Ready for a riddle? What color should you avoid painting your living room, but definitely consider for your bedroom?
Stumped? Perplexed? Are you… hint, hint… blue in the face?
The answer is, in fact, blue. And this isn’t just the opinion of real estate experts. Zillow paints a pretty good picture for homeowners when it comes to the interior colors that are correlated with higher sales. According to the real estate marketplace, blue walls in a living room lowered a home price by nearly $200 (not too bad), with bright blue proving to be the most polarizing. But blue bedrooms? They’re a boon for property values and, according to Zillow, “a deep, restful shade of blue” makes potential buyers so happy they’d pay $1,491 more for the home.
There’s some science backing up the case for blue bedrooms, too. A 2018 study published in “Frontiers of Psychology” involving university students living in residence halls found that shades of blue have a more calming effect on the brain.
Real estate agents are also partial to blue in the bedroom.
When you’re designing your bedroom, you want to choose a wall color for your bedroom that makes you feel calm, and to create a space that you look forward to retreating to at the end of the day, says real estate broker Amy Rapp with the Pfeifer Becker Residential team at Compass in Chicago. Warm, muted tones of gray and blue work well with almost any decor, she says.
“Remember you will be seeing the color at different times of day, so it’s a good idea to put up some samples on the wall and see how you feel about the color in both natural daytime light and evening light,” Rapp says.
Bill D’Ambrosio, a real estate agent in White Plains, New York, agrees that blue is a calming color that creates a peaceful environment ideal for the bedroom. For those who want a more nature-inspired bedroom, sage is a good choice, he says.
In addition to moody blues, light blues, and bright blues, Zillow data shows that homebuyers paid a little more for homes with bedrooms that were forest green, light gray, or white.
Poppy Troupe, a Coldwell Banker Realty agent based in Norwell, Massachusetts, recommends Benjamin Moore’s Paper White for a bedroom. “It’s my go-to white for creating a luxe serene bedroom, especially when paired with crisp white bedding and warm hardwood floors,” she says. “Not too cool, it has an undertone of warmth.”
Just as important as deciding on a color for your bedroom is ensuring that it fits with the “color story” of your home. When you decide on the best paint color for any room in your home, it’s helpful to develop a color of five to six similar toned paint colors that will help create a cohesive flow throughout every room, says Chicago real estate broker Jason Davis, founder of the ACD Group at Compass.
From there you can apply an 80/20 rule where the majority of your home (i.e. 80 percent) is broadly one color and you can strategically incorporate pops of other colors in key areas of detail (i.e. think trim, smaller spaces, and accent walls) for the other 20 percent, Davis says. He likes Alabaster White, a soft, creamy white, by Sherwin Williams for an “80 percent” color to be used throughout the home, including the bedroom.
During the early days of the pandemic, in the absence of bar hopping and returning things at the mall, I became especially interested in houses. On walks with my dog and drives to the grocery store, I began habitually taking stock of the distinctive mix of window treatments, timbering, brickwork, and roofing details separating one architectural style from the next.
House watching is something of an inexhaustible hobby. There are dozens of residential styles of architecture, according to the National Association of Realtors, and each one represents a specific point in history. While there’s certainly personal preference and popular trends to consider, it doesn’t hurt to take architectural style into account when embarking on any kind of renovation, including a routine paint job.
Modern architecture prioritizes function over form. It encompasses a few familiar architectural styles, such as Craftsman, Ranch, and contemporary homes. Morse says you can go one of two ways with a modern-style home. “Keeping it light is best for resale, but a dark modern home is a gorgeous and striking look,” she says. Think dark grey or black, such as Benjamin Moore’s Graphite, Gravel Grey, Iron Mountain, and Iron Ore.
Morse adds that for a modern home, it’s sometimes best to keep landscaping to a minimum, as it can distract from the clean lines and sleek aesthetic typical of the style. “You want your home to stand out and be bold,” she says.
Traditional homes draw influence from historic styles, such as Colonials, Cape Cods, Georgians, Victorians, and saltbox houses. Generally speaking, Morse recommends a classic color palette for this style family. “I think classic white with black shutters is a win for curb appeal as well as resale. It doesn’t matter if it’s painted brick or siding, it always looks beautiful and never appears dated,” she says.
The most common house style NeJame deals with are Colonials. “Traditionally, the trims of Colonial homes were painted white or cream,” she says. “To increase curb appeal, think about painting the trim and body the same color. Painting window sashes and grids dark colors, such as black, bottle green, and burgundy is another subtle touch that can amp up curb appeal.”
Meanwhile, for homes with shingles, clapboard, or other wooden siding, NeJame suggests “Nantucket Grey,” which is a weathered grey that can be achieved using a bleaching stain. “Traditionally the cedar shingles on Capes were left to naturally weather and grey, but leaving shingles to weather on their own, without protection, shortens their life,” she says. “Today, we can achieve that same weathered look on your shingles using products that also help protect them and prolong their life.”
Transitional-style homes incorporate aspects of both traditional and modern styles. The transitional style lends itself well to a variety of color palettes.
“I think keeping it light with a neutral color, such as Benjamin Moore’s White Dove or Sherwin-Williams’ Agreeable Grey, contrasted by black windows and doors is a gorgeous look for curb appeal and resale,” says Morse. She adds that if you choose to go light, consider light shutters, trims, and sashes as well. “You can also go one shade lighter or darker than the main color so everything blends well,” she says.
Conversely, you could opt for a bolder look with a dark exterior paint, such as Benjamin Moore’s Essex Green. “In this case, keep the windows and doors dark too,” she says. “Dark green exterior looks great with black windows and doors. If you go in this direction I think it’s best if you have plenty of trees and landscaping in the front yard so it blends more with the surroundings. The curb appeal will be fabulous.”
Before you sell your house, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll get is to freshen up the place by painting every room with a fresh coat. So, you dutifully pick the right color to woo buyers (it’s usually some shade of off-white) and then, if you’re like me, you get tripped up by the finish. Satin, eggshell, gloss, semi-gloss — how do you know which one to choose? Well, it depends on the room. Here are the best finishes for every type of space, according to real estate agents.
Living Room and Dining Room
In the living room and dining room, opt for an eggshell or satin finish. It hides flaws and imperfections — especially on uneven walls — and makes the room look more high-end, which you definitely want when you’re showing your house. During the day, it looks rich and plush, and in the evenings, an eggshell or satin finish gives walls a luster that’s particularly elegant when light reflects off of it. Plus, these finishes are easier to clean than matte finishes, which is great for rooms where spills are more likely to occur.
Pick a semi-gloss finish for the bathroom and kitchen. It’s easy to clean, durable, and showcases the best parts of each space.
“It works well in most spaces to reflect light and highlight the materiality of the surfaces, and it’s also practical for its cleanability,” says Kate Wollman-Mahan, an agent with Warburg Realty. “Trims and bathroom surfaces become scuffed up over time and need to be cleaned more frequently, and semi-gloss is a more durable finish.”
Unless you’re doing some really messy work in your bedroom on a regular basis, pick a flat or matte finish. The two finishes aren’t as easy to clean as the others, but you likely won’t have much of a mess to clean off your bedroom walls anyway. The finishes also absorb light, which will make those early mornings a little less bright and a lot more bearable.
OK, it’s not really a room. But the ceiling is just as important as the rest of the walls. You want to feel comfortable and relaxed, not trapped and boxed-in. Paint on the ceiling can do just that.
“I always recommend flat, white paint for ceilings with a subtle touch of pink for a warm glow,” says Parisa M. Afkhami, another agent with Warburg Realty.
No matter what finish you’ve used in the rooms throughout your home, stick to gloss or semi-gloss for trim and woodwork. It’s shiny, yes, but that’ll bring a nice contrast into the room and make it look more modern to buyers. It’s also easy to clean, something you’ll find valuable when people are trampling through your home for showings and likely scuffing up or getting fingerprints on the trim.
There are tons of DIY myths out there — especially when it comes to painting. It takes just one TikTok video to go viral and all of a sudden, would-be renovators are buying into painting myths that can lead to ill-informed techniques and projects that somehow looked better on Instagram.
Apartment Therapy talked to contractors and paint experts to debunk some of these myths — and fill you in on the right way to approach your next painting project.
Myth One: Adding Essential Oil to Paint Will Make It Smell Better
Painters and contractors agree: This is absolutely unnecessary given that modern formulations have less odor and lower fumes. Plus, it can actually void the manufacturer’s warranty on paint if you’re not following the label’s instructions.
Ray Brosnan of Brosnan Property Solutions says, “If you find yourself getting dizzy from painting, you can add peppermint to paint to make it a bit more tolerable — the oil acts as a neutralizer. However, don’t use any alcohol-based fragrances or oils as they won’t mix properly with a water-based paint. This trick won’t work with oil-based paints, however, so be warned.”
A better tactic? Just open a window if the smell bothers you.
Myth Two: Don’t Paint in Cold Temperatures
Back in the old days, there was a commonly accepted rule that painting in the cold would lead to thick paint that wouldn’t spread evenly or easily. However, with advances in today’s paint formulations, you can get going on that accent wall almost any time of year.
Mike Mundwiller, end user product experience manager at Benjamin Moore, says, “While the optimal painting temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit, it is still acceptable to paint within a wide range of temperatures from 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and when the humidity is as low as possible.”
Brosnan adds that if temperatures dip below freezing, you can’t break out the roller as soon as the thermometer hits 35 degrees Fahrenheit. “You may have to wait since often the walls are actually colder than room temperature, resulting in adherence issues and overall longer drying times.”
Myth Three: Primer Is the Only Prep You Need
This is the myth everyone wants to be true. Most people wouldn’t count prep as their favorite part of the DIY process, but it’s a necessary evil. You want to believe that primer will cut it, but the truth is, you may need to sand, spackle, and clean.
Joshua Blackburn, director of design and construction at Evolving Home, says, “Priming alone is not enough if there are gouges, old paint, accumulated dirt and debris, or other blemishes in the surface.”
Mundwiller adds, “Cleaning and sanding your walls are key preparations to make sure your paint applies evenly.” Sand any rough spots before cleaning, then most walls can be be washed using just a sponge and warm water. He says, “The most important part of the process is to make sure you let everything dry thoroughly before paint application.”
Myth Four: Interior Paint Can Be Used on Floors
Who here has Grace Atwood’s former Brooklyn home bookmarked, with its amazing green and white painted floor? Painted floors are an awesome way to add a bold statement without the expense of completely refinishing them. As you wrap up your latest wall project, you might find yourself looking down and wondering what else you can update.
Unfortunately, Sean Chapman, a professional carpenter, has bad news for everyone looking to spruce up an old floor with leftover paint. “Wall paints are rarely designed to withstand wear and will get dirty and worn quickly under shoes. It’s not just marketers who want to sell you paint for walls, floors, railing, and other elements! You truly need different types of paint for all types of surfaces.”
Myth Five: Paint Color Is Only a Stylistic Decision
When you start saving inspiration images for a paint project, you’re probably focused solely on the color and whether it will look good in your space — not whether it actually will physically work in your space.
Mona Ying Reeves, founder of Kickstart House, a home renovation support community, has a reality check for all the design dreamers: Sometimes a paint color literally does not work on a surface or texture. “Dark, moody houses are on trend right now, but the paint doesn’t perform on surfaces the same as whites and lighter tones.”
There are trade-offs — and you may want to consult with a professional to determine whether your space can handle being taken over to the dark side. Reeves adds, “Dark paints tend to bubble more on wood siding and surfaces that fluctuate in temperature. Some painters will even refuse to warranty their job, or reduce the length of the warranty.”
Myth Six: Any Brand Can Color-Match Any Paint
It can be tempting to take a swatch of an expensive, gorgeous, perfect color of paint to a big-box home improvement store hoping for a cheap, quick dupe. Yet somehow, it never looks quite right. Tom Hill, of chemist-founded C2 Paint, says, “No one can match anyone’s color 100 percent since they don’t have the same colorant system — it’s subjective.”
Nuances in color-matching can be attributed to pigments, proprietary formulas, and the use of black or other colors to create darker hues.
Myth Seven: Paint Can Be Saved for Later
You know all those old paint cans sitting in your basement? The ones you keep on hand in case something needs a touch-up? It might be time to toss them. Chapman says, “Paint can become useless quickly. Avoid leaving opened cans of paint to use them later as the quality of the application will degrade.”
You’re better off simply buying what you need for a particular project, then disposing what you don’t use. (Just make sure to do it properly!)
Myth Eight: Zero VOC Paint Truly Means Zero
While zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint does have less off-gassing than traditional paint, that doesn’t mean it’s completely without VOCs. Hill says, “A paint product can be referred to as zero VOC as long as VOCs are below 5 grams per liter. Even “zero VOC” ingredients can contain trace levels of VOCs, and these trace materials of zero VOC products can add up to equal even more VOCs. Often, the measurement depends on the testing method.”
The bottom line? Zero VOC paint can be reassuring, particularly if you have children in the house, but no paint is perfect.