Paint Color Myths that Help Us Make Bad Decisions



The other day, I got a message on Instagram that has fueled the inspiration for today’s blog post. The topic is paint color myths that we fall for and with undesirable results.

Here is a screenshot of our correspondence.


instagram - Farrow & Ball Light Blue paint color

We will get to Farrow & Ball Parma Gray paint color in a sec. But, I just have to say that I love hearing from you guys, but Insta is not the best way to get in touch. That’s because I don’t get notified, and I don’t look on there every day.

To get in touch with me, please find the contact link in the main menu on a desktop computer or tablet. If on your phone, please click the burger, which will open up the menu.

OR, you can email me here: admin at laurel bern interiors dot com. OR, if you’re a subscriber, you can answer any email you receive, announcing a blog post or hot sales.



Okay, let’s jump in with paint color myth #one


You see a  color in a magazine or online because it is just the shade of _______ you are looking for.

Do you know how many times I’ve been asked, “What is that paint color?”

There are many myths here. One of them is that I know what bloody paint color it is. Nobody does, unless someone who is involved can say.


But, the main myth that what you see in a photo or online is what you get.


It’s almost always not what you get.

So, let’s look at why choosing a color based on what you see online is a bad idea. And, I get to share some pics of Gil Schafer’s newly redecorated apartment.

By the way, THIS is my dream home.

These images are via Architectural Digest and photos taken by Eric Piasecki.


Gil Schafer - Architectural Digest New Paint Color - photo Eric Piasecki

I don’t care what freaking color it’s painted. It’s perfect. But, in case you would like to know, it is Farrow & Ball Drop Cloth.

Farrow & Ball Colors 2016 Dropcloth

You can see more of Drop Cloth in this post.


If you’d like to see some pics of Gil’s place before he re-decorated it, please go here.

And, to see and read more about Gil Schafer’s Greenwich Village apartment, go here.


Hmmm… I know. It looks beige. But, this is a much better beige than what we were just looking at the other day. Right?

At least, it’s not PINKY Beige. And, it’s not too dark. It has a good amount of gray in it.

However, I’ll be honest. Anyone who’s read my blog for a year or two knows that I adore Gil Schafer’s work. ALL of it. But, I wish he had gone a shade lighter and warmer.


Architecture - cream paint color - via Architectural DigestI think this pale butterscotch shade would’ve been perfect. This beautiful home is also Gil Schafer’s work.

However, and it’s a big. HOWEVER, the paint color for Gil’s gorgeous townhouse living room may be the SAME as this one. We’re going to see in a little bit why that is so.

(And, just so you know, after working on this post for a while, Drop Cloth is growing on me. I’m sure that it’s gorgeous in real life.)


But, now I want to turn your attention to the original room in question.


The bedroom.

You will see a big change for the walls.

Above is the old bedroom.


Gil Schafer bedroom - campaign bed - Farrow & Ball - light blueAnd, above is Gil’s lovely, redecorated bedroom now painted Farrow & Ball Light Blue.

Farrow & Ball Light Blue online image

Above is light blue taken directly from the Farrow & Ball website.

As my Instagram friend pointed out, this color is clearly not the same as in the bedroom.

Or, is it? That is the problem.  But, I am going to dissect it in a bit.


It was evening, so I didn’t bother to get out my paint chips, to compare. It’s a waste of time because of artificial lighting.


However, I looked online and found that Farrow & Ball’s Parma Gray looked far closer to Gil’s bedroom color.


Farrow & Ball Parma Gray
Gil Schafer bedroom - campaign bed - Farrow & Ball - light blue

It’s not a dead ringer, but it’s much closer.



And, that brings us to another paint color myth.


The myth is what you are seeing in print is actually the paint color. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been misquoted.

However, when I looked at my Farrow & Ball paint chips, in the daylight, I discovered that Light Blue looks like this.

Farrow & Ball Light Blue paint color - color corrected

It’s closer to what I see in the photo of Gil’s bedroom, but it still doesn’t look like the same color.

But then, I looked more closely at the bedroom and realize that it, too, is off-color. Do you notice how the sheets look a little pink? Well, they do on my monitor. I know that the sheets are not pink; they are white.

So, I color-corrected the photo of the bedroom.

Gil Schafer bedroom - campaign bed - Farrow & Ball - light blue paint color - color correctedFarrow & Ball Light Blue paint color - color corrected

Now, we can see that the paint color does appear to be Farrow & Ball light blue.


Gil Schafer bedroom painted Farrow & Ball Light Blue color correctedI did the same exercise with this view of the bedroom. This is the color corrected version.

And below, is the original photo.

Gil Schafer bedroom painted Farrow & Ball Light Blue

Do you see how pink the door casing and the fur on the bed look in this image?


I know. Why don’t they fix the colors in the photos?


That’s a very good question. Well, they might’ve fixed the colors, but when it went to print something happened. However, I would say that about 75% of the time, images of interiors are off-color both in photos and online.

And, just in case you think this is an unusual occurrence, I’m going to prove to you that it’s not.


Farrow & Ball Light Blue paint color looks differentEvery image here, except for one or two, is Farrow & Ball Light Blue.

Uh-huh. Isn’t that nuts?

And, below, it is even worse when I searched Farrow & Ball Parma Gray.

Farrow & ball paint color - Parma Gray - looks differentFarrow & Ball Parma Gray
This image is pretty close to how Parma Gray looks on the paint chip.

However, as you can see, from the screenshot of the many images, the color goes from violet to turquoise. One of them looks almost navy.

As an aside, if you are wondering how I edit the colors in the photos, I use a simple photo editor. I’ve edited thousands of photos and just use my eyes to tell me when it looks good.


Another myth is that the color on the paint chip will be the exact color you’re going to get.


It could be a hair different. Or, even two hairs different.

In fact, with Farrow and Ball, I have seen differences that were an entire strand of hair from one paint card to another paint card. I found this out when I was creating the conversion of Farrow and Ball to Benjamin Moore Colors.


But, Laurel. What about the undertones of a paint color?


Oh, dear. I was afraid you were going to ask me that.

Look, I would never say that undertones don’t exist. I believe that they do.


However, all paint colors are affected by light, and that means:


  • The time of day affects how a paint color will look.
  • The direction the light is coming from
  • Is there a bright sun or clouds?
  • Are there reflections?
  • Is the light direct or indirect?
  • The amount of light that can come in through the windows
  • Artificial light vs. natural light.


revere-pewter-north-south-favingOne of my favorite examples are these two bedrooms. Guess what? They are painted the SAME color.


Can you guess what this paint color is?


Okay, I’ll give you a clue. It’s one of the Laurel Home Collection paint colors. And, it is one of the most popular Benjamin Moore warm gray paint colors in the market-place.


benjamin moore revere pewter hc-170


By the way, if you scroll back up, please notice that the blinds look different, as well. They aren’t. What is different is the light. One faces south and east, and the other faces north and east. Also, there were large leafy trees in diffusing the light for the room on the right. And, no trees on the left.


Yesterday, coincidentally, I had a skype meeting with my delightful virtual assistant, Melissa.


(please check out part of her charming home here.) And, she was sitting in her pretty office. Guess what the wall color was?

Yes, it was Revere Pewter. But, get this. On my monitor, it didn’t have the warm, greenish undertone. Nope. It just looked like a medium gray.


Benjamin COTY 2019 Metropolitan AF - 690
It looks quite a bit like Benjamin Moore’s color of the year, 2019, Metropolitan AF-690.

So, what is the upshot of all of this?


If you see a color in a photo that you like, try to replicate what you are SEEING.

I can pretty much guarantee that what you are seeing in a photo, on your electronic device is not going to look the same in your home.

As we can see, even in the same home, in adjacent rooms, the same paint color can look wildly different.

Therefore, the solution is to test, test, test your paint color before committing to it.


You might also enjoy the reason why you need to test colors before painting.

Also, read the hidden truth about paint colors.

And, please don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.


We all do.

I’ve made plenty. I just try not to make the same mistake twice.

But, I’ve done that too.




PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES


And, thank you so much for all of your sweet comments after Sunday’s post about PPGs COTY. Sometimes, I hit a groove, and that was one of them. But, man, it sure did tucker me out! I’m okay now. Sleep is not over-rated.


  • Dottie - September 28, 2020 - 9:52 PM

    Laurel, I have been reading here for years. I so enjoy your wit and warmth and knowledge.

    I’m writing my first comment to share that my entry, hall, sitting room, and great room (kitchen/dining/living) are painted in Farrow & Ball Drop Cloth. I chose the color to match the F&B Ringwold wallpaper I used in my entry hall.

    Of course, Drop Cloth looks quite different in each room depending on the light – and to your point often looks nothing like the room pictured above. Overall, I love it. The color is gorgeous in the library with afternoon western light and lovely in the kitchen with tons of eastern morning light.

    The downside is that the color looks a tad dark and drab in the great room once the light moves to the other side of the house. I originally planned to paint the great room (trim, cathedral ceiling, and walls) in Cotton Balls, but the designer I worked with recommended using Drop Cloth all the way through the main areas for continuity (including on the cathedral ceiling). Four years later, I’m considering having the great room repainted in Cotton Balls to create the lighter and airier feel I want, though this seems a bit like an unnecessary expense.

    As you noted in a previous post, the color is very similar to Revere Pewter, but I find Drop Cloth more interesting with the warm green tone bringing depth to the gray.ReplyCancel

  • Heather R. - September 28, 2020 - 2:01 PM

    Edited to add – the color doesn’t appear greenish, grayish, blush – I meant greenish, grayish, BLUE! Sorry for the typo!ReplyCancel

  • Monica - September 28, 2020 - 12:40 PM

    I never knew how much color changes with natural light until I painted my north facing bedroom BM Gray Owl. It looks greenish gray (not what I expected or wanted). In my south and west facing living/dining room, it is a beautiful pale blue.ReplyCancel

  • Heather R. - September 27, 2020 - 5:26 PM

    Greetings from Austin! And thank you again for another great post! I actually have F&B Light Blue on the walls in my entry hall, or as my husband likes to call it, “the awkward room.” It’s a funny little room, to be sure, with no windows, but it opens up to three rooms that do have windows. Still, it’s rather dark. And while the paint color is gorgeous, on my walls and in my lighting conditions, it is neither “light” nor “blue.” I’d say it’s a medium greenish grayish blush shade (in that order). So your point is proven and well taken here! I’d be happy to send you a few photos if you’d like to see it. Just let me know – and thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • Esolove - September 27, 2020 - 1:23 PM

    Ahhh, there are gorgeous mouldings no matter what color they are. If I paint my wall that blue it will be boring as my wall is just plain…and boring. What would you suggest me Laurel? Who should I hire before painting my wall, Gil?I like him but he is out of my budget! If i’m on budget and I like all these colors you mentioned.. and I have enough rooms for them as well lol. Who would you recommend to hire to make these walls ready for that paint colors? What would you do?ReplyCancel

  • Lorri - September 26, 2020 - 12:03 AM

    This reminds me of a gorgeous area rug I saw online recently. It took my breath away . . . UNTIL I looked at multiple photos and realized the rug looked rich and vibrant in ONE photo, and as dull as dishwater in all the others.ReplyCancel

  • karen turco - September 25, 2020 - 12:05 PM

    Is there a way to tell if a color will look like a paler shade of a color you already have? Can you tell by the formula? I have a painted island which doesn’t have a color strip since its a historic blue and I need to paint my whole house pale gray blue and I’ve spent way too much money on peel and stick samples with no successReplyCancel

  • Katy - September 25, 2020 - 10:14 AM

    @ Sherry

    I’ve been down that road. No whites were working so I started trying greens. It was for a long room with light from 3 different directions.

    @ Kathryn

    I would love normal photos in real estate listings. The fish eye lens (or whatever they use) that stretches and distorts everything just makes it more work to figure out the real dimensions. Kitchens are a big giveaway as you know that some things are standardized; like that double sink is about 3 feet wide, so that cabinet next to it must be very small.

    @ everybody

    One of my oddest was painting an upstairs room with windows on the north and east with Cotton Balls. It took on a green cast for some reason.ReplyCancel

  • GL - September 24, 2020 - 4:25 AM

    Yes, Laurel, absolutely right about these difficulties with changing light, false colours in photos, etc. I would add another caveat: the colour as you perceive it on a paint card will probably look totally different when put on a wall simply because a wall-sized amount will be more intense.
    I’ve found this and placed a my larger painted sample and the paint chip against the painted wall, and found of course that it is the same colour — although comparing the two apart one would never believe it. An example being F&B’s Cabbage White, which on the chip looks like a barely-there translucent blue. Put it on a large area and it’s a much more definite colour.ReplyCancel

  • Dana - September 23, 2020 - 10:31 PM

    Laurel- I have F&B Light Blue painted woodwork in our laundry room with Lime White walls. It’s a beautiful color in that room that has no natural light. Looks great with black accents. F&B paint colors can really vary depending on all of those factors you listed as well as the material (drywall, plaster, wood)that is painted. It is formulated so that it reflects light differently than other paints- maybe the minerals in it?ReplyCancel

  • Mary E - September 23, 2020 - 3:11 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    This explains why I can’t trust what I see on-line & in magazines. White walls seem to be very popular now from what I’m seeing. But I’ve always wondered if those pictures are “enhanced”. Would the rooms in real life look better if they were painted a light color instead? I guess we’ll never really know.ReplyCancel

  • Susanamantha - September 23, 2020 - 3:08 PM

    Love Gil’s new bedroom, but I liked the old one better. However, I don’t like to see a mirror over the head of a bed and I’ll tell you why. I had a mirror with a heavy frame over my daughter’s bed. We rearranged her room without moving the mirror. One night we heard a crash and the mirror had fallen off the wall and put a huge gouge in the top of the dresser. The mirror frame wasn’t constructed correctly (we had installed it correctly on the wall) and the piano wire holder thingie (I’m sure there’s a name for the gosh-darned thing) had been screwed half in and half out of the frame. Over time, it gave way. I still cringe when thinking about how close my little daughter came to certain death if we hadn’t rearranged her room. So, no heavy framed items or other heavy things will ever go over a bed in my house.ReplyCancel

  • Judy - September 23, 2020 - 2:54 PM

    Thanks so much. I thought that the “blue” bedroom color was a bit garish and didn’t seem “right”. Thanks for explaining and showing pictures as to the why’s and how’s..
    I have noticed all those different pictures of the same color which I found very confusing.ReplyCancel

  • anne e davis - September 23, 2020 - 2:49 PM

    That bedroom is definitely NOT F&B Light Blue. The bedroom is way too blue for that. The paint chip is more like it. It’s one of my favorite colors because it changes so much throughout the day into night. Most paints do but this paint really changes. It’s gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • RL - September 23, 2020 - 1:40 PM

    This is great!
    Thank you so much for doing this post. You have been saying these things for a long time, but this is a super well done illustration of what you have long been saying.ReplyCancel

  • Julie Shuchman - September 23, 2020 - 12:54 PM

    This is a really useful
    Post! I can see why the light and dimension of a room
    would affect color! Artists are probably acutely aware of that. While I’m a fan of Gil Schaeffer’s, I can’t muster enthusiasm for his color choices- they are washed out and too cool- at least in the photos. Don’t see the perfection in you ascribe to his living room. He’s playing it safe. But of course it always comes down to personal taste, even with the giants of design and architecture.ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - September 23, 2020 - 10:31 AM

    Hi Sherry,
    It was so interesting for me to read your post. I also have an east/west facing house with a west facing bedroom (west and south windows) I just painted last week with BM White Dove. I went through all the testing, large foam boards painted with sample paint, then White Dove sampled on several walls. Instead of yellow, my room looks light grey. I do have a good amount of foliage outside. The paint color stays and I will work with it because it may turn yellow when the leaves drop.ReplyCancel

  • susie - September 23, 2020 - 10:28 AM

    the new bedroom reminds me of Furlow Gatewood–I love his rooms!!ReplyCancel

  • Em - September 23, 2020 - 10:20 AM

    A morning of coincidences, haha. Read your post AFTER taking a chance and messaging you. Ironically the paint on the wall in that pic is also Revere Pewter and it looks completely different on each wall in the room.

    This post is full of why paint is still such a nightmare for me, despite your extremely helpful guides. Because light bouncing of bushes outside can reflect green in the room…and whites turn pink. Plus I don’t have an eye for color, which is also why I will always choose my paint options from your recommendations.

    Finally, if you’ve never seen the SNL sketch about Farrow and Ball, google it; pretty hilarious. Then again, perhaps you were the one who recommended it in the first place. 🤣ReplyCancel

  • Margaret - September 23, 2020 - 9:24 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    I use Farrow and Ball colours all the time and I agree that first image looked like Parma Grey, which I have used a few times – its a beautiful blue grey; very nice for bedrooms. Sometimes clients want to see more of a colour so I did search for images on Pinterest but its important when you do that to have the colour chip in front of you so that yo are getting an image that is as close to the real thing as possible. Creating the colour boards and looking at them on all walls in all lights is the most important step in discerning if the colour will be right for your room.

    Btw, I just used Quiet Moments – a colour that you have listed as one of your favourites in a little boys room and it is so lovely. The hallways are done in Revere Pewter so this colour transitions beautifully.

    Wonderful post, as usual.ReplyCancel

  • Diane - September 23, 2020 - 9:08 AM

    Laurel, love this post, love all your posts. But now I am confused. I have seriously been considering hiring an online color specialist to help me choose a paint color and accent colors for a dark moody den. The cost is close to $500 for a consult. I supply photos of any fixed finishes and colors along with my own mood board and she will tell what wall paint color to use. Based on your post and how inaccurate the colors in the photos can be, is purchasing this service online worth my hard earned money?ReplyCancel

  • Sherry - September 23, 2020 - 9:01 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    It is so true that light has a profound effect on color. My house and all windows face east in the morning and west in the afternoon–lots of direct sunlight.
    “White” is particularly hard. I used BM White Dove in a west facing bedroom. It looks a little yellowish but mostly I’m happy with it. I tried it in an east facing bedroom right across the hallway and it looked darker and orange. Cotton balls was yellow, Simply White was better but still yellow, Decorators White was pale violet! I’ve decided to give up on “white” for that room and am now testing some greens. You are so right that testing on the walls in several places around the room is the only way to know what you are going to get.
    I look forward to your posts Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Please don’t ever retire!

  • Susan Hijazi - September 23, 2020 - 7:23 AM

    Hey Laurel,
    Please next time you make a comment like…
    I wish he had gone a shade lighter and warmer…
    Please, elaborate, share those thoughts as to why,
    What is it you see that makes you feel that way.
    Train our little eye to see what you see🤗
    Again, thank you
    Love Gil Schafers house too!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 23, 2020 - 8:50 AM

      Hi Susan,

      Well, if you go back, I do say that in the course of writing, the color was growing on me. But, my initial thought was that it looked a little tired. However, in the actual room, that might not be the case at all.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - September 23, 2020 - 7:06 AM

    Dear Laurel,
    Thanks for post on G.S.’s refreshed apartment! I had seen it the other day and was wondering what paint colors he had used, and I had hoped you’d be doing a quick post on it, and, of course, you did!!! It’s gorgeous! Thanks for sharing the pictures of the same paint in different lighting situations! (The same pretty paint color in my living room looks anemic in my dining room and I need a do-over. I had only sampled the new paint in my living room, so it was a disappointment when it went up in the windowless dining room!) I’m painting my whole house, and plan to try a “sample” of that beautiful blue in my bedroom. I will put a sample in every room from now on before deciding.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 23, 2020 - 8:52 AM

      Please always put your sample on a large piece of poster board and tape it flat to the wall, moving it around the room and looking at it in different lights. If you paint it on one wall, you may find that you chose one spot that is not indicative of how the color will look over-all.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn Smith - September 22, 2020 - 11:58 PM

    Dear Laurel. Thanks again for your excellent information. Here is Australia the light can be so bright it can throw colors completely out of sync. In my last home I chose just one color throughout in two different depths, depending on the amount of light the rooms received. When it came time to sell I spent a lot of money on a professional photographer. He spent many hours with his special lighting and camera equipment taking a multitude of photos. In the end, the brochure and web photos used by the real estate firm used mostly the photos I took with my tiny old camera, used with no artificial lighting or special gizmos. I think there is a lesson in this. The colors were by far the more accurate. Make of it what you will. My photos were also complemented for showing accurate sizes, and not creating a false sense of the rooms dimensions. I think many potential buyers are put off but inaccurate depictions of homes for sale, especially after travelling longs distances for a personal viewing. You may care to address this in a future article?ReplyCancel