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A guide to paint sheens, from glossy to matte

Yas sheen yas (but also, in some cases, no)

Sam Frost

So you’ve done the hard part—after much debate you’ve finally settled on a paint color. Now, the merchant wants to know what sheen you want and there are so many choices. We asked artist Mary McMurray to help us sift through the options.

For the past thirty years, Murray has run her own color consulting business, called Art First Colors for Architecture, in Portland, Oregon. Her unique perspective—she’s an artist and also became a licensed painting contractor in order to mix her own colors—makes her an authority on the medium. Here’s a cheat sheet for choosing the right paint sheens.

1. In general, there is a sheen scale

The first thing to know is that sheens typically exist on a scale, usually from flat (no shine) to glossy (ultra-shiny), with steps in between. According to McMurray, a loose sheen scale that accelerates in shine quality looks like this: flat > matte > eggshell > satin > semi-gloss > gloss or high-gloss.

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The sheen designations can be a little confusing at times because each paint manufacturer coins their own. For instance, at Benjamin Moore, satin is also referred to as Pearl. At Farrow & Ball, sheens are referred to as emulsions. In general, however, a scale will exist.

2. Shine tends to equal durability

The general rule for matching a paint sheen to the room is this: The higher the shine level of the paint, the more durable it will be. This means different sheens are appropriate to different areas of the home, depending on their activity level.

There can be exceptions to this, thanks to modern developments in paint formulation. For instance, Sherwin-Williams now makes a line of flat paint called Emerald that they advertise as having the same “washability and durability as the matte or glossier sheens.”

3. Low sheen for low traffic rooms

The lower end of the spectrum, that being the flat and matte sheens, are typically used for low-traffic rooms since the finish is susceptible to marks and stains that don’t easily wipe off. This makes these finishes good for places like adult bedrooms or home offices—as opposed to kid’s rooms where there is more activity.

When picking a flat sheen for a wall, McMurray suggests using the highest quality paint possible, as it will be more durable in the long run. “If you do happen to get a handprint on a flat-finished wall that you used a cheap paint on, and you try to wipe it off, it’s probably going to destroy the finish,” she says.

4. Higher sheen for high traffic or moisture-prone rooms

Since higher shine equals higher durability, use an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss in the bathroom, kitchen, hallways, and kid’s rooms. This ensures that constant exposure to moisture doesn’t affect the finish and impromptu stains or scuffs can be cleaned off the walls easily with a sponge and cleaner.

In the bathroom and kitchen, make sure to extend the same sheen to the ceiling that’s being used on the walls. “In the kitchen, it depends on what kind of cooking you do and how much ventilation you have,” says McMurray. Some people might be able to do a matte finish in a kitchen but a safer bet would be eggshell or higher, for ease of wiping down splatters.

5. Highest sheen on trim and doors

Baseboards, doors, and trim are probably the hardest hit surfaces in your house. For that reason, opting for satin or semi-gloss will protect them. “For trimwork, I like satin or semi-gloss depending on what the project is,” says McMurray. The higher sheen will highlight the architectural features and allow them to contrast with the body of the wall surface nicely, while also surviving nicks and scrapes better.

Just be aware that higher sheen paints are thinner in consistency, and can be harder to work with and control for a smooth finish (depending on your painting skills, of course). For this reason, self-leveling paints, like Benjamin Moore’s Advance line, are extremely helpful. McMurray does not often specify a gloss or high-gloss finish, except for the occasional client who wants a standout front door.

6. Consider the overall effect in the room

In addition to selecting a sheen for its function, McMurray cautions people to also be aware of how it will look in a room. Consider the wall surface quality as well as the sheen’s overall effect. Lower sheen paints will soak up more light rather than reflecting it, which is good if there is imperfections in your wall surface that need to be hidden. Shinier paints will reflect light and draw attention to bumps and divots in drywall or plaster.

The latter can be “very distracting,” says McMurray. “I like flat finishes on the ceiling, partly because that doesn’t offer any distraction with light bouncing off the surface and it creates a calmer effect,” she says.

Noise amplification is also something to consider. “If you painted a whole room in semi-gloss, the light would feel very noisy,” says McMurray. “You would get a lot of glare reflected and it wouldn’t be a very calm and peaceful environment.” She has read studies wherein it was discovered that audible noise increases with the degrees of sheen.

7. For the exterior, go more matte

Exterior paint has a similar range of sheens, yet here McMurray cautions against painting your whole house satin, even if the logic is that the shinier finish will stand up better to the weather and elements. “Then your house looks kind-of like a big plastic box,” she says. “So I would not recommend satin on the siding.” Instead, save satin for the exterior trim and paint the body of your house flat or “low-lustre.”

Looking for the perfect shade of white paint? We’ve got you. And check out all our advice for painting your home here.

Continue reading A guide to paint sheens, from glossy to matte

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The Color Trends We’re Going To Be Seeing In 2019

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Color influences everything from what we notice and how we taste. This month, Sherwin-Williams revealed its 2019 annual Color Forecast, a 42-color palette divided into six themes , meant to inspire and help both professionals and DIYers select the right color scheme for any project. Some themes we’re going to be seeing soon might surprise minimalist enthusiasts. According to Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, expect to see not only more color in the coming year, but color pushing the boundaries as a shift from the popular minimalism trend of late.

Every color in the color forecast, whether alone or when combined with others, tells a different story, says Wadden. She and her team developed themes by asking themselves what kind of person would this palette be?

The idea was to create a forecast that is personal, aspiring and attainable, how all design should be, according to Wadden.

What color trends might we be seeing in kitchens and dining room in the coming year?

“Earth tones are emerging as a top trend in kitchen designs this year,” Wadden shares. “The Naturalist journal from Sherwin-Williams 2019 Colormix Color Forecast includes mushroom tones and leafy greens, which create a relaxing scene for kitchens. If it’s the dining room that needs updating, the Aficionado’s rich blues and tailored neutrals pair well with light wood accents, and copper or gold fixtures, evoking a sense of timeless tradition.”

Here are the six color themes we’ll be seeing more of in the coming year, from the kitchen and dining room to our living spaces.

Shapeshifter

Shapeshifter’s aesthetic is about the mystical, from the deep sea to the galaxy and everything in between and is rooted by strong geometrics and clean lines.

“The atmospheric wisps of color, grounded by deep, mysterious blues capture the unique space between technology and spirituality found in the Shapeshifter palette,” says Wadden.

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Shapeshifter’s aesthetic is about the mystical, from the deep sea to the galaxy and everything in between and is rooted by strong geometrics and clean lines.SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Wanderer

This palette is for the person who will never be fenced in, who needs to soak in the endless horizons and subtle earthy tones of the high plains. Clays, caramels and browns come from canyons to worn leather and woven wool blankets of the true New West.

“The Wanderer palette is sun-washed and warm,” Wadden notes. “It brings you to a modern desert made of one part cowboy, one part Scandinavian style that produces a luxurious result.”

The Wanderer palette is for the person who will never be fenced in, who needs to soak in the endless horizons and subtle earthy tones of the high plains. Clays, caramels and browns come from canyons to worn leather and woven wool blankets of the true New West.SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Aficionado

Like a bookcase of leather-bound literary classics, this pedigreed palette evokes nostalgia and timeless traditions. Copper and gold anchor merlot and gray. The tailored tones are tasteful, elegant and classic.

“When we say ‘Aficionado,’ it evokes an emotion of what is best in life, well-worn and bespoke,” says Wadden. “It is ostentatious without being fake or showy, and has the right amount of charm to make it feel tasteful.”

Like a bookcase of leather-bound literary classics, the Aficionado palette evokes nostalgia and timeless traditions. Copper and gold anchor merlot and gray. The tailored tones are tasteful, elegant and classic.SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Enthusiast

For those who go against the grain, break the rules or are more free-spirited than the status quo, the Enthusiast palette brings maximum attitude and yet produces harmonious results. The proof is in this palette, which features bold pops of vivid blue, green and red.

“The Enthusiast palette is a fresh take on ‘maximalism’,” Wadden shares. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and push boundaries with color.”

For those who go against the grain, break the rules or are more free-spirited than the status quo, the Enthusiast palette brings maximum attitude and yet produces harmonious results. The proof is in this palette, which features bold pops of vivid blue, green and red. So long, minimalism. Maximalism, apparently, is in.SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Naturalist

Nature lovers can connect with the wonder of the world in full bloom. This collection’s lush, sophisticated tones poke out from the rain forest as colorful tendrils. Ranging from mushroom to passionate pink, the focus on botanicals is slightly classic, with bold details.

From conservancies to hothouses, Naturalist brings you into an elegant French woodland, according to Wadden. “It’s a place where color never fades,” she adds.

Nature lovers can connect with the wonder of the world in full bloom. This collection’s lush, sophisticated tones poke out from the rain forest as colorful tendrils. Ranging from mushroom to passionate pink, the focus on botanicals is slightly classic, with bold details.SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Raconteur

From ancient rhetoric to today’s on-screen webcasts, there is a desire and appreciation for stories and the storytellers behind them. From Africa to the New World, human origins have been translated into this rich palette that spans time.

“From rich red to muted mauve, Raconteur represents storytelling itself,” said Wadden. “These stories are a subtle reminder of how everyone is connected.”

From ancient rhetoric to today’s on-screen webcasts, there is a desire and appreciation for stories and the storytellers behind them. From Africa to the New World, human origins have been translated into Raconteur, a rich palette that spans time.SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

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ASID News

SCALE 2018: A Student Event Like No Other

SCALE: The ASID National Student Summit took place in the thriving, rejuvenated heart of L.A., February 23-25, 2018. Attracting more than 400 attendees from over 70 colleges and universities across the country, SCALE explored relevant, timely topics in design and included experiences created to ready students for their first professional positions. Through exclusive tours of top design firms and projects, students caught a glimpse of their futures and what they can expect from life as a working design professional.

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Finally, a Color of the Year That Dares to Dream

| Oct 4, 2017

Paint company Sherwin-Williams has just announced its 2018 Color of the Year, and as far as house paint goes, it’s quite breathtaking: Oceanside SW 6496, an intense shade of blue-green that, according to the company’s color experts, encapsulates our growing sense of adventure—in how we decorate our homes and otherwise!

“People today have a growing sense of adventure, and it is making its way into even the coziest corners of our homes,” says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. “We are craving things that remind us of bright folklore, like mermaids and expeditions across continents. Oceanside is the color of wanderlust right in our own homes.”

We have to say, it’s a nice change from all the “safe” colors (like those 50 shades of white) which typically dominate people’s homes. And interior designers roundly applaud this new paint color pick.

Oceanside, Color of the Year
Oceanside, Color of the YearSherwin-Williams

“Shades of deep teal have definitely been trending in the home space for several years,” says Donna Garlough, style director at Wayfair.com. “This shade is bolder and brighter than what we’ve been seeing to date, but for homeowners who love drama and want a color with a ‘wow’ factor, this is definitely a great option.”

Some say the shade signals a return to opulence.

“There are buildings that are hundreds of years old which have examples of rich, dramatic color palettes like [Oceanside]—ballrooms, theaters, opera houses,” points out Landy Gardner of Landy Gardner Interiors. “Those deep and vibrant colors suggested opulence, which is coming back in today’s design.”

How to infuse your home with Oceanside

Still, Oceanside’s intensity could easily overtake your home, which is why many designers urge homeowners to add only a splash.

“I would use this color in small spaces to make a bold and impactful punch—think powder room, entryway, or a small study,” says Drew Henry, founder of Design Dudes.

“Since this is a darker color, make sure to lighten it up with bright accents,” he adds. “I’d add trim and crown molding in crisp whites, light marble tile, or white furniture and pillows. Adding this trendy color in small spaces makes your home feel relevant and also keeps it timeless when paired with crisp whites and grays in the rest of the interior.”

Yet some designers think a “less is more” approach is just too timid for a color like this. Laura Michaels believes it’s best to go all out.

“I used this color in a home office and used it on the walls, seagrass carpet, velvet sofa, and also on the custom lacquered wall unit,” says Michaels. “It was a small room, and it gave it a big feel because everything was the same color. The room would have been fairly uninteresting if we didn’t make such a big color choice, and it remained interesting by the use of textural versus color changes.”

See her pic below and decide for yourself!

A room that went overboard on Oceanside
A room that went overboard on Oceanside@lauramichaels_design

As for what to pair it with, designer Bobby Berk suggests, “Oceanside‘s rich saturation pairs well with other deep-toned leathers and woods in a den, office, bedroom, or even living room. Its jewel-like tint allows for combinations of marigold, saffron, and Kelly green, and is versatile in masculine or feminine schemes, and everywhere in between! I could see this color on kitchen cabinets in a matte or high gloss, or in a powder room or entry.”

One caveat: “I would stay clear of the color in large, expansive spaces that have tall ceilings,” says Angela Harris at TRIO environments. “It is highlighted better in a more compressed environment.”

“I don’t know that it works well for an open floor plan, where several rooms should be treated the same way,” Gardner adds. “And I would not suggest this color in a bedroom—it is too strong. However, I recently painted a dining room a similar color and it is breathtaking. It’s best in a confined space, and a place that is ‘special.'”

Judy Dutton is a deputy editor at realtor.com covering news and advice about personal finance, home buying, selling, decorating, and everything in between (judy.dutton@move.com).
The realtor.com® editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.

Continue reading Finally, a Color of the Year That Dares to Dream

Partner Spotlight: Universal Design for Independent Living with Sherwin-Williams


Join ASID and design consultant Sue Schulte for an ASID Partner Spotlight with Sherwin-Williams, Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m. EST. As millions of Baby Boomers turn 65, designers will be tasked with designing spaces that allow clients to age in the comfort of their homes. Explore tips for creating a home that works for all generations, with particular emphasis on the role of color, sheen, and More

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Bold Decisions Drive Kitchen Design

A brave client gives the designer the ability to create a white kitchen that is anything but cookie-cutter. 

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5 KITCHEN TRENDS THAT ARE POISED TO TAKE OVER IN 2018

With a new year comes thoughts of how to renovate, refresh, and redecorate our living spaces. And where better to start than in the heart and hearth of the home, the kitchen? Check out the 5 kitchen trends poised to make a huge splash in 2018.

1BLUE AND GREEN CABINETRY
kitchen trends

MasterBrand Cabinets

Expect kitchens to take on moody ocean-inspired shades.

“Blues and greens emerged as ‘go-to’ color choices for cabinetry in 2017. They are being mixed with other colors, complementing wood stains or even being used as the dominant color alone,” according to Stephanie Pierce, director of design & trends at MasterBrand Cabinets.

2ALL-VIOLET EVERYTHING
kitchen trends

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Pantone announced Ultra Violet as the color of the year, and it’s already shaping up to be a major trend in every aspect of home design.

Shannon Zapala, co-founder of glassware brand GOVERRE explains, “One of the popular kitchen trends for 2018 is using bold, unexpected colors […] such as Ultra Violet, Pantone’s color of the year! This dramatic color exudes a feeling of luxury and elegance.”

3DARK COUNTERTOPS
kitchen trends

Formica Corporation

Dark, deep countertops are the order of the day, according to Renee Hytry Derrington, global design lead at Formica Group.

“Homeowners were intrigued with slate tiles that came in black, dark green and multi-colored rust tones. We wanted to design a slate option for countertops that had the same natural cleft detail— but combined with the growing interest in dramatic black stones. Basalt Slate is the result, and one of our most popular designs this year.”

4MIX-AND-MATCH FINISHES
kitchen trends

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The days of monochromatic kitchens are far behind us, according to Sue Wadden, the director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. She explains that, this year, it’s all about mixing and matching color, no need to keep it all the same:

“Using multiple colors in kitchens has become a popular trend this year. For example, painting base walls or cabinets in a dark charcoal tone and upper cabinets and walls in creamy off-white tones is something we’re seeing more and more of.”

5HIGH-CONTRAST MARBLE
kitchen trends

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“Step aside Carrara,” says interior designer Donna Mondi.

She explains that the newest ‘it’ look for the kitchen is dramatic marble that makes a statement, noting, “Marble countertops with high contrast bold veining are making quite a statement. It’s perfect for book-matching to create intense drama, or doing as a waterfall down the sides of the island. Either way this new trend is one to watch as I think it’ll be going strong for years to come.

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THESE ARE THE 2018 COLOR TRENDS THAT SHOULD BE ON YOUR RADAR

We are officially halfway through 2017. Not totally sure how that happened, but we’re here, and we’re already pretty eager to see what 2018 has in store.

Of all the design trends we look forward to most in the coming year, color holds a steady spot at the top of our list. After all, it sets the tone for what furniture we buy, what decor we invest in, and the overall mood for that design year.

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6 Innovative Paints With Ridiculously Cool Superpowers

When it comes to choosing paint, you might think you only have to decide whether to slather your bedroom walls in Ocean Blue or Lakeside Cobalt. But it turns out, choosing a color isn’t the only factor to consider. Yup, there’s a lot more going on in that bucket of satiny liquid than most of us ever knew.

Get ready for a brave new world of high-tech home decor: Guided by market research and customer feedback, paint manufacturers are harnessing the power of new technology to create innovative products that look good and perform under pressure.

We’ve sussed out the coolest of these smart paints—from bacteria-stomping formulas to heat-reducing compounds—to help you upgrade your home while solving some of your most common household problems. Mind = blown.

1. A paint that promises to kill germs

If you can get over the sticker shock of $87.99 a gallon, this microbicidal paint from Sherwin-Williams may just help you stay well this winter.

Sherwin-Williams Paint Shield claims to be the first paint to kill 99.9% of bacteria—including staph, MRSA, and E. coli—within two hours of exposure to a painted surface. That makes it an ideal choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

The company maintains that the paint continues to kill 90% of bacteria for up to four years, as long as the surface stays intact.

“We launched Paint Shield in 2015 because we realized the importance of developing a coating that would actively help to reduce some of the most dangerous bacteria in health care settings on painted surfaces,” says Steve Revnew, the company’s senior vice president of product development.

But it wasn’t easy to come by: The secret is in the product’s active ingredient, quaternary ammonium compound—aka “quat”—which manufacturers initially struggled to add without changing the paint composition. Eventually, they nailed it, Revnew says—a victory for health-conscious homeowners everywhere.

2. A paint that promises to kill mold

Where do we sign up? Rust-Oleum’s water-based Zinsser Mold Killing Primer is a fungicidal protective coating which can be used to paint over all existing mold, mildew, moss, fungi, and odor-causing bacteria. What’s more, it contains an EPA-registered antimicrobial to prevent the growth of new fungi, says brand manager Melanie Delcore.

Similarly, the company’s Zinsser Odor Killing Primer promises to keep your nose happy—and you can use it on subfloors, cabinets, and walls.

“No one wants to smell the last tenants’ pet odors, nicotine smoke, or smoke from previous fire damage,” Delcore says. “We developed a clear coating that seals and kills those nasty odors for good.”

3. A paint that promises better air quality

Sherwin-Williams’ zero-VOC, washable Harmony Interior Acrylic Latex Paint claims to promote better indoor air quality and cut back on common indoor odors. When it dries, company reps say, the paint actually reduces airborne concentrations of formaldehyde and other aldehydes—volatile organic compounds which come from things such as insulation, carpet, cabinets, and fabrics.

How does it work? The technology works on a molecular level, says Rick Watson, director of product information for Sherwin-Williams.

“When that airborne molecule actually comes in contact with the surface painted with Harmony, the odor-eliminating technology actually will break that compound down and neutralize it so rooms stay fresher longer,” he says.

4. A paint that promises to seal cracks

The Behr Premium Elastomeric Masonry, Stucco and Brick Paint is an exterior paint that’s actually elastic and designed to expand and contract to resist cracking. In fact, the company claims, it can stretch up to 600% to bridge hairline cracks. That makes it ideal for surfaces such as stucco, masonry, concrete, and brick.

Fun fact: This paint can also withstand wind-driven rain at speeds up to 98 mph. Plus, it’s resistant to mildew and dirt. The 100% acrylic latex formula provides a breathable film to release moisture which builds up in walls.

5. A stain that promises to keep you cool

Sherwin-Williams’ SuperDeck line of infrared reflective coatings aims to offer protection from cracking, peeling, mildew, and premature weathering—especially in warm climates.

That’s great and all, but our minds are particularly blown by the SuperDeck IR Reflective Exterior Waterborne Solid Color Stain. This bad boy supposedly has infrared reflective technology that reflects solar rays back in the atmosphere. That means that when your deck heats up to 170 degrees in the sun (yes, you read that right), you won’t burn your toes as you run inside for a margarita refill.

6. A paint that goes on pink, so you don’t miss any spots

Painting the ceiling is a tedious task. At that angle, it’s hard not to miss a spot or color a smidge outside the lines. Enter: Glidden’s EZ Track Ceiling Paint, which goes on pink but dries white to help you get those ceiling margins juuuuust right.

It’s also a paint and primer in one, ideal for DIY jobs. Plus, the company claims, this paint resists drips and minimizes spatter—keeping the color on your ceiling, and off you.

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Scared of Dark Paint? Don’t Be!

Judging from the pages of shelter magazines and interior designers’ Instagram feeds, dark colors are in. And paint companies are offering plenty of options.

Earlier this month, Sherwin-Williams picked a rich, moody blue called Oceanside as its 2018 color of the year. Benjamin Moore named Caliente, an intense shade of red, its upcoming color of the year, and its newest line of paint, Century, is composed of 75 saturated colors like Amethyst, Black Currant and Obsidian. Glidden Paint chose a black called Deep Onyx as its next color of the year, and Olympic Paints & Stains named Black Magic its choice for 2018.

The deep, rich colors promoted for years by companies like the decorator favorite Farrow & Ball, it seems, are finally going mainstream. “From the beautiful, vivacious tones of Radicchio to the super-dark rich of Studio Green, Farrow & Ball is seeing more confidence within decorating choices as we head into 2018,” Charlotte Cosby, who heads up the company’s creative team, wrote in an email.

Joa Studholme, Farrow & Ball’s international color consultant, attributed the trend to a desire to cocoon. “We’re sort of surrounding ourselves with comfort, and one of the ways we’re doing it is through color – to make our homes feel sort of nurturing and tender,” she said. “Instead of coming into clean, white houses, we’re going into homes that sort of give us a hug.”

For those of us more comfortable with whitewashed walls, however, it’s not so easy to make the leap to eggplant or onyx. But here are some tips from design and color experts on how to use dark colors without becoming overwhelmed — or claustrophobic.

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START SMALL If you’re nervous about playing with a deep, dark hue, “limit the color to the inside of cabinets, backs of bookshelves or a painted floor,” said Donald Kaufman, who owns the paint company Donald Kaufman Color with his wife, Taffy Dahl. “Dark, bold windows often bring the outside in.”

Ms. Studholme, of Farrow & Ball, suggested starting with a contained space like a powder room, the underside of a claw-foot tub or a hallway. “When you arrive, it creates a sense of drama,” she said. “You come through and go, ‘Wow.’” An added bonus, she noted: “A dark color in the hall makes the rooms off the hall feel really big and light.”

Ellen O’Neill, director of strategic design intelligence for Benjamin Moore, recommends starting with a focal point, like a fireplace mantel or the inside of shelves or drawers. “I recently photographed a home where the owner painted the inside of the drawers of an antique Chippendale chest a rich aubergine,” she said. “What a color surprise every time you open a drawer.” And as you become more confident, she said, “you can graduate to painting doors to a room or hallway, window trim or wainscoting.”

TEST IT OUT When you’re ready to tackle a whole room, “start with a color family that is already dominant in the home and select two to three shades that you feel makes a statement,” Ms. O’Neill said. “I’d get quarts of each color and paint large swatches of each, one set next to a window and one set in a corner. Observe how the room’s lighting affects the colors three times a day.”

EMBRACE THE DARKNESS “A deep, rich color goes an especially long way in a room without a lot of natural light, as dim rooms look particularly dull in lighter colors,” said Frances Merrill, the founder of Reath Design in Los Angeles, who painted her children’s room Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon gray. “It makes the small space feel finished and gives definition to the ever-rotating collection of artwork.”

In the playroom, she used Templeton Gray from Benjamin Moore. “Every surface in this room is usually covered in a layer of Legos and half-finished science experiments,” she said. “I find that the deeper colors mask the chaos.”

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“Conventional wisdom states that small spaces — especially those facing north — should be lightened to increase the sense of space,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Instituteconsultancy. “However, painting trim a lighter color in an area painted with darker hues can actually increase the illusion of space,” she said, because it creates a “greater impression of height or width in the space.”

Whatever your situation, “it’s best to work with what you’ve got, rather than try to fight the light,” said Ms. Studholme of Farrow & Ball, which offers a guide to how light affects color on its website.

PREPARATION IS KEY “Before painting, ensure surfaces are sound, clean, dry and free from dirt, grease and any other contamination,” said Ms. Cosby of Farrow & Ball. “Always sand down surfaces to achieve a smooth base.”

And if you change your mind later, dark colors are just as easy to paint over as light ones, assuming you prep properly. “Start by priming over the bold hue, then apply two coats of the desired color,” said Ms. O’Neill of Benjamin Moore. But “be sure to allow the primer coat to dry completely before applying the first coat of color.”

GO HALFSIES To add “sophistication and spirit” to a client’s “stark, boxy, white rental,” Alex Kalita, a founder of Common Bond Design in Manhattan, painted the bottom half of the bedroom wall in Hague Bluefrom Farrow & Ball. She calls it “the chair-rail effect” and notes that it serves a few purposes: “It simulates architectural variation in otherwise uniform space; it ties in the building’s teal window frames; and it leverages the cozy, rich, complex and grown-up quality of Hague Blue, while maintaining the practical qualities of white paint, like the illusion of ceiling height.”

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Another tip: “If you’re tempted to go dark and bold on the walls, but you prefer a restrained aesthetic, try keeping the furniture neutral,” Ms. Kalita said. “You can even make bulkier pieces recede by camouflaging them in the wall color. We had our client’s Wonk NYC dresser color-matched to Hague Blue, so that the piece could augment the client’s storage without competing for attention with the room’s more deliberate and sculptural design elements. Dark walls do a good job of visually absorbing things.”

FINALLY, BE BRAVE “I encourage people to be brave with color and unleash their inner artist,” said Ms. Eiseman of the Pantone Color Institute. “Experiment with color, have fun with it, allow yourself to live with it for a while. It is, after all, just one or two cans of paint. And when, and if, you tire of it, move on to another color and treat yourself to another creative exercise.”

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