Karl Lohnes: Tips on choosing the perfect paint colours

An all one-colour room creates a soothing and relaxing environment. Paint: Simply White, Benjamin Moore Paints.

John Bessler

Soon, it will be that time of year when we are back to a regular schedule for work or school, and that usually means catching up on the interior decor improvements we delayed while enjoying the beautiful weather this past summer.

Refreshing and updating your home with new wall colours is a perfect early fall project; the weather is fine so you can open the windows to help dry the paint, and the house will look refreshed for all the upcoming holidays in fall and early winter.

I get a lot of questions about choosing paint colours, so I thought a quick Q-and-A would help you tackle any interior painting projects you might have. As many people experience, choosing the right paint colour can be confusing and mistakes can be costly in terms of effort and money.

Here, I address the most common questions to help you solve the mystery of choosing the right paint colours for your home’s interior.

How do you choose a colour scheme for paint?

The two most common ways to choose paint colours are to use either a monochromatic or complementary colour scheme.

A monochromatic palette is where you use various tones of one colour in your overall decorating scheme. For instance, you might have a medium-toned grey sofa for your living room. Choosing lighter and darker versions of that same grey colour allows you to create a soothing colour scheme. If you have no idea what colour on which to base your scheme, I suggest choosing a paint colour that is two to three shades lighter than the flooring in the room. This will create a base colour; you can choose other elements in the same colour for the room. For a designer punch, make sure one of your colour tones is three shades lighter or darker than the wall colour — this will add drama so the room doesn’t seem blah.

A complementary palette is when you choose a main fashionable colour from a pattern used in the room and team it with a complementary colour (the colour opposite on the colour wheel: red and green; purple and yellow; blue and orange); and then finish with a neutral. For instance, if you have a patterned rug, sofa or bedspread, you can use it to identify the three colours needed in a complementary scheme.

First, identify the most influential colour in that pattern and do not use it anywhere else in the room (it’s already getting lots of attention because it’s on a big piece). Then identify the second most influential colour in the pattern and use that on accents in the room (such as a side chair, lamp or drapes). The third colour in the pattern is the one to use as a paint colour for the walls — in most cases, that third colour is a neutral.

What colour should you paint trims?

Trims include baseboards, door and window frames, painted mantels, built-in cabinets and crown mouldings. If painted, all trims throughout the home should be the same colour.

Painting trims helps to create a modern looking interior. Colour: Hidden Sapphire, Benjamin Moore Paints.

John Bessler

Most trim colours (unless stained wood) are painted a version of white. White is a great choice to help highlight ornate or fancy trims, but if yours are rather skinny or insignificant, then there’s no point in highlighting them and creating skinny racing stripes around a room. I suggest painting them the same colour as the walls. This looks particularly good in a monochromatic space. Designer trick: When you paint your baseboards, walls and crown mouldings the same colour, it makes your ceilings appear taller!

What about adding a focal/accent wall of colour to a room?

The colour chosen for a focal wall should be considered an accent colour to the room. Use a secondary colour from a pattern or a much lighter or darker tone, if you are creating a monochromatic colour scheme.

One wall of colour can add drama and punch to a room without committing all four walls. Colour: Wolf Gray, Benjamin Moore Paints.

John Bessler

For a focal wall in a monochromatic room, choose a paint colour at least three tones away from your main wall paint colour — this will give the room drama. In a complementary decor scheme, choose the second-most influential colour from the main pattern in the room.

What are the best walls to use as focal walls? In the bathroom, use the wall behind the mirror; in the bedroom, paint the wall behind the bed; in the kitchen, highlight the window wall; and in the living room, paint the wall behind the fireplace or television.

Rapid-fire fixes

Here are three short-but-sweet ways to create wow with your wall colours:

1. How many paint colours can I use in one room or open space?

Use no more than three paint colours per space. That includes a main, an optional accent colour, plus a trim colour.

2. Are ceilings always painted white?

Ceilings are always a version of white. For a modern interior, choose a cool white; for a traditional interior, choose warmer whites.

3. Does painting a room a dark colour make it appear smaller?

No. To make a small room appear larger, make sure the ceiling and floors are of a similar tone to the wall colour.

Do you have a decor dilemma or want to give feedback? You can contact Karl on Facebook or Instagram.

Karl has worked as a home decor expert and product designer for 25 years. He appears Thursdays during the 8 a.m. hour on Global News Morning Montreal.

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