I'm pretty sure I've made every painting mistake known to man. I am currently renovating the 6th home that we have purchased, and I have painted every single home that I've owned... every room... some several times.
Regardless of whether it was 2009 as I was trying to cover an entire bedroom with only one cheap can of paint because I was a broke- as - a - joke Army wife, or 2022, as I was hiring a team of contractors to renovate my home, I have and continue to fail forward with painting over and over.
Here's where YOU win... you get to learn from all of my fails! They say never teach from your wounds- only teach from your scars. I now feel like I have earned to the right, by experimenting and failing as much as I have, to offer advice. So without further ado, here are 5 things I wish I knew before painting my home.
1. The Washability of paint seriously matters
I like the look of flat paint in most areas of a home. I don't like a shine for several reasons, which I'll explain later, but the problem with flat is that unless you specifically invest in high quality, washable pant, it's nearly impossible to clean. You can touch it up (paint it), but you cannot clean it.
Imagine investing thousands of dollars to repaint your home. Everything looks immaculate and clean. You choose the best colors and you're delighted with the outcome.
And then you host a Christmas Eve party... and the next morning your walls are covered in fingerprints, and scuff marks. You simply go to your trusty magic eraser sponge, dampen it, and wipe, wipe, wipe. And the stain comes off... but so does the paint.
This is my personal story, and I'm teaching you from my scars. I love Christmas Eve. If I could host 200 people on Christmas Eve, I'd do it. I used to host Christmas Eve for about 50 family members and friends but my house would get completely destroyed. Nearly every time we hosted a party, we'd have to repaint areas of our house. IT SUCKED.
Do you think we got the house repainted with the correct paint? No. Why? Because I didn't see it as an investment. I saw it as an expense. That was foolish. Instead of making the investment into the right paint, we stopped hosting parties. What a crappy option! This time around, we are making wiser choices, and investing in Sherwin Williams Duration, which will provide the wipe-ability we need to live the lifestyle that we want to live- more quality time with family and friends and less stress and chores.
My advice: CHOOSE A PAINT THAT IS WIPEABLE OR WASHABLE.
2. The Paint Sheen changes everything
I walked into my great room. We didn't have a light fixture installed yet, so the 2 story room was only lit by 2 small wall sconces. It was dark... and still I could see it... the shine....
I walked up the stairs and turned around to see a horrific sight: the shine of a doctors office & more wall imperfections than I had any idea could exist in a wall. Eggshell sheen. That's what I'd chosen. My heart began racing and I felt hot. Like "OH SHIT. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO" hot.
I walked downstairs to look at the paint in the kitchen and much to my horror, the shine and imperfections were even worse there. I didn't understand. I had already looked at that very wall in the ugly off white builder's grade paint they used and it didn't have all of those imperfections. How could I now see every nail pop, spackled spot, and knick in the paint?
That was the night I learned the hard lesson that the sheen changes everything. The next day, I drove back to the house early in the morning before the contractors arrived with my husband, Andrew. I told him I thought perhaps I was dramatic and he could tell me it was fine and we could happily move on with our eggshell painted home. I wasn't being dramatic. It was worse in the daylight than at night. It took Andrew 6.2 seconds to determine it was a hard no. We had to convince the paint store to exchange the paint for us, or fork up about $500 for 3 new 5 gallon buckets of paint.
Not only did we learn that glossier paint sheens show every minor imperfection in the wall, but it changes the color as well. The color that I had chosen was a very light neutral greige. I chose this color, because it had the perfect amount of gray, but wasn't too cool. In egg shell, however, it looked beige. Very beige. The sunlight reflects more and can drastically alter the color. Now don't get me wrong, many people and even designers love eggshell and satin sheens in homes, and I am not here to judge.
My advice: SAMPLE YOUR PAINT WITH THE SHEEN YOU WANT TO TRULY GET A FEEL FOR THE COLOR AND LIGHT REFLECTANCE.
3. lighting dramatically affects paint color
When I painted my master bedroom of my 3rd home Sherwin Williams Seasalt, I became obsessed. The neutral blue-green-gray color took my breath away. It was calming and so interesting. It changed colors depending on the time of day. In the morning, it would look green, in the afternoon it would look blue, and in the evening, it would look gray. It made me happy every time I was in my bedroom.
So when we sold that home and bought our next, I decided to not only paint my bedroom Seasalt, but also my 2 story living room wall as an accent wall and my kitchen. I walked in the door as the contractors were finishing up the 2nd coat on both walls and I almost cried. I HATED IT.
That's when I learned the lesson that lighting dramatically effects paint color. What looked beautiful and calm in a small space with 8 foot ceilings looked like a 1950's cafe in my 9 foot kitchen and 18 foot great room wall. I lived with it for 5 years and I hated it every day.
Do not make the same mistake I did. I saw the color in one space and lived in that space for several years. I thought I knew the color intimately. I was wrong. I knew the color in a specific space with specific lighting. Not only will a color look different from room to room, but it will look different from wall to wall and from morning to evening.
On the other hand, I used Pale Oak in my great room, and then slowly started migrating the color across my entire downstairs because I loved it in every space. It is such a versatile color that it looks completely different in every room and every time of day.
My advice: SAMPLE YOUR COLOR AND SHEEN ON EVERY WALL IN YOUR SPACE, AND CHECK IT SEVERAL TIMES THROUGHOUT THE DAY.
4. trim, Doors & ceilings make or break the entire vibe
I am currently having my newest home (trusty #6) renovated, which means that everything is getting painted. When my contractor was doing his original quote, he asked me if he should do the trim, doors, and ceilings. I said definite yes on the ceilings, but the trim looked to be fine. I told him to simply hit the trim that needed it and leave the rest.
That was a mistake.
I realized very quickly how dull the colors looked when the trim wasn't bright white. It looked as though it was white against the cream colored builder's grade paint, but the truth is that it was dirty and dingy and I couldn't tell until the color had been changed. The trim dulled the color and the color highlighted the dullness of the trim. I realized very quickly how important trim paint was to the entire vibe of the space.
At the time I'm writing this, I'm honestly stuck. I want the trim and doors to be painted, but the quote for doing so puts us well over budget. Since we had the floors refinished, all baseboards are being painted that are around the hardwood. I am thinking I'll see what it looks like with the baseboards being done, and if I can't take it, I'll have the painters finish the rest of the trim and doors. I'll update this post when I decide.
I have seen this play out in various homes that I have designed. In one home, the trim was a creamy soft warm white, and the dusty pink color I painted my daughters room looked like absolute royalty. It was so beautiful and luxurious. We painted her next room the same color with bright white trim and it ruined the space completely. Fast forward to our new home, and she has designed her own room, choosing Sherwin Williams Warming Peach & Medici cream. We forgot about the trim being bright white and it really looks funky with the Medici cream. So I will most likely be painting her trim on my own.
My Advice: ALWAYS CONSIDER PAINT TRIM, DOORS, & CEILINGS WHEN PAINTING A SPACE 7 SAMPLE THE TRIM COLOR WITH THE WALL COLOR ALWAYS.
5. Painting without sampling properly is foolish & costly
If you haven’t t been able to tell, many of my faux pas were because I did not properly sample the paint. When I first started experimenting with painting my home, I simply did what most do... I saw a cute pic on Pinterest and decided that I would buy that color and live with it, come hell or high water. I did that. I purchased the crappiest paint (when I was young and broke) in a random color from Pinterest and used whatever sheen I happened to pick up (I had no idea what I was doing), Mistake after mistake left me frustrated, broke, and with weird vibes in my home.
When I got tired of spending money and energy painting a space only to hate it, I began testing the paint, by purchasing a sample in whatever sheen they gave me (usually satin), then slopping a tiny strip on one wall (like I saw on Pinterest), and calling it a day. That didn't serve me well at all.
I recently painted my kitchen cabinets & shiplap in the color Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore. When I stepped into my kitchen the day the cabs were paints, I nearly lost my breath. The color was stunning. We used the same color on our shiplap and I felt the same way. I was in love.
I decided to bring that color into the foyer, but instead of sampling it, I simply ordered a 5 gallon bucket of Ben Moore Chantilly Lace, but had another company mix it, to save money. I can't even begin to tell you how bad of a decision that was. The entire 2 story foyer was painted, and the paint was mixed incorrectly, so instead of having a white foyer, I have a GREEN foyer. It's not the lighting on this one. The color is just plain wrong, and now I have to pay the dumb tax, and pay to have the entire room repainted, and hope that company pays for another 5 gallon bucket or I'm stuck with that cost too.
I think I finally learned that painting without sampling PROPERLY is foolish and costly. Here's how I now sample paint:
Choose the paint color, brand, type (lowest grade, middle, highest), and sheen you want in a sample quart. All 4 of these elements matter. They're a secret recipe, so sample the right recipe.
If you are choosing a different trim color, get a can of that as well to test with the wall color.
Apply the color to every wall in the space you're painting in 2ft x 1ft sections or larger
Apply different colors far enough apart, so your eye doesn't catch the other color when you're evaluating
Let the paint dry.
Apply the same amount of coats you intend to apply
Check the color at various times of day (morning, afternoon, evening)
Bonus points: Scuff it up and see if you can clean it without taking paint off and what it looks like after cleaning.
Start small. Don't purchase 15 gallons of paint until you paint a room and feel confident. Sometimes, all of the sampling in the world won't prepare you for the outcome.
Test the paint that you get to ensure that the paint was mixed properly. If not, return it to your local paint store.
So there you have it. 5 things I wish I knew before I painted my home... or homes. I hope it was helpful. Here's what I love about paint, and why I have had countless fails, but still keep playing with color.... it changes the entire space and it can ALWAYS be changed with a little elbow grease and a little cash on hand. Go! Paint! Explore, experiment, and fail. It's soooo much better than sticking with whatever you're given. Painting your space is always a great idea. Just make sure to keep this lessons in mind!
Have any of the same issues with paint? Let me know in the comments!