Expert advice helps you become paint savvy

"Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." Napoleon Bonapart (1769-1821), French military and political leader, "Maxims" (1804)


For those of you who read this column regularly, you know that I’m a huge fan of painting; I love to paint and am really bad at it.

Aside from my personal foibles with paint, it is the biggest bang for any buck when it comes to spiffing up your home. There are also some misnomers, misconceptions and fear associated with changing the entire mood of a room with paint.

I was with a friend this weekend to go over some paint colors with her. She was happy with the decisions, but when she talked to her painter, he threw some kinks into the mix and made her question her choices.

She wanted to do a two-color wall treatment, using a chair rail as a separator. We decided on the color placement (always put the heaviest value on the bottom), but her painter told her that using a chair rail was dated, and that if she wanted both colors in the room, she should paint an accent wall instead of using the chair rail.

OK, first of all, chair rails are not dated; and secondly, it’s her choice. Remember that when working with any contractor.

So, while I can’t negotiate with your painter, I can pass on some smart tips to help you be more paint savvy. The paint company Pratt & Lambert has a list of the top questions it gets from consumers and designers. I don’t have room for all of them today, but here are a few.

What is the best way to decide which color is best for my room? Pratt says look at your existing stuff — furniture, window treatments, etc. Pick out your favorite of these and see if your paint dealer can coordinate a color.

It also advises to look at paint chips in the day, night, etc. I always tell folks to put up some color on the wall, preferably on poster board, and then tape it to the wall. Leave it up 24 hours to see how it looks during the entire course of a day. You also can move the poster board around the room and not have large swatches of paint color all over your rooms.

Will the paint I choose look lighter or darker on the wall? This is an odd question to me, but the experts say that, "on a larger surface, most paint colors appear darker," and recommend that you choose a lighter shade than you really want. What? Are they serious? Pick what you like. If it turns out that it’s not right for you, you’ll know pretty fast. Then — change it.

Unfortunately, that’s all the space I have today. But part two will appear in the next couple of weeks. There are more questions, and some pretty good answers. In the meantime, don’t be intimidated by paint or be afraid of it. When doing home improvement, paint is your best friend.


Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Her Inside Spaces column appears weekly in the Home section of the Review-Journal. Send questions to

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