Caroline Browne

How to choose the right paint colour for your room

Too much choice?

One of the questions I’m asked most is “what colour should I paint this room?”

The person asking the question is often at their wits end. After spending a small fortune on sample pots of not-quite-right shades, the walls are a complete mess and a decorator is arriving tomorrow…and it’s still not clear which is the best colour.

Choosing the right paint colour for your room can be quite a minefield and that’s before you start thinking about the ceiling, skirtings, doors and door frames and windows!

Here are 4 simple questions to ask yourself that will make choosing colour uncomplicated, stress-free and exciting.

What direction does my room face? Simple rule of thumb-if your room faces North or East, choose a warm toned paint. By this, I mean one in the red/orange/yellow end of the colour spectrum. That also includes pink, blush, terracotta, peach, lemon, and sand.

Pink and plum hues add warmth to this North East facing room

It doesn’t have to be a full-on colour unless that’s what you want. Many off whites, pale neutrals and some greys have a warm base. I’ve listed some of my favourites at the bottom of this post. 

On the other hand, if your room faces South or West, choose a cool toned paint with a blue/green/violet base. Think sky blue, sage green, and lilac grey. Again, I’ve listed some of my favourite cool based off whites, neutrals and greys below.

How much natural light does it get? If it’s lots, then I like to make the most of this and keep a room light, bright and airy with a pale to mid-tone wall colour.

Pale colours make the most of a naturally light room

If there’s not much natural light, why not embrace the dark side and paint it in a darker, richer colour to feel more dramatic and cocooning. This works particularly well in a hallway, snug, or study.

Dark blue paint makes for a dramatic entrance

What colours are the other items in my room? It’s easy and simple to stick to either mainly cool or mainly warm colours in a scheme. So ask yourself if the colours of your flooring and furniture fit with the warm or cool colour scheme that you decided on, based on your answer to question 1. If not, can you change them? Think about selling, re-covering or moving items that don’t fit. 

If you’re feeling more confident about colour, then mixing warm and cool colours can really work. A deep blue velvet sofa will look amazing against blush pink walls for instance. Trust your gut feel when combining colours, if it feels wrong then it probably is, so move that clashing sofa or rug somewhere else!

How do I want my room to feel? If it’s a small room that you want to feel more spacious, my tip is paint as many surfaces as possible in the same colour. That’s the walls, skirting, doors, windows and even the ceiling. This will blur the boundaries and make the room feel bigger. It’s an optical illusion but a useful trick.

Using the same paint colour on the units and walls makes this kitchen feel more spacious

If on the other hand it’s a lovely big room, with handsome architectural features such as decorative cornicing, skirtings and ceiling mouldings, paint these in a contrasting colour to highlight them and enhance the proportions of your room. Keep the contrasting colour in the same warm or cool colour family that you have settled on for a cohesive look. 

Remember woodwork doesn’t have to be white, or even lighter than the wall colour. In fact, darker woodwork against paler walls looks fabulous and is space-enhancing too.

The contrast between darker woodwork makes the pale walls appear lighter and brighter

Accent or feature walls painted in a contrasting colour will make your room feel smaller because the contrasting colour advances towards your eye. It will literally feel like the wall is closing in! If it’s a colour you love then go bold and put it on all the walls. I would only use contrasting colour on a single wall as a useful trick to help “zone” really large, open plan spaces. 

And finally, don’t forget your ceiling, or the fifth wall! It’s traditionally painted white to reflect light into the room, but paint the ceiling in the same colour as the walls to make a room feel more spacious. Or paint the ceiling in a bold, contrasting colour or finish to really make a statement. It’s is a fun way to experiment with a bold colour in a way that’s less full-on than using it on the walls which are in your direct line of sight all the time. It’s just worth remembering that a bold, bright or shiny ceiling will feel a little lower than it might if painted a light colour.

I hope you have found this helpful and if you identify with the stressed person whose wall is covered with paint patches that you are now feeling calmer, more confident and even excited about choosing the best paint colour for your room. 

If you need more advice, please get in touch, I’d be delighted to help you.

Caroline X

Warm based off whites and neutrals 

Farrow & Ball Dimity, String, Charleston Gray, Dove Tale, Elephant’s Breath, Joa’s White, Jitney, Matchstick, Savage Ground, Shadow White, Shaded White, White Tie, New White

Cool based off whites and neutrals

Farrow & Ball Wevet, Strong White, Great White, Blackened, Dimpse, Cabbage White, Skimming Stone, Cornforth White, Worsted, Borrowed Light, Ammonite. 

Images Dulux, Farrow & Ball, Pinterest, Neptune