Watercolor Sunset:  Study/office by Pixers

​The homify guide to choosing paint colours

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan

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Giving your home a new look does not always have to involve a professional (and, sometimes, expensive) interior designer. Sometimes all it takes is a little paint and a lot of imagination.

And speaking of paint, as they come in a variety of colours (like everything related to design), how do we know which colour is best? That is like asking how long is a piece of string. No two people will give the same answer!

But here on homify, we always strive to make everything relating to architecture and interior design easier. And if you’re struggling with choosing paint colours, we can definitely offer some advice.

But before we start speaking about colours, let’s first investigate the sheen…

1. Which sheen to pick

The glossier the paint, the easier it is to clean up. That is certainly the one thing that convinces households with lots of youngsters to pick a high-gloss paint for the majority of their home’s walls. Just a simple wipe-down with a sponge is all it takes to remove those spills and splatters. 

But keep in mind that glossy paint also highlights wall blemishes and imperfections, and could add an unpleasant shine to spaces like living rooms. 

Semi-gloss is a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms as well as trim, ensuring less shine and easily washable surfaces. It’s also much cheaper than the glossy alternative. 

For walls with lots of imperfections, we recommend a flat or matte paint. Usually just one coat is required. The downside, however, is that this paint does not stand up well to good cleaning and tends to show dirt very easily. 

The most popular sheen is probably eggshell, which hides imperfections like a flat paint, yet is easier to wash and more durable.

2. Choosing paint colours

Master bedroom home decorators:  Bedroom by Paintforme

Master bedroom home decorators


Thinking about selling your house? Then cross over to the neutral realm of whites, off-whites, greys, beiges, etc. Neutral colour palettes (inside and outside) persuade buyers much easier to consider a house, as they ensure a brighter and cleaner appearance. 

But keep in mind that a chat with a professional is always recommended. Thus, take advantage of the experts at your local paint store and talk to someone about the various colour schemes available. 

And always remember the colour wheel.  

• The primary colours are blue, red and yellow. Combining any of these will result in secondary colours like purple, green, etc. 

• Colours situated close together on the colour wheel (like blue and purple) are analogous to each other and always allow one colour to stand out more.  

• Colours opposite one another (like blue and orange) are contrasting but also complementary, so they always play nicely off each other.  

• Staying within the same shade of colour (like fern green, pistachio green, etc.) ensures a subtle and soothing look. 

• Painting with cool tones like blues and purples helps to make small rooms appear larger and more airy. Warm tints like reds and yellows ensures a more vibrant vibe.  

• Editing warm colours by selecting a muted hue (like a blush red or a salmon pink) varies the shade considerably, making them more practical for more spaces.

3. Choosing paint colours for a subtle and soothing look

Reader armchair:  Living room by Loaf

Reader armchair


Sticking to the same colour family and opting for various hues within that family (i.e. teal blue, cobalt, cerulean) can ensure a soothing look without losing interest. Doing this is recommended for bathrooms, where one generally wants a relaxing ambience. So, pick your favourite colour and see which lighter or darker shades you can play with. 

For instance, pick a darker tint for the wall, but go lighter for the trim. For textiles (like towels and bath mats) you can vary the different shades within the same scheme. 

If you want to create a calming ambience in your bedroom, choose shades of either cool or warm colours. Opt for different textures in your bedding and accessories for visual character.

To ensure a comforting vibe in the kitchen, go with a muted natural shade like sage. And to lend it that feeling of baked goodies, we suggest shades of buttery yellow. Keep in mind that colour psychology teaches us that red stimulates the appetite.

4. Choosing paint colours for an elegant look

Isn’t it amazing how flexible the neutral colours are, since they can expertly provide tonnes of elegance to any room? But remember that neutrals are no longer only whites and beige. Thousands of various hues are located within each neutral colour (i.e. almond, mocha, stone grey, dove grey, charcoal, daisy white… ), each one perfectly suitable for influencing your main colour palette by making it softer, cooler, warmer, etc. 

For more visual elegance, don’t be afraid to add texture to your accessories. And remember that the lighter your colours go, the more visually spacious the room will seem.

5. Choosing paint colours for a vibrant look

Watercolor Sunset:  Study/office by Pixers

Watercolor Sunset


For pizzazz, choose the vibrant colours (those of the ‘fire’ element like reds, oranges, hot pinks, violet… ). Complement these colours by placing two next to each other (like gold and orange), then a contrasting one on the other side of the colour wheel (like dark purple). 

For a real stand-out contrast that’s both vibrant and elegant, select black and red – very reminiscent of an Oriental look.

6. Choosing paint colours for a ceiling

Want to make a high ceiling appear lower? Paint it a darker shade than the walls. And vice versa, you can expand the room by picking a lighter hue for your ceiling than the walls. 

If you’re afraid that the ceiling’s colour will stand out too much, paint the door trim and floor mouldings in the same shade, like creamy ivory. It will ensure a softer visual transition throughout the room.

7. Choosing paint colours for focal points

Scandinavian style lounge:  Living room by Katie Malik Interiors
Katie Malik Interiors

Scandinavian style lounge

Katie Malik Interiors

Quickly change the look and vibe of any room by opting to paint just one stand-out element in a different colour. A focal wall will always be darker or lighter than the other walls, but make sure it’s a wall that shows off either architectural features (like windows or a fireplace) or focal furniture (like a television). 

For a room with moulding halfway between the floor and ceiling, go with two different shades of the same colour for an eye-catching effect. 

And don’t overlook the importance of staircases, especially those in the middle of a room. They can look incredible when painted a darker shade than the walls and ensures a stunning focal point. 

Let’s uncover The secrets of painting a wall evenly.

Are you one for neutral colour palettes, or are you gutsy enough to go with strong contrasting paint tones?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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