Don’t Make The Same 3 Color Mistakes I Made.

There is a saying  “you don’t know, what you don’t know”. Many years ago, before I started Design classes, before color blogs, and way before Maria Killam’s True Color Expert class I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know about color. I always had a good eye for color and I was certainly passionate about color but when it came to choosing color for my home I made the same mistakes that I see my clients making today. So in the hope that you will learn from my mishaps I thought it would be helpful to share my three biggest color mistakes of the past.

#1. Choosing Color Out of Context.

paint swatches

Even way back then I knew enough not to chose color from a chip at the paint store. What I would do is bring home samples, paint patches on the wall and then stand back and look until one of the colors screamed the loudest “PICK ME… I’M THE BEST!”  I would make my choice, paint the room, then uncover all my furniture, re-hang the drapes, unroll the rug then stand back and think “humm…I should have picked _______ instead”.

Lesson: You MUST look at the color next to your drapes, behind your furniture and next to your rug. Colors change based on the colors next to them so you can not choose color out of context.

#2. Choosing a Color because it is the “Hot New Color”.

brown living room

circa 2005 brown living room

Remember several years back when you couldn’t pick up a decorating magazine without seeing dark Brown walls (often times paired with Robin’s Egg Blue)? Well I got the brilliant idea of painting my small (poorly lite) North facing living room dark brown…I’m talking Bittersweet Chocolate Brown. By the time I finished painting it was well after midnight and I remember thinking “I hope this looks different (better) in the morning”. I still remember my shock and awe as I came down the stairs the next morning, looked down the bright hallway and saw what I can only describe as a “black hole”. It was terrible. I had not considered the fact that dark brown related to nothing else in my house nor the fact that the rest of my walls were all very pale neutrals. I immediately went down to the basement found an old can of primer and started painting over those dark brown walls while I was still in my pajama’s.

Lesson:No matter what the color trends are you must think about how the color will relate to the rest of the colors and furnishings in your home. Even though Gray has replaced Brown as the “hot new neutral”, if you have absolutely nothing else in your home that will relate to Gray then that may not be the best choice for you.

#3. Choosing a wall color based on a color you saw somewhere else. After finding out the name of a beautiful wall color in a local furniture store I painted a room in my own home the same color. It looked NOTHING like what I had seen in the store. I was sure that either the store owner had told me the wrong color or the paint store had mixed the paint wrong. After much back and forth I discovered the color was correct; it just looked completely different in my house.

The two rooms below are both painted Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter and look how different they look.

rever pewter

walls Revere Pewter: Design by Kate Signer

AM Dolce Vita walls Revere Pewter

walls Revere Pewter: AM Dolce Vita blog

Lesson: (Going back to #1) colors change based on what surrounds them, the lighting in the room, the time of day you look at the color, the direction the room is facing, all sorts of variables. Just because you fall in love with a color you see someplace, don’t assume it will look like that in your home.

How about you? Have you made a mistake with color you can share?

If you would like help with decorating, staging or color give me a call.

32 Responses to Don’t Make The Same 3 Color Mistakes I Made.
  1. Barbara @ DIY Home Staging Tips Reply

    I love this post. You make it sound simple. It IS simple, if we can just avoid these mistakes. This post is so helpful (and necessary!) that I am posting it on my Facebook Group page for people staging their homes.

    I was a professional housepainter for 20-plus years. I have seen people agonize and deliberate over paint color selection, and still not get it right, because their choices were subjective and isolated, just as you point out. As a painter, I could only make suggestions.

    If anyone doubts the changes that can happen to a paint, they should take a look at what happens to its color when a wall turns a corner. Or when you change a bedcover from white to red (and the room suddenly turns rosy). Or when the lighting changes. Your two photos of the gray walls speak volumes.

    I had to laugh at the image of you painting in your pajamas. Who among us hasn’t made some of these same mistakes and wanted to immediately correct them?

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Barbara for sharing my post. Too bad I had to go through so many bad paint choices but So happy I now know better!

  2. Hannah Dee Reply

    Those last 2 photos are crazy! Can’t believe they are both Revere Pewter!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Kind of makes you think twice about recommending it doesn’t it?

  3. carol@thedesignpages Reply

    Oh how I cringe when I think about the terrible paint crimes I committed in my homes in the past.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      We’ve all been there Carol…even the “experts”.

  4. Sheila Zeller Reply

    I’m guilty of picking paint from the paint chip in the store scenario. What looked like a soft, warm white turned into a nasty case of eeeghad uu-g-ly yellow in the actual space. The lighting and carpeting did not do this colour any favours. It was just awful. And then I took Maria’s TCE course. Whew. Never again will I make the paint chip mistake!!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Sheila, Too bad we didn’t know about Maria much sooner…we would have saved so much money on paint not to mention time!

  5. Kelly Reply

    These are such well explained examples Linda. Those Revere Pewter photos are unbelievable! And I can’t help laughing picturing you in your pjs painting first thing in the morning! :)

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kelly. Yup, I actually did start painting in my p.j.’s. I was panicked to get rid of that huge color mistake ASAP.

  6. kristie@thedecorologist Reply

    Great tips, Linda and all so true! Everyone makes those mistakes, sometimes over and over! The first Revere Pewter room definitely looks pinky.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Kristie, The funny thing about the Revere Pewter is that I have used it twice now and it doesn’t look like either of those rooms in the photo. It really is a chameleon color.

  7. Jessica Reply

    What a great post! I am amazed at how different the two rooms painted with Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter looked. Thank you for the tips, it’s great advice!! I just remodeled my living room and the drapes I purchased are not doing the room any justice, as they are clashing with the wall color. I haven’t taken them down yet because I’m having a hard time deciding what color would be most appropriate. Do you by chance have any tips on how to find the appropriate color fabric for curtains that will go behind a mint sofa on beige walls? :-)
    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Jessica, My best advice is to find fabric for the curtains that relate to both the wall color and the sofa color. Maybe a floral or stripe that has both beige and mint green. That way the curtains will tie the room together.

      • Jessica Reply

        Thanks Linda!! I may try making the curtains using the same fabric that I used for two of the throw pillows that go on the sofa, the fabric incorporates mint and various shades of browns. Again, thanks for the advice and for sharing!

        • Linda Holt Reply

          That sounds like a great idea!

  8. Ann McDonald Reply

    Great post Linda! I especially love the two rooms painted the same color!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Ann. As far as the Revere Pewter…crazy right?

  9. john shearer Reply

    I most often deal with the third example; taking the color from another space to use it is your own; or often a magazine image and then trying to extract colors from print.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment John. Coping a color from a magazine is classic.

  10. [...] Linda Holt participated in one of my earlier workshops and I love this post she wrote a while ago, Don&#... mariakillam.com/2012/09/top-8-posts-by-true-colour-experts.html
  11. Kristi Reply

    Your post is music to my ears. Every time I made one of these mistakes in the past I had assumed I was just completely hopeless with this decorating thing. Now I understand so much more about colour thanks to hours of blog reading – it is a fickle thing and takes time to learn the right way to choose. If pro’s like yourself make these mistakes too, perhaps there is hope for my decorating ability yet!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kristi for the comment. Choosing color is both a science and and art and even the best of us (pros) make or have made mistakes. I know so much more now than I did even just a few years ago but even today I learn something new every time I work with color.

  12. Judy Reply

    I have the same problem with nail polish. It looks so different in the bottle than on my fingers!

    If I am having my nails done and I now pick out three or more and have the nail person pick out the color. Works like a charm. They are the professionals and see it all the time. It works for me!

  13. Dena Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. I wanted so badly to paint Revere Pewter on my walls because it looks beautiful online and its very popular. I was shocked after putting a sample amount on my walls that it looked gold. It was awful and I thought the store mixed the wrong color. I’m so happy that I’m not the first to experience this!! Thank you!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Dena. Revere Pewter really is like a chameleon so I always recommend testing first…and yes, you are not alone in seeing it go a strange hue on the wall.

  14. Jim Reply

    I just test painted some areas in a bathroom and bedroom with a sample of the Revere Pewter last evening and it turned out very grey, like the 2nd photo. I was very convinced that the guy at the paint store didn’t mix it right until I came across this thread. Not sure what to do now because I wanted the color to look more like the 1st photo and I don’t have any green in the bathroom. It’s strange because with just about every picture I see online, as well as the swatch, there is a greenish hue, yet I’m not able to see any greenish hue in the areas I’ve painted so far.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Jim are you testing it directly on the wall? If so the color that is curretnly on the wall may be making it appear more gray. Paint up a large poster board and look at the color away from the wall and it might look warmer to you. It truly is a chameleon color though.

  15. Painting my Home Reply

    Great post! Been reading a lot about painting my home. Thanks for the info here!

  16. Jax65 Reply

    This post has very good lessons to learn! I have darker tan (cottonwood – Ralph Lauren) and stained trim; I purchased a dark velvety grey sofa and it doesn’t match at all! I have thought about painting the walls a light grey an the trim white, but that would not match with the rest of my house (which is a small 832 sq ft ranch). I think with the rooms painted different colors my house looks choppy. Oh, also my walls are plaster with this circular sqirl (1956)…Do you have any thoughts for me? Thank you!!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi, very hard to comment without seeing the room but I would choose a single light neutral for the entire house. If your sofa is dark gray maybe consider a light warm gray for all the walls. Then add color with the accessories and art.

  17. Connie Reply

    Paint color is one of the most exciting AND most frustrating things to pick ;-) Some of the best results I’ve ever gotten were ‘home mixed’ paints from left-overs. Visitors to my home loved one color I’d made up so much & kept asking about it, so I had to give it a name. I called it “Some Kind of Yellow” ;-)

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