Deciding to put a new coat of paint on the walls is something every homeowner goes through from time to time. Making up your mind can be exhausting with so many different colours to choose from, and it’s difficult to know what the final result will look like when inspecting a tiny swatch. While the light to moderate shades of neutral colours is a safer choice, their subtle differences can be particularly challenging to compare until it’s too late.
The importance of undertones
Undertones are one of the most important things to consider when choosing a neutral paint, as even the slightest variation can make a big difference when the walls are finished. When you pick up a paint swatch and look at the lighter shade, it is nearly impossible for the untrained eye to pick up on the subtle undertones — even if we can distinguish between two greys side by side, how do you decide which one suits your home décor and personal preference?
To start with, take a look at the darkest shade on the swatch you are looking at. Why? The darkest shade is often the most obvious when it comes to comparing undertones — while still subtle, it is suddenly much easier to compare colours with one another. For example, two whites can look almost identical when you look at the lighter shade, but after looking at the darker shade you may see that one has a faint green undertone while the other has a warmer brown.
Why colour temperature needs to be taken into account
Now that you can distinguish colours more easily, let’s talk about actually making a decision. Painters and interior designers often talk about “warm” and “cool” colours with regards to neutral paints: warm contains undertones of red, yellow, brown or orange, while cool tends to appear more green or blue. When choosing the right combination of warm and cool undertones, you need to take both your own preferences and the style of your home into account. On top of this, decide what you want to achieve with the room: is there a particular point of focus you want to draw attention to, or would you like everything to blend together?
Let’s take the living room as an example. Warm undertones tend to enclose a space, which makes them perfect for larger rooms that you want to have an intimate atmosphere. On the other hand, they can make a small room feel a bit claustrophobic when compared with the expansive, open effect of cool colours. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t use a paint with warm undertones in a smaller space — it all depends on the ambience you’re going for and can apply to both walls and ceilings!
In terms of emphasis, think about the colours of what’s in the room (or what is going to be there). You can pick a warm colour for every wall to match the hardwood floors and intimate décor, or it can be cleverly used to create contrast with a focal point of the room — such as a painting — that contains cooler colours.