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How to pick interior paint colors

Picking the right paint color make a huge impact on your interior redesign project. (Photo courtesy of David Landy Interiors)

Picking the right paint color make a huge impact on your interior redesign project. (Photo courtesy of David Landy Interiors)

In this article, we will discuss paint types and finishes, and how to select the proper paint colors. Strap on your seat belt – here we go!

OK, you have an idea that a blue wall would be the ticket to a great-looking dining room. The fabrics you’ve selected for the room would coordinate nicely with this paint color, but only if it’s the right shade of blue…

Step 1 – Go to the paint store and review the collection of paint colors. Using the loose flags of paint colors, notice the changes in blue on each of the flags. There may be ten to twenty flags of blue with each flag having different tints. What do I do know?

Step 2 – Find the tint you’re looking for and go up and down the “shade” of this color. This up-and-down shade represents the same color family but a darker and lighter version of the selected color - with me so far?

Step 3 – Purchase sample quarts of all three colors, which will help you narrow down your primary selection, and a lighter and darker version of it. Be aware that when you’re selecting these colors at  store, you’re probably viewing them under a fluorescent light. This isn’t ideal since your home probably has a different bulb temperature. It’s OK since you’re now going to test the paint in the location you’re planning to paint.

Step 4 – You’ll also need to decide which type of paint finish you want to use: flat, eggshell, stain, semi-gloss and/or no- or low-VOC environmentally friendly paint. Here’s a quick guide:

  • The worse the condition of your walls, woodwork or molding, the more you need to lean towards flat paint.
  • Flat or eggshell finishes of paint show little of the drips or irregularities of the old paint layer you’re covering with new paint. It’s not an exciting finish, however, and it’s not as durable as glossy finishes.
  • Satin finish is a good choice for old woodwork and doors. It has good durability and can hide irregular drips.
  • Semi-gloss paint is very good for use in bathrooms, kitchens and on doors. It’s durable and cleanable.
  • Gloss paint is the most durable finish. It also provides an exciting shine, especially in contemporary interiors, where it draws attention to the molding and doors (if that is what you want to do). It should be used only when surfaces are clean and without bumps, drip marks or other imperfections since it’s shine will enhance any problem.
  • Environmentally friendly paints come in all of the above finishes and I recommend them. They can contain no or very low amounts of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in most paints. They’re available from most paint manufacturers.

Step 5 – Open all three sample quarts of your chosen color and proceed to paint about a 2-foot square on each wall. You’ll want to test paint at the floor bordering the base molding, in the middle of the wall and near the ceiling or just under the crown molding. Paint with each paint and allow it to dry since paint colors tend to be darker when dry.

Step 6 – View the paint sample patches in the day and in the evening. Stand at distance and view them. Which one looks better for your fabrics and color scheme? Does the color work in the day and in the evening? If yes, great, you’re done! If no, then you will need to pick a different shade. If you still have plenty of paint flags of blue, purchase just one new quart of the new color and test the paint as before. Continue until you find just the right shade.

Now, as an educated consumer, you too can select the right paint color. You’ve got the method, now just take your time to make the right selection.


About this Angie's List Expert: David Landy, owner of David Landy Interiors, earned his BS degree in Interior Design from the University of Connecticut in 1972.  In 1980, he passed the NCIDQ examination and was admitted as a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).  Landy is a New York State Certified Interior Designer (CID) and recently completed his term as President of the NY Metro chapter of ASID. Founded in 1978, David Landy Interiors works with both commercial and residential clients.

As of January 22, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.


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