6 Design Secrets From a Color Expert

Kitchen with green cabinets

Wit & Delight

Paint is one of the easiest ways to update a space. With little more than a coat of paint, you can instantly rejuvenate a living room or give a bedroom a whole new feel. But picking the right color can be hard, especially if you have no idea where to begin. To get some tips, we talked to KILZ color expert Rob Hellander about all things paint.

Whether you're a color fanatic who loves to mix things up or you've kept the same plain white walls in your house for years, Hellander gave us some advice on picking, painting, and experimenting with color.

  • 01 of 06

    Start With What You Already Have

    Living room with bright white paint

    Juniper Home

    In many elements of design, we all have our own individual tastes, and we're typically drawn to specific types of decor. But when it comes to color, all bets are off. There are so many shades of paint that it can be incredibly overwhelming to even begin to narrow your options down.

    Hellander suggests starting with what already exists in your space. "I recommend looking at existing design elements that you know you love—like a favorite art print, tile backsplash, throw, or piece of furniture," he says. "Oftentimes, you can pull out hues from these fixed or beloved elements that work nicely on walls. Layout your favorite items to create a version of a mood board, and from there see which colors pop out as your go-to hues."

  • 02 of 06

    Consider How You Will Use Your Room

    Desk with accessories and objects scattered around it and next to it on shelves

    Slava Keyzman / Unsplash

    If you've narrowed down a few favorite shades but still can't decide on the perfect one, Hellander says thinking about how you'll use the space is a great way to get inspiration and find a starting point. "Color is personal, and the one you choose for a particular space all depends on the feeling you’re trying to evoke," he says.

    Say you're decorating a living room. Hellander suggests "an energetic shade of yellow or trendy lilac" to energize the space for entertaining, or a soothing gray or green for a calming place to escape and relax.

    "Narrow the pool down to one color family you love—and from there, sample, sample, sample until you land on the perfect hue," he says.

  • 03 of 06

    Always Test the Paint on Your Wall

    Blue paint samples

    DIY Playbook

    According to Hellander, "A paper swatch will give you a good general idea of how the color will appear, but paint tends to look different when it’s up on the wall."

    As light changes throughout the day, the shade will appear darker and lighter. BVC always recommends "sampling three to five variations of a color and painting large swatches on the wall." This allows you to see how lighting will change the shade on your walls before you commit to a color.

  • 04 of 06

    Should You Keep Colors Cohesive? It Depends

    Benjamin Moore paint in a kitchen

    Benjamin Moore 

    Some designers like to maintain a theme throughout the home, keeping colors consistent and complementary from room to room. According to Hellander, "Color selection and how it varies throughout a home depends entirely on your own tastes."

    "If you’re working with an open floor plan—say the kitchen, dining and living room are open to one another—using the same color throughout can make the space feel even more open. On the other hand, if you want the rooms to feel more separate, use contrasting hues to create the illusion of more separated spaces."

    That said, there is one theme Hellander likes to maintain throughout a house. "While there are no technical 'rules' when it comes to using paint throughout a home, I do recommend keeping the color of the trim and molding the same throughout to create a nice, consistent thread from room to room," he says.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Paint Should Hold up for Years to Come

    navy blue bathroom

    Kate Riley

    Paint is one of the easiest forms of renovation you can do in your home, but that doesn't mean you'll want to repaint year after year. Hellander says "a high-quality paint ensures that the sheen and color will hold up for years to come (up to 10 years!), but if you choose a trendier hue or just get sick of a color, it’s not uncommon to repaint after two to three years."

    Don't be afraid to experiment with bright, bold colors throughout your home. Unlike permanent changes such as taking down a wall or adding expensive upgrades to a kitchen, paint can easily (and cheaply) be updated in a weekend.

  • 06 of 06

    Yes, Your Spouse Should Be Involved Too

    Bedroom with green paint

    Paper & Stitch

    Color is one of those things that some people have vastly different opinions about. Especially when it comes to trendier or more experimental colors, a can of paint can be a surprisingly sore subject among couples. Hellander thinks it's important to compromise and find a color that suits both personalities.

    "Try each listing out adjectives about how you want the room to feel and be used, and then compare lists," he says. "Once you’ve agreed on the vibe of the space, sample each partner’s top picks and check back throughout the course of at least a week. You might be surprised by how the perfect hue can grow on someone with a little time."

The Bottom Line

Painting your home can be stressful, but it's important to remember to have fun. There are endless options when it comes to color, so don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and rejuvenate your space with a fresh coat.