According to Southern tradition, a certain shade of sky-blue paint called “Haint blue” wards off evil spirits — and stinging insects — when painted on porch ceilings.
Experts disagree over whether it’s a sky-mimicking optical illusion or the lye found in blue paint that actually acts as a bug repellent, but generations of bug-free porch lovers swear by the effects of the color.
Porch ceilings are far from the only place where choosing the right paint color makes a difference. Banana yellow might be your favorite color, but is it really the right choice for your home’s exterior? Hot pink certainly makes things pop, but will it complement your dream kitchen?
Whether you gravitate toward neutral tones or vivid hues, we’ve asked the experts to weigh in on color choice and balance for your new home.
Consider the Space as a Whole
“One of the biggest mistakes I see is homeowners who choose pink, blue, orange and yellow paint for different rooms,” says Susan Hershman of Studio + One Design, an Oakland-based interior design company. “You may be able to get away with that in rooms with doors, but in more cohesive spaces, you want a cohesive plan of color where everything connects.”
She recommends visualizing your home’s interior as one interconnected space and planning accordingly.
She also considers how colors appear next to one another and chooses colors that work through the whole space. She uses bright colors in small pops to avoid an overwhelming effect.
Use Color to Help Create Mood
You’ll likely want your bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen to have slightly different ambiances.
“Before you go about selecting the colors for each room in your home, take a step back and ask yourself how you want to feel in each room,” recommends Jeffrey Welder, an interior decorating expert with Vant Wall Panels. Think carefully about how each room will be used. “Once you determine the mood you’re going for, then you can start using color to support it,” says Welder.
In the kitchen, Hershman recommends using colors that are neutral and/or appetizing. “You don’t want pink in a kitchen, but you could use orange — something that’s the color of food,” she says. “Food is warmth and color and family and friends and if your kitchen does not reflect those values, then that’s not good.”
For rooms where you’re looking to create a more serene and calm vibe, you’ll want to take a different approach. “Keeping the bathroom looking clean and spa-like (if that’s to your taste) usually means going with lighter and more neutral colors there,” says Mary McMurray of Art First Colors for Architecture, a Portland-based color consultation business.
Make Color Work for You
There’s more to color than meets the eye. The right color choice can provide functional effects; much like what Southern “Haint Blue” is rumored to do. For example, “darker shades for foundation and stair colors conceal dirt and darker handrail colors minimize handprints,” says McMurray.
On the opposite side of the color wheel, lighter colors can make a room appear bigger and brighter than it actually is, due to their reflective properties. “Lighter colors make a room seem larger, brighter, more expansive and airy,” says Welder.
Find Your Balance
“Some common mistakes that homeowners make with color choice are being too timid to be guided by their love for color or being too reckless in over-saturating their home with color without judging the overall balance of tones,” says McMurray.
Paint color choice is especially difficult due to the imbalance in scale — it’s difficult to get an idea what a color will look like on your living room’s walls from a tiny paint chip.
“I use colors that aren’t super bright on walls, because they’re hard to live in. Instead, I incorporate pops of color throughout the space,” says Hershman. If you’re not sure where to start, she recommends finding an inspiration piece that you love, such as a particular pattern, and creating a design scheme around that piece.
Connect the Dots
Sometimes, you may want to create radically different effects in adjacent spaces. In that case, you can use accent colors to create a cohesive feel. A particular client of Hershman’s wanted a living room that also doubled as a media room. So, she created a masculine effect using a dark taupe color and room darkening shades in the media room and she painted the adjoining open dining room white. Blue accents in both rooms helped meld the neutral whites and grays.
You don’t need to know color theory to choose the right paint colors. Follow the steps above and you’re well on your way to creating both color and design harmony in your home.
Seve Kale is an award-winning freelancer writer and former content intern for NewHomeSource. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2013 with a degree in Government, Humanities and Spanish.
Prior to working with NewHomeSource, she interned in the Press Section at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires and traveled extensively throughout South America