Are You Guilty of Any of These 12 Hideous Painting Mistakes?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

diamond-barrattaAnthony Baratta

It’s mid-March and you know what that means!

Painting season is upon us.

Therefore, in addition to helping you with your palettes and colors…

I want to warn you about some common hideous painting mistakes.

In all fairness. I know that these are hideous painting mistakes, because well… I’ve made a lot of ’em myself. And I want to save you the pain, heartache and subsequent humiliation. It doesn’t have to be that way.

  • Not testing the paint up the wazoo before painting.

Yes, the color looked fabulous in your friend’s home, in the store, on TV or in a magazine. You absolutely have to look at a large sample in the space its going to be in and that is your home. No two rooms have the exact same lighting. And believe me when I tell you that I’ve seen some wacky things!

For more info about the proper way to test paint colors, please look here. Some of these tips are also on the other post but most of these are new tips.

  • Not looking at the paint chip in any direction except flat up against the wall. Not down on the paint, not propped up against the wall, but FLAT against the wall.

And you are not going to ever do this, right?

???????????????????????????????or this




Oh, I do feel their pain.whitepaintsamplecollageBut this? Oh my word! white over bright green!? You cannot tell a bloody thing here!

grays-chris-loves-juliaChris Loves Julia

And to further make my point. Here’s the proof.

But the wall is where it’s going, so why not paint it on the wall Laurel? And which one is “right?”

Well, in this case, probably neither. The sample needs to be FLAT against the wall. And you need to make it two coats. And it should be against a white background. At least, they made the poster board.


That’s what you should do. You make large samples like this and put them flat against the wall. Then, you need to move the sample around because…

You could put your sample right on top of a reflection from a green tree and think that you’re getting a nice warm gray, when in reality, what you’re going to be getting over-all is a nice cool purple. You need to look at the colors on all the walls and high, low and in between. And please… no lights— at first. Then, you can turn on the lights.

moving on…

  • You’re worried that the color is too intense and then you order it at 50% or some other percentage.

The thinking here is that the color will be half as “strong?” No. It’ll be another color. Now, it might be a nice color. But why drive yourself even more nuts? I would try to find another color first.

  • Painting the trim “WHITE.”

Sounds easy, right? Here’s the problem. The color that Benjamin Moore calls “white” is actually a very, very pale gray in some lights. In a north facing room it’s going to look dingy and drab. North facing rooms do better with medium to darker shades with warm undertones. Or for white trim, one with warm undertones, like OC-122 Cotton Balls.

I won’t kid you, north facing rooms are not easy and there can be other factors, so my best advice is to experiment if you’re not getting the color that you want.

  • Believing that to “brighten” a dark room, you should paint it as white as possible.

See above. :]

I never specify that color because again, it’s gray and usually the ceiling looks grayer than the walls to begin with. That is… unless you want it to be a pale gray.

home-tour-alys-beach-houseScout and Nimble

How dramatic is this? It’s a beach house with a black ceiling. Sounds hideous except it’s anything but. Don’t be afraid to play up your room’s features. And by the way, painting a ceiling darker will make it appear higher.

  • Not considering the color of the floors in relation to the walls.

Do your floors have orange, yellow, red undertones. That’s something to consider.

  • Not considering what your furniture is going to look like.

I’m sure that’s obvious except that sometimes we forget to look at the big picture.

  • Not doing an adequate prep job.

Here’s a post which gives some great tips on preparing the walls for painting.

  • Not paying attention to the color as it relates to the rooms around it.

One room is electric blue. The next one is purple, then orange then greige. Next thing ya know… out comes the plastic table-cloth. haha!

  • finding an expensive paint and thinking that you can just go to Off-Brand paint store and get a perfect match.


Buy the paint from the company that manufacturers it. PLEASE. Computer matching is a crap shoot at best. And I don’t care what your painter says. He’s going to try to tell you how fabulous it is and that it really works. Well, sorry; it doesn’t really work. If he’s still insisting and won’t back down, I’d be very suspicious. Chances are, he’s going to use an off-brand and sell it to you at a premium price. It does happen. :[

  • Just going with the same old, same old. White trim. White ceiling. linen white walls.


Have you ever considered painting the room all one color? It’s an amazing look. In fact, with sloping ceilings especially, I love to use one color everywhere, like in this charming attic room that would be perfect for a boy or a guest room.

martha-stewart-sloped-ceilingMartha Stewart


interiors-june-july-2010Matthew Sapera

I love how serene and quite these rooms are. There is no need for the trim to “pop.” I’m not even sure why anyone would want it to “pop.” Of course, it can contrast, but it doesn’t have to. That’s my point.

More green coming up. I was so thrilled to hear from so many of you that you also love green! I am working on bringing you some wonderful green shades of paint very soon. And some other goodies too!



5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern


  • SHERY - January 18, 2017 - 8:58 AM

    Hi Lauren,
    We own an 1850’s cape with exposed beams and wood floors. The trim in our home is presently painted Rittenhouse Ivory which is an Old Village paint. It is a beautiful creamy tan. However, it does have green undertones so has always looked a little green in the north facing room that we are attempting to change. I have purchased a lot of paint. The foam board samples now number nine. We have always painted the trim darker than the walls and we love muted neutrals. This north room is a challenge. The constants are dark exposed beams and red birch flooring. Our furniture is from the 1800’s including a beautiful seven foot harvest table. If the furniture has color it is the original antique red. I have read blogs which have helped to narrow the field. Nantucket Green appears to have made the cut during the day. However, during the evening hours gets muddy. Georgian green has the ‘green’ we want but lacks the soft elegant and sophisticated look. Gray mirage has the soft, elegant appearance but is cool. We would like to accent with some red, creams, and use it in an adjacent hall with brown and cream. We are thinking of painting the walls Ivory White though we have other whites painted on foam boards to try. Besides the window trim, there is a wall of pine (shaker like décor) and a fireplace surround. Thought it might be nice to have two shades of the trim color to do the fireplace mantle area. The room has always been drab with greige walls. I would like to get it right this time.ReplyCancel

  • Deborah Ellenburg - October 1, 2016 - 5:27 PM

    I’ve just joined your blog and website and must say I’m so glad I found you! I’ve really enjoyed reading your comments. Thank you so much for letting us pick your brain and giving us all these great tips! I for one need and will appreciate all the help I can get. Have a great day!ReplyCancel

  • Valerie - April 28, 2016 - 10:56 AM

    Hi Laurel, Ive just signed up for your blog and love what I see so far. Of course I have a question. I LOVE, love….did I say love the color coral. Alas, I am finding there are many variations and because it is so intense, I’d do one feature wall, not the entire room (my bedroom). What is your opinion of feature walls and tying them into the rest of the room? I have not seen this addressed yet?ReplyCancel

  • Lenore - February 2, 2016 - 4:58 PM

    Thank you Mrs. Bern! I am very fortunate to have read this article before going out to purchase my paint samples today. I am redecorating my 650 sq ft condo with 3 floor to ceiling south facing windows. I get full sun all day. I have dark maple ebony hardwood floors, and 2 pieces of existing furniture, a med/dark gray velvet tuxedo sofa and a glass and gold coffee table.

    What I want is a nice soft, muted, feminine, pale-light-mid tone, cool/blue undertone gray. Sadly, after hiring 2 designers to choose 1 color for me, who btw did not get me to test the colors, both times resulted in ugly taupey, purplish walls. Ugh 🙁 Now hate is a strong word so let’s just say I am not fond of Taupe and Greige, Yuck 🙁

    Anyway, after 2 costly fails I have decided to choose the color myself. I was so confused over undertones and the best way to test the colors, until now. After reading this post and your How to Guide So That You Can Stop Freaking Out About Paint Colors, I have seen the light! ha ha Now I know what to do. I mean I still have no idea what color to get but at least I know the right way to test them now.

    I know you are very busy woman and I would not normally ask but I am desperate. Could you tell me if I am on the right track, please? I am thinking that I should choose colors with a blue or blue/green undertone to combat the yellow/orange sun, so I will end up with pretty pale mid toned gray, like here and

    I am too young for gray hair but I would like it on my walls, lol. Sorry for the long post. Thank you. Wish me luck!ReplyCancel

  • Ron Mancuso - January 12, 2016 - 10:14 PM

    Whats the best Creamy white for a sophisticated large room with french doors and a white travertine floor? Every thing I try looks greyish. I want something warmer. He also wants to paint the doors,base boards and ceiling
    SW white white for constrast?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 12, 2016 - 10:39 PM

      Hi Ron,

      I wish I could help you out but it’s impossible to just throw out suggestions without being IN the room.There are so many variables. White travertine isn’t just one color. There’s lighting. There’s the other furniture, fabrics… It’s like a doctor. If you need help, they always need to see you. right? Please look at all of my paint posts about white. Just put in white paint in the search box on any blog page and they’ll all pop up. When doing white walls, 99.9% of the time, I use the same color for the trim but in a semi-gloss finish.

      If that doesn’t work, then I recommend hiring a professional who can help you get the result you’re looking for.ReplyCancel

  • Lidia - November 5, 2015 - 3:52 PM

    Dear Mrs. Bern,

    This may sound like a silly question: how do you determine which way a room is facing? Do I take into consideration which way the sun is coming into the room?

    Thank you kindly. Love your information! Great job! And thank you for sharing your insights – they are very helpful.


    • Laurel Bern - November 5, 2015 - 10:02 PM

      Hi Lidia, You could always use a compass. My phone comes with one.

      I need to do a post about this soon! There is so much said about the “color” of the light. It’s true, but only SOME of the time. Even south and west facing rooms are dark and cool under certain conditions and in the morning. The best thing to do is test your colors very carefully and under different conditions.ReplyCancel

  • Jason - June 24, 2015 - 5:21 PM

    Thinking about it I could see why testing the colors would be importantReplyCancel

  • Jason - June 24, 2015 - 5:11 PM

    I have made some painting mistakes before hopefully I can avoid them in the future.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Stewart - March 27, 2015 - 6:53 PM

    Great tips! I’m a color consultant, and have a sheet I give to my clients that’s very similar to yours. However, I’ve found that no matter how I spell it out, or try to make it simple, most people have no intention of testing the colors beforehand!!! One lady even told me later that I had stressed her out with the directions for testing paint colors. I don’t get it, they pay me for the color scheme, but don’t want to make sure it’s what they want. I guess it’s good that they trust me, but they should still test the colors anyway.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 27, 2015 - 9:57 PM

      That is such a good point Diane. Maybe we should say that we’re testing how the lighting affects the color. But, every once in a while, they do goof. Occasionally, a number gets juxtaposed and they forget to give the name of the paint. Or they just mix it wrong. It happened the other day. It was on a sample board, but it wasn’t even close to being the right color!

      Color has a mind of it’s own it seems sometimes. I’ve seen some really wacky things happen as I’m sure you have too! Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Emilia - March 20, 2015 - 3:51 PM

    Regarding Emma’s comment that she had Benjamin Moore match Farrow and Ball colors: Farrow and Ball dealers have advised me that F&B uses minerals to achieve color and not pigments. Therefore, one cannot really match the ultimate look of a F&B paint color. I wonder sometimes if they are worth the cost. I find that I have to use several coats of F&B to achieve a good result. There is a “je ne sais quoi” about them though. I do love them. I have to argue with my husband to let me use them because of the cost.
    Lastly, Laurel I agree with you. Color matching is a “crap shoot.” On BM salesperson I trusted once admitted to me that he just eyeballs the color and did not use or trust the computer. I concur with you that it is better to know exactly what you are actually getting in order to make correct future decisions.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 20, 2015 - 4:04 PM

      oh husbands… lol but great point about the pigments vs. “minerals.” but… the pigments are made out of synthetic colorants? Not sure if that would make the difference or not. I think the only way would be to have two boards painted with identical lighting and then look at all different times of the day and night to see what happens.

      If one is hiring a professional painter. At least around these parts, the paint is the least of it. ReplyCancel

  • Laurel Bern - March 20, 2015 - 2:57 PM

    Hi Sandy,

    Welcome! And thank you for your great comment! This is what’s funny. I live in an apartment that was built in 1920. I didn’t paint or do anything to it before I moved in. I should have, but in the end, it’s all really fine. And yes, your look is always classic!ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - March 18, 2015 - 11:21 PM

    I’m also a new subscriber to this blog but am already addicted…I love your insights and generosity of spirit. This is a fun group!
    As to the “non-popping” trim, I agree! I think painting the trim and walls the same–or very close to the same–color looks so fresh right now. I’m wishing now that I’d done that when we did a whole-house interior re-paint a couple of years ago. But because our 100-year old house has SO much woodwork and it’s all oil enamel, there was enough time and money involved that it seemed “safer” to stay with the soft white…I try to think of the look as “classic” rather than “dated”, but…if I were painting a newer house with less trim I would definitely go for the monochromatic wall/trim look right now.
    And your comment about dark ceilings making the ceiling appear higher certainly held true for us as well–for years our family room ceiling was a deep green-black (F&B Studio Green) which somehow managed to feel airy and cozy at the same time–anything but oppressive! The room had french doors with an exterior awning of the same color, which made the inside feel like an extension of the tropical courtyard outside. The effect was truly magical! Of all the bold painting risks I’ve taken over the years (nobody was doing dark ceilings then, especially in Florida), that ceiling was one of my biggest successes. (As for my failures, I’d need my own blog to list them all..:))ReplyCancel

  • Karen Savage - March 18, 2015 - 9:43 PM

    The best post ever about painting mistakes! Well done Laurel!ReplyCancel

  • Emma A - March 18, 2015 - 1:19 PM

    Love your blog Laurel! As does my husband who is very, um, particular, when it comes to interior design! I just wanted to say that I think computer matching has come a long way. I’m in no way a fan of cheap paint. We recently bought a 1920s tudor with very tricky lighting and I find myself drifting more and more towards the Farrow and Ball palette because the color selections are more curated and I find it less overwhelming to choose. However, I am quite far from the nearest Farrow and Ball store and honestly at 2-3 times the price vs a high-end Benjamin Moore paint plus shipping I can’t justify the added cost. I’ve had excellent results having the Farrow and Ball colors mixed at my local BM store. They have most of the colors in their system already so no computer reading the chip issues and I’ve been very pleased with the results! The people at my local BM store are also very knowledgeable about their products and help me choose a paint with a sheen level that is similar to the farrow and ball paints. Maybe someday when we’re not newlyweds with 250k+ of medical school debt and a recently acquired fixer-upper I’ll buy farrow and ball but until then BM-mixed farrow and ball colors are awesome!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2015 - 1:24 PM

      Thanks so much Emma and also to your husband! That is really a compliment! It has occurred to me that computer matching might be better, however… On the other hand, I see your point as well.

      The other thing is… BM peeps are so smart. They have the formulas and that is not quite the same thing. They’ve matched up the colors already rather than just sticking a swatch through the puter. And it’s good to know that you’ve had good success with that! I’ll make note of that in another post. Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Emilia - March 18, 2015 - 11:00 AM

    How do you feel about painting ceilings light blue? Several years ago I heard Kenneth Brown advise on his HGTV show to paint your ceilings a pale blue to make the room appear taller. I have done this twice in two small bathrooms using Farrow and Ball Cabbage White in one and Benjamin Moore Sea Foam in the other. The result was ok and even pretty with Sea Foam color but I am not sure I achieved anything dramatic as far as ceiling height. Any opinion?

    Lastly, Thank you for stating that trim does not have to “pop.” A paint dealer advised me to paint the trim color the same as my wall color for a very small room that I was painting. I did what he said with some hesitation. I loved the result!!ReplyCancel

    • nancy - August 22, 2016 - 11:11 AM

      i’m late to this party but… I was in a Benjamin Moore store and a decorator there said whatever color she uses for the ceiling she uses the Pearl finish to make the ceiling look taller. I have 2 rooms right next to each other, one with and one without, same color, and I promise the pearl finish looks taller to me.ReplyCancel

  • Renee - March 18, 2015 - 8:09 AM

    Love all of your blogs! We are decorating a new home…all white walls 🙁 and you have been our go to for tips on painting and decorating (thank you!!) Your posts on white paint and gray paint have helped tremendously! I love the beach house with the black ceiling…but how can you tell what colors coordinate when wanting to paint the ceiling something different. For instance, we are using shale on the walls but how can we identify the right color (gray?) to use on the ceiling in the foyer? A blog on that would be so helpful 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2015 - 9:47 AM

      Hi Renee,

      That’s a great idea! There are so many variables again. But I like to think of rooms like compositions. That’s why I love to put up photos of fine art. And I also look at nature. Ever go outside and go “ewwww… these colors look horrible together!”

      As a preview, the way to test for ceiling color is the same as for walls. It really is best to get up there and tape it flat to the ceiling and in several places. But, it’s easier to select new colors when your walls are already white.ReplyCancel

  • Gina - March 18, 2015 - 8:05 AM

    HI! Thanks for the great post. Love the rooms, too! You use the words “warm overtones” to describe OC-22. Most people look at me with a big speech bubble (???) over their heads when I’m explaining an undertone as it is, haha! Here’s my question. What’s the difference between and undertone and an overtone?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2015 - 9:36 AM

      Hi Gina, Did I say overtone? I meant undertone. Better go and change that. However, an overtone in a color would be the apparent color one perceives. In colors that are very pale or have a lot of gray in them it is more difficult to see how they’ll read on the wall.

      Also, colors tend to intensify and look darker on the wall than they do on the chip; particularly in the corners and shadows of the room. But that can change with the time of day and placement of windows.ReplyCancel

  • TKraft Art & Interiors - March 18, 2015 - 12:16 AM

    Another great blog and post, I’m one of those newbies and I can’t get enough, love your style and verbiage. We’ve seen this all to often, cringe every time someone tells me they got the paint on the sale rack, setup to fail on so many levels. Thanks for including the fifth wall.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2015 - 1:53 AM

      yeah.. I don’t get it. So, the more expensive paint is another 20 or so a gallon. It’s not like we’re talking big $ here! Just give up a few lattes or something. haha. Maybe the matching has gotten better, but early on in my career, I did that with a wallpaper. And we painted below the chair rail with the matching color which was not test. oye! Well, it didn’t match. It was an interesting difference though and passable and fortunately, they didn’t say anything about it.

      oh dang. I just remembered something. Well… I’ll get it in another post. And that is to test the paint after it’s mixed! They do goof in the store sometimes when they mix the paint. I just had a client who got a sample of a very light brown and it looked almost black on her test board.ReplyCancel