6 Paint Color Mistakes That Make Designers Cringe

Achieve a color scheme you love with these expert tips.

Let's get something straight: There's nothing wrong with choosing a paint color you love, even if it doesn't top the paint color charts. In fact, choosing a color that doesn't speak to you might just be the most cringe-worthy of mistakes, says Michelle Bray, owner of Five Star Painting.

Instead, some of the most problematic paint color issues come about through the absence of professional expertise. Designers can help turn a ho-hum palette into a full-fledged work of art. To help steer you clear of any paint color problems (whether foreseen or unforeseen), designers share the top paint color pitfalls.

pastel tones paint colors and details
Adam Albright

1. Don't Settle for Seconds

Especially when you have a post-move to-do list that seems to never end, it can be tempting to maintain passed-down color choices. But Bray warns of keeping the color scheme of the house you just moved into, especially when it's not totally off-putting but definitely not something you would have chosen yourself if given the option.

"This can lead you to start making bigger purchases, like sofas and rugs, and end up with a mix of stagnant decor that you don't care about," says Bray. "That's just a waste of money." She suggests hiring a professional to help you decide on both the flooring and paint color options before you move in to help set the tone for your new-to-you space. That way, all the accoutrements to come will start with a foundation that has your stamp of approval.

2. Don't Be Afraid to Make an Emotional Choice

When it comes to certain spaces, such as a mudroom, hall bath, or even the upstairs den, you might be able to get away with a slightly trendier paint choice. But when it comes to the spaces where you spend the most time, Bray says to go with your gut. "Determine the most lived-in spaces and start from there," she says.

Avoid selecting a paint color simply because it's trendy—a surefire way to end up with a palette you hate that would likely have a negative impact on your mood. "Work with a color consultant who can physically come to your space and help you figure that out," says Bray. But most importantly, she says to always be honest with yourself to ensure you wind up with a color scheme you love living in.

3. Don't Only Think About Walls

Crown molding, baseboards, and door casings often get forgotten. "I think most people think those have to be painted white," says Nicole White, CEO and principal designer at Nicole White Designs. "Newsflash: they don't." Even if you're going for a bolder, non-neutral choice, bring that color all the way to the ceiling. "I love painting [these architectural details] the same color as the walls to give a room a truly elevated and luxe look. It's like wearing an all-black dress, then giving yourself the luxury of adding accessories in just the right areas."

4. Don't DIY a Project Beyond Your Skill Level

This is a good time to circle back on the idea of being honest with yourself. Your time and talent for this particular job should be at the top of the list of deciding factors. Without those two things, Bray warns that oftentimes the "job is rushed, things get missed, colors go wrong, and you end up with an amazing home with a bad paint job." Nobody wants that. Know when to call in the pros and you can save yourself (and those who dwell with you) from this fate.

5. Don't Use Tricky Colors Without Testing

According to Bray, any color has the potential to go wrong thanks to factors like whether you're working with artificial or natural light, the height of your ceiling, your flooring type, and more. But there are two paint colors that are notorious troublemakers for the DIYer: yellow and red.

"Both can go wrong, ending up looking like totally different colors on different walls in the same space or different rooms in the same home," says Bray. She suggests keeping red outside (like on the front door). As for yellow, you'll want to observe the color in your home throughout the day. "Get a sample of the color, paint several white poster boards, and move them throughout the space at different times of the day," Bray suggests. That way you can be sure you're making the right decision.

6. Don't Overlook the Finish

For a novice home painter, going with a flat finish will afford the most forgiveness, camouflaging imperfections rather than drawing the eye to them. That said, White doesn't advise going that route if you have small children who are likely to leave fingerprints and sticky smudges all over your walls. In that case, an eggshell or satin finish is your best option as both hide some drywall imperfections (unlike a gloss finish) and can also be wiped down easily when needed.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles