in fights? LOL!

I do like blue for the bedroom, as well as soft yellow and sage green. Thanks for the comment and compliments! Best to you, Steph

Nell Rose from England on October 07, 2011:

Hi, great ideas! I am always on the lookout for new colors in my house, I do get fed up with the same ones all year round. Blue is such a lovely color, but I did see a TV program a couple of weeks back that came up with a strange result, it said that if a pub or bar paints its walls a reddish orange, instead of making people stay awake, it made them drowsy and they went home, but blue kept everybody up all night! evidently it was something to do with the red being like firelight, and the blue being cold, amazing stuff eh? but saying that my bedroom is blue too, I love your photos, what a lovely house! great info, cheers nell

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 07, 2011:

Hi Prasetio, Congratulations on your home! I hope you enjoy painting and making it your own place. Thank you for reading and commenting - Cheers, Steph

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 07, 2011:

Very inspiring hub. I love all information about how to select interior paint color. I'll apply this for my new home. This isn't a big home. Small home with two bedrooms and one bathroom. I hope the result is good enough. I got many inspirations after reading this hub. You have done a great job, Steph. Vote up!


Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 06, 2011:

Hi Dirt Farmer,

That is so cool! I really do love the shade in our bathroom. With the dark cabinets and white trim, it feels "spa like." I'm sure your room will look beautiful when you're done painting! Best to you, Steph

Jill Spencer from United States on October 06, 2011:

Just painting our master bath the same soothing blue that's in your photos! It looks great with the beige tiling.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 06, 2011:

Hi Dee, I'm glad the hub was timely! Enjoy painting the interior of your home. Best, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 06, 2011:

Dolores, that cracks me up! By the way, I really do love sage green for interior paint color. Depending on the rest of the furnishings and décor in your home, its a really easy, pleasing shade. Good luck! Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 06, 2011:

Thank you Thelma - good luck with your painting project! Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 06, 2011:

Thanks ktrapp - light is very important when choosing paint colors. A dark, heavy shade may not result in the intended effect if there is not much natural light that comes in. Appreciate the comment as always - Best, Steph

Dee Waltz on October 06, 2011:

Good post...we're right in the middle of painting a house so this was helpful!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on October 06, 2011:

I am planning a new look for my living room which is now a faux finished reddish. Suddenly one day, I just got sick of the color and the faux paint, which I used to love. It's just to much. But choosing a new color is so hard! You mentioned sage green which is at the top of my list. I want to tone it down. Told my son that I am sick of the crazy house look. He said, you think painting it will make it look less crazy?

Thelma Alberts from Germany on October 06, 2011:

This is an informative article as I am choosing some paint color for my massage room. A relaxing one. Thanks for sharing.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on October 05, 2011:

These are all really good pointers on paint color selection. I think it is especially important to take the amount of light that comes into the room into account as you point out.

I also think it really helps to get a just a small amount of the color mixed and paint a little on the wall and see how you like it over the next few days, being sure to look at it during various light levels throughout the day.

By the way, I love the color selections in your home, as well as your kitchen cabinets. The kitchen does seem very warm and cozy. I'm certainly going to rate this up and useful.

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