Paint: How Easy is It to Choose the Right Hue?

Help Picking Paint Colors

Too many of us have been in this predicament. We pick out paint only to find that once we apply it on our walls, it’s not what we had imagined. “I thought it was a neutral and it looks so blue. Where did I go wrong?” Should we repaint or live with the choice, which is costly and time consuming? Equally upsetting can be when a certain color family was desired to sell a home and appeal to the gray- or beige- or white trendsetters who are very adamant about what they want now!


Laura Angelini | Help Picking Paint Colors | Online Real Estate Education

Laura Angelini of Angelini Designs, Rhinebeck, N.Y.

We asked for some paint secrets from designer Laura Angelini whose eponymous design firm has been based for 25 years in Rhinebeck, N. Y., and the New Jersey shore. and who has also worked in homes and apartments in nearby communities. Angelini understands the conundrum perfectly. “The problem is that when we look at light shades on a paint swatch, it’s difficult to tell what the undertones of the color are. Usually, we don’t see them until the color is all over our walls. Then, we have to decide fairly soon: Do I start all over again, or live with the shade because of the other color present?” she explains.


Here are some of her tricks, with her proof: “I haven’t made a color mistake in a long time and am willing to tell clients, ‘I’ll pay for it, if you don’t love it.’ But I haven’t had to.”


First lesson. She says you must understand you can take your color swatch to most good paint stores, and a paint expert can color match it for you. You can also change it. For example, if you want to lighten a color a bit–perhaps, 15 percent, you can do that since all this has become fairly computerized.


Second lesson. Most neutrals have undertones of gray, blue, yellow, or brown to name the most prominent.  Here is where you have to be careful.  Undertones are sneaky and may not appear at first glance. To avoid the wrong ones, know that they generally are cool (blue or green) or warm (brown, red, orange, or yellow). Decide which type you want. How can you tell? Look at the darkest shade on the paint swatch—there are usually three to four variations—from light to dark. The darkest will be the most revealing, and will tell you what undertones are going to show up even in the lightest colors.

Cover the small color squares at the bottom so you just see the three large squares above. They are all pretty similar. If asked, which one is the truest grey? You could probably spot it pretty quickly, right? (Passive Grey, far left)  But if asked, which was the most green? You wouldn’t be able to answer as quickly, correct?


Now look at the squares along the bottom. The shades go from lightest to darkest. Look at the darkest shades of each color and pick which one has the most green. Aloof Grey does. Repose Grey has the most brown, but also has black so it’s what is called a true greige. Passive Grey has a black base so it is a true cool grey.


So now you probably understand this color rule: That by looking at the darkest color on the color strip you see the true base of the color.


Third lesson. Stay away from accent walls. Go for the color on all walls. It will add drama. If paint makes you slightly nervous, know it can be changed, so go for it, even grey or black bathroom or navy walls. Dark colors in small spaces can be cozy; you may just need to increase your lighting.


Fourth lesson. Don’t forget ceilings. Angelini loves using in a pure white bath or bedroom a blue-green just above. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” she says. She recommends Benjamin Moore Bali (702) as one possibility. Or something bolder. “I just designed a beautiful white bedroom with a navy ceiling, with navy and white bedding,” she says.


For a seamless look if you are doing light walls, it’s nice to have a ceiling the same color. Yet, you really can’t use the same color because of light and distance. “You  need to lighten it by 15 percent. To see what I mean, take a white sheet of paper, hold it up vertically, then turn it horizontally, and you’ll see it will be darker. So, the trick is to lighten ceiling color just a bit,” she says.



Fifth lesson. If you want to create the best flow between rooms, she likes to retain the same colors or in very similar hues.


Sixth lesson. If you are painting yourself, add a few drops of water when you are cutting a straight line around woodwork or at a ceiling. The paint will flow much easier.


Seventh lesson. If you are selling and don’t want to scare away buyers with a red hall or yellow bedroom or teal study, it’s best to go neutral but not white. “Pick a good light neutral and paint throughout. If you change from room to room, it makes space look not as grand. Furthermore, painting white adds no character, and character makes spaces richer. Pick a greige. If your woodwork is nice, highlight it, however, in a pure white.”


Also remember that life is short, and it’s refreshing to use color to lift your spirits to change things up in your environment a bit.






For specific ideas, look at Angelini’s Pinterest board and color choices of designers she’s worked with, which follow.


My Pinterest board with lots of color ideas/ colors.

Zeus by Sherwin-Williams. SW 7744- sagey-grey-olivey-green

Charleston Gray by Farrow & Ball—Beautiful for cabinetry.

Nantucket Gray, HC-111, a great classic gray-green

Mesa verde tan Ben Moore

Pigeon Farrow & Ball—gray green (so great on cabinets)

Blue Gray Farrow & Ball—sophisticated blue gray

Sea Salt SW 6204 by Sherwin-Williams—Nice gray blue-love using on ceilings.

Benjamin Moore gray mirage 2142-50 Grayish green


Greiges—The shade blowing up everyone’s Pinterest and Instagram feeds—

a gray and beige combo.

Here are a few:

Sherwin-Williams—Worldly Gray, SW 7043

Sherwin-Williams—Modern Gray, SW 7632

Sherwin-Williams—Colonnade Gray, SW 7641

Behr Paint—Sculptors Clay, PPU5-08

Ben Moore—Hazy skies, OC-48


Good whites:

C2 Paint—Milk Moustache, C2-080, An off-white with a touch of alabaster.

Ben Moore Cloud White, OC-130

Ben Moore Simply white, (color of the Year 2016), OC-117

Ben Moore Swiss Coffee, OC-45

Sherwin-Williams, 7757, high reflective white-true bright white

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