Choose Wall Color With Confidence

The number one fear in home design is choosing color. The thought alone can make the most courageous break out in a cold sweat.

Making paint decisions at the paint store is like grocery shopping when you're starving -- not a good idea. There are hundreds of samples in paint displays because you're supposed to take them with you and make these critical decisions at home. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people put themselves on the spot in the paint store and try to make decisions in that distracting environment.

People often choose white because they think it's safe. To compensate for lack of color, we spend thousands of dollars on upholstery, rugs, drapes, and accessories to keep our interiors from looking cold and sterile. You will forever be fighting to make your rooms look warm and inviting if you don't paint with color! Even museums hire color consultants to advise them on complementary colors that will enhance the artworks and make their galleries less intimidating.

White creates hard-to-deal-with contrast. Dark wood furniture appears darker against white, and rich accent colors and fabrics turn into black holes in a white room. Accessories are left to float in space against white, and we place the burden on them to bring a room together. By contrast, the proper wall color can unite a room, showcase your objects, and work wonders for your space.

In some exceptional cases a white room will work. If you want a Manhattan loft feel, if you live close to the water and the house is flooded with light, or if you’re seeking a post-modern, monochromatic look, then use white. But keep in mind that there are hundreds of shades of white, and the warmer the white, the better the look. If you want a room to be white but not glaring, a pale beige will look white on the wall. It accepts natural light better and is more flattering to skin tones. Make your choice wisely.

Text and images excerpted from the book Christopher Lowell's Seven Layers of Design, © 2000 by Discovery Communications, Inc. Used with permission.

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