Painting without the pain


Washington - We’ve all been there. You decide to paint a room, and weeks later, your walls are a crazy quilt of paint swatches. You’ve flipped through rooms on Pinterest and virtually painted your room online. You’ve asked your friends for their opinions. You’re still afraid to make the wrong choice.

It’s okay.

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Valspar's Time Traveler Roaming Pony lends serenity to a dining room. Illustrates DESIGN-PAINT (category l), by Jura Koncius, (c) 2014, The Washington Post.  Moved Thursday, February 27, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Valspar.)Glidden’s Crisp Autumn Leaves gives a moody, rich look to this room. Illustrates DESIGN-PAINT (category l), by Jura Koncius, (c) 2014, The Washington Post.  Moved Thursday, February 27, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Glidden.)Valspar’s new Color Connect app for iPhone and iPad connects folks to color consultants for a live or e-mail exchange. You can chat with a consultant on live video about the merits of Indigo Cloth vs. Night Scape; here, a room painted in Valspar’s Night Scape. Illustrates DESIGN-PAINT (category l), by Jura Koncius, (c) 2014, The Washington Post.  Moved Thursday, February 27, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Valspar.)A cheerful bedroom is painted in Valspar’s Leaf Bud. Illustrates DESIGN-PAINT (category l), by Jura Koncius, (c) 2014, The Washington Post.  Moved Thursday, February 27, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Valspar.)This living room was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Straw, a choice by Colors by Zoe, a Takoma Park, Md., firm. Illustrates DESIGN-PAINT (category l), by Jura Koncius, (c) 2014, The Washington Post.  Moved Thursday, February 27, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Zoe Kyriacos.)

Consumers typically try three to five paint colours before deciding on their final selection, according to Erika Woelfel, director of colour marketing at US paint company Behr’s. Of course, many try more.

Perhaps everyone should accept the fact that painting a room is sort of like becoming an artist. Painting is a process, whether you are agonising over the colour selection or brushing the paint on the walls. “You are the artist of your own environment,” says Barbara Richardson, colour marketing manager for Glidden Paint. “You shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and then adjust and tweak.”

Nervous homeowners can find help from designers, architects and colour consultants, as well as apps. A new Color Connect app for iPhone connects folks to colour consultants for a live or e-mail exchange.

“We find consumers need the voice of affirmation that the colour they chose is the right one,” says Sue Kim, a colour strategist. “We can narrow them down together.”

Not feeling like Monet yet? Read on. We want to help jump-start your spring painting projects. Here are five paint experts’ tips.

Zoe Kyriacos is an architectural colour consultant. Here are some of her pointers.

Consider the existing items in your room. Flooring, rugs, artwork and upholstery will suggest a colour direction. Try to pull together these elements in your colour choice. If your home is not furnished, make the paint colour the last thing you choose; there are thousands of colours to choose from but maybe only one rug you really love.

Take your paint samples home. Colours you select in a shop aisle will look different under the lighting conditions in your home.

Don’t examine a paint sample against a white wall. Colour is affected by what surrounds it, and putting a sample on a white wall will cause it to appear darker than it really is. This results in many people making a choice that is too light. Put the paint sample against a couch, wood furniture or flooring for a better perspective.

Take into account how colour flows from room to room. If you have a modern house with an open floor plan, it’s important to use one wall colour throughout the main floor. Add accent colours in a few carefully considered areas.

Stick with white trim. Try several whites before you make a final selection. White works well with cooler shades such as blue, grey, purple and pink. Warmer wall colours, such as yellow or green, call for a softer white.

Designer Elizabeth Hague is known for her calm and classic interiors. She shared her go-to paint colours for five different rooms and the reasons she likes them.

In a living room, off-white is a neutral backdrop for textiles, furniture and accents.

For a dining room, a dark, warm grey has a lot of pigment in it, which makes it rich and beautiful in candlelight.

A chalky blue serves as a nice contrast to natural stone countertops, cabinets and polished-nickel fixtures in a kitchen.

For the bedroom, choose a beautiful colour to wake up in, such as a blue-grey. It’s the colour of sky on a clear day. To go with natural stone flooring and countertops and polished nickel fixtures in the bathroom, choose a shade with warm grey-green tones.

Christian Zapatka is an architect who specialises in design work that incorporates both architecture and interiors. He has a lot of experience choosing white paints. He said in traditional homes choose a soft white with a warm tone, with a faint “greige” background.

Soft white trims were ideal for all types of woodwork, and compatible with almost any wall colour.

In modern homes, choose a pure white with no trace of yellow or grey for a flawless look.

For a house where all rooms are painted white: choose a warm white without any yellow, which makes it great as a neutral background.

Bookcases and built-ins look great when painted in a crisp, bright white too. It sets off the wall colour around it.

Denise Sabia, a decorator who writes about paint on her blog, (, is an expert at giving flea market furniture a fresh look, often with specialty finishes. We asked her to discuss some of these products.

There are lots of possible applications for chalkboard paint – great in the kitchen for grocery lists.

Chalk-finish paint (not to be confused with chalkboard paint) dries quickly and adheres to almost anything. This creates a chalky finish that sands down to a super smooth surface.


Metallic paint is a bold look that should be used sparingly. Use it as an accent on the edges of furniture for a little shimmer.

Milk paint is the perfect solution if you are looking for the chipped, time-worn look.


Here are tips on how to avoid stress while painting.

Pour paint into a smaller container. It’s more practical to carry around. This is particularly helpful when working on a ladder.

Carry a wet cloth. If you drop paint on something, you can quickly wipe it off.

Wear an apron with pockets for an extra paintbrush, your phone or that little wet cloth.

Invest in a good quality brush. If you buy an inexpensive brush, you’ll be annoyed at how much time you’ll have to spend picking bristles out of your paint job. If you’re using a water-based paint, clean your brush by wiping it with a newspaper or rag and then soaking in lightly soapy water. – jura koncius, Washington Post

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