Preventing (and Remedying!) Paint Color Regret

Paint color consults are The Refreshed Home’s #1 service. Avoiding Paint Color RegretBut all too often the inquiries are preceded by tales of paint color regret, how what was chosen does not look as expected.

Preventing paint color regret is do-able, here’s my counsel to clients:


  • Buy those little bottles(meant to cover a sq foot), apply them on an un-primed wall of another color…and then paint it out bigger, just to see more of it. Stop smirking, you know you’ve at least thought of doing this yourself. Many paint mfgs. supply design pros with oversize paper samples for free. Or, seriously, just buy a quart and apply over primed walls.
  • Have one mfg. copy another mfgs. color.  Cost is usually why, but it’s quality/quantity of pigment that makes the paint color, as well as its cost. On a few gallons of paint the cost differential shouldn’t be that much. But if it is, better to wait for a sale, or find the mfg whose price point you’re comfortable with, and choose one of their colors.
  • Assume color of the moment means “for you”. OR rely on home shows. OR ask opinions from people without any proven ability. Ouiji, or your pet are off the table too.


  • Orientation. The direction windows face, where natural light comes in is huge.  Northern exposure causes warm tones go flat, grays to muddy up. South facing windows visually dilute paler or softer colors. Also, factor in big seasonal landscape. Big leafy tree outside the windows? The color you choose in June will look very different come November.
  • Interior lighting  The wrong color/size of bulbs, a mix of bulbs, not enough (or, too many) bulbs. Before you paint, check and adjust your interior lighting. Click here to read more on lighting and paint color.
  • Context, and Contrast You choose a color you see somewhere else and love. Ooops. Color is synergistic, context, and contrast matter. Your furniture and other finishes are different, and will affect overall outcome. Contrast-what is right next to the paint matters too: Trim and draperies; stone, tile and flooring color/materials all need to be factored in.
  • Quantity Another big factor in paint color regret. You know a red shirt has a different effect than a red suit.  Same thing with paint. Fun and wow in a powder room can get old fast in a family room.
  • Placement Color gives off vibes, make sure the color you love is in line with the rooms’ function.Avoiding Paint Color Regret Bright bouncy colors can have a startling affect if its where you put on makeup, or if you want your toddlers to fall asleep quickly.
  • Eye health  Age, illnesses or injuries will all affect eye health, and how you perceive color. Cataracts are probably the top culprit. Yellowish, they dull colors tremendously. You may see periwinkle or a soft buttercream; others see muddy gray or neon yellow. Diabetes, glaucoma, and Parkinsons are some of the other diseases that’ll alter your perception.

OK, but what if you’ve already painted and you hate it? Is it truly awful?  No redeeming value at all? Don’t beat yourselves up, or feel compelled to live with it as some sort of bizarre penance.

  • Instead, be comforted that most of what you just paid to do is fine: the repair, the prime, the ceilings, trim, doors, and mouldings. The cost to have the painter come back, put just another color on the walls in an afternoon is worth your peace of mind.

If new color is more disappointing than awful, check/adjust your lighting. Then, whether new color is underwhelming or overwhelming, look at what you can add to get the result you want. Contrast via drapery panels, tall architectural greenery or big art can snazz up-or subdue-a wall color mightily.