By David Wulff, AIA

It’s spring – the beginning of a new season. Open the windows let in some fresh air. Nature changing outside is so awesome. Then with all this bright sunlight coming in, you look around your house and see the same ole drab world. Not new like outside. Don’t worry; the fix is easy and relatively inexpensive. Paint the walls!

But, here’s where the confusion begins. You go to the paint store and see such a variety of colors. They all look so wonderful. What color should you use? Worried about buying the wrong color? It has been documented that consumers waste almost $1 billion a year on paint they can’t live with, either tossing it or painting over it.

Since colors tend to be about twice as light and bright as what’s represented on a paint chip, the pros agree that the surest way to see how a color’s going to look is to paint a few swatches on the walls (the bigger, the better).
To make testing easier, most companies (including Pittsburgh Paints, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Behr, and Ralph Lauren Paints) now offer sample paints—in 2-ounce to 29.5-ounce sizes—so you can preview the color before you commit.
We suggest painting swatches in a few different spots in the room (preferably over a white wall) and living with it for a day or two to see how the hue wears on you. Then you can more comfortably commit to a can. Remember also that the color changes depending on the wall it is on. The same color on one wall looks different on another wall because of the differences in the light conditions. You can either paint the color sample on a couple of different walls or another trick is to paint a board (or two) and hold them up in different areas of the room. Use a 2 x 2 piece of drywall so the paint will react the same way it will in your room.

Painting a single room one color is simple; however let’s say you have an open floor plan. What do you do then? Continuity is important on the ground floor, but color can help “zone” a big open space, separating the dining area from the TV room, for instance. There’s no need to stick to a single color or even a single color palette that is either all warm (reds, oranges, yellows) or all cool (blues, greens, bright whites). However, by using muted, dustier values, there’s a better chance the colors you choose will flow into one another. Color gurus recommend leaning toward colors softened by a bit of gray; these are often found in historical palettes. Bright colors can be injected in small doses as accents—in furnishings, floor coverings, even flowers.

DAVID H. WULFF, ARCHITECT, AIA, LEED-AP, 167 Trails End, Lake Lure, NC, 828-625-5537,