Ugh! I Hate My New Wall Colors! 6 Easy Steps For Getting it Right {the first time}

Dear Laurel,

I hired a painter who came highly recommended. He brought over his Benjamin Moore fan decks so that I could select the wall colors. There are over 4,000 colors! I had no idea what would look good. So, figuring that he’s a PAINTER and he does this all the time, I asked him to help me select the wall colors.

Well, my living room is the color of cat puke.

The dining room looks like a hospital bathroom.

The white trim looks gray.

And our master bedroom is purple. I thought that it looked gray on the chip, but no. It’s purple.

How could something as basic as paint turn into such a disaster?




Hi Patty,

First of all, I’m so sorry for the bad results.

Ya know, when people say, “well, it’s not exactly brain surgery?” [hehehe]

They’re right. It’s not like brain surgery.

It’s worse.

Okay, it’s not a matter of life and death, but it’s not easy picking the perfect colors.

Why is it so difficult to find the perfect wall colors?

There are so many things that can go wrong and here are most of them.

  • The room’s natural light. Which direction does it face? Are there lots of trees, buildings or a hill blocking the light?
  • Did you consider that light filtering through a lot of green trees will tint your walls green in the summer?
  • Did you know that light has different colors at different times of the day? Sunrise and sunset have a yellow light and the clearest whitest light is in the middle of the day. Of course, gray days give off a gray tint.
  • Incandescent light gives off a yellowish hue and makes colors blend together. Never choose your wall colors at night. You will have a big surprise come daylight.
  • A very common mistake that people make is turning on the lights when selecting a paint color. Even IF it’s a room where the lights will always be on, it is wise to first look at the color with the lights off.
Here are Other Common Mistakes that People Make When Selecting  Wall Colors
  • Choosing the lightest shade of a desired color thinking that it will be less “intense.” Often, what happens is that they end up with pink, instead of red or a weird shade of beige instead of taupe, or blue instead of gray.
  • Choosing a color looking down on a tiny paint chip. This would be like choosing your wedding dress from a tiny 1 x 2 inch sample of the fabric and nothing else. There is so much else going on with color and you need a lot more information before you can make the best selection. The most notable issue is the UNDERTONE color. The undertones are colors that appear when the color is up on the wall. And depending on the lighting may appear or not appear. In addition, in some lights a color could look greenish or the SAME color could look purplish. Same color. Just different walls and lighting. I have seen this time and again. One of the worst situations I ever had was a long living room which had windows facing south and then on the opposite end, they faced north. The client wanted to see a “color” on the walls. We chose a color which because of the lighting went from a warm caramel color to khaki gold-green!
  • Putting up several colors on the wall and comparing them side by side. Why is this bad? It’s bad because colors next to each other affect each other. In other words. If you put red and green together— opposites on the color spectrum, the red will make the green look GREENER and vice versa. Therefore, putting a bunch of colors together can sometimes affect how we perceive a color that would not occur otherwise.
  • Listening to your mother.

Remember my kitchen gone viral on pinterest? My client and I grappled with the color of the walls. Cream? Gray? Finally, it came to me. They needed to be a deep, rich blue. Sometimes walls will tell you the color they need to be if you listen carefully. :] The client’s mother was horrified by our decision. “oh, the room will look so dark.” “no one paints their kitchen dark blue.” “that’s a big mistake honey.” “who’s this Laurel Bern person?”


Sound familiar? Please don’t listen. My client didn’t and you don’t have to either. [I mean, you can listen, but just say thank you.] :] Mom, as well-meaning as she wants to be usually [I didn’t say always] doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about when it comes to her progeny. That goes for me too as I’m also a Mom. :]




Please notice how the deep blue looks different depending on the lighting. Oh, and you want to know what the colors are? Sure. The walls are BUCKLAND BLUE HC- 151 and the cabinets, mouldings and ceiling are all COTTON BALLS 2145-70. While I will always love White Dove and Cloud White for trim, in the case of a dark, north facing room, Cotton Balls is a sure thing. It’s a very clean, non-gray but still soft white with a touch of cream. It does not go yellow, pink, green or any other color. I’ve used it with pale and dark colors and it always looks great. However, if you want to have a list of my 20 favorite shades of white, please click on the link. [more links at the bottom of the post]

  • Choosing a color based on the name. Marketing BS. Yes, some colors with great names like Quiet Moments are wonderful, but others such as Ballet White are not. It should be called Grungy Ballet Floor. I just had an email from someone complaining about French Canvas. She hates it. [I’ve never used it.] Sounds marvelous, doesn’t it? I looked it up. It’s a pale gray with green undertones. If her room faces north, the undertones will not be so under. The color will look very green.
  • Choosing a color based on how the color looks in a magazine or online. I always try to color correct. However, I am color-correcting to my monitor which is a PC. On my Iphone, everything looks like it has a yellow film over it! Sometimes I see a blog post with someone’s favorite Benjamin Moore wall colors and a lot of the colors look exactly the same! It’s usually an extremely vague idea of the color.
  • Choosing a color in a room already painted a completely different color. If I’m doing a consult , I usually look at the paint chip on top of the white moulding. Another trick is to put up a larger piece of white poster board behind the samples you’re considering. Keep in mind if it’s a particularly bright color already on the walls, it will undoubtedly be coloring the light. In that case, it’s best to take the color in a room with similar natural light, if possible.
Other Problems When Choosing Wall Colors
  • I like the color at night but not so much during the day.

Well, if you’re going to be in the room in the day and probably most rooms you will be, you have to decide if you love it enough at night to warrant not liking it during the day, OR reselect something that you like all the time.

  • When I put up the samples, I don’t like any of the colors.

Could be you need to rethink the color. Maybe you just think you want a gray room, when really the color that you will love the most is brown or red or some other color.

Here’s What You Need to Do to Get the Wall Colors Right the First Time
  • Research. Get online. See what other people are saying about colors. See what the hottest colors are. I am working on a compilation of the best Benjamin Moore Colors. But even with that, it’s not enough because of all of the issues above. Although, the colors that I’m going to select really do look great everywhere.
  • After you’ve narrowed down your choices, go to the store and get the paint chips. Do not choose a color in the paint store! Take the paint chips home and paste them on the wall. Move them around the room. Look at them on dark days and at night with the lights on. [If you are in a hurry, you can skip this step and move onto the next one, but you might need to purchase more samples.]
  • Narrow down further. Go back to the paint store and purchase samples. Some stores also sell small pieces of sheet rock. This is a great way to make a great paint sample with the actual paint. Some Benjamin Moore wall colors also come as ready-made poster board samples. And others come as small sample sizes of the actual paint that you can use to make your own sample. If you need to make your own, either use the sheet rock or heavy poster board.
  • Tape your samples up directly on the wall. Totally vertically and again, FLAT AGAINST the wall. Look at them one at a time. Look at them on all four walls and at different times of the day and night.
  • I also recommend only labeling them on the back so that you aren’t swayed by anything but the color.
  • And finally. This may sound contradictory, but try not to over think it. Haha! I should talk! But, go with your instinct and please know that all colors are going to change with the time of day, direction the window faces and even the time of year.

If you follow this systematic approach, it will make your decisions so much easier!

Please have a wonderful weekend,





ps: If you didn’t notice above, there are many more posts about selecting the best Benjamin Moore paint colors below in the related posts


37 Responses

  1. Thank you Laurel. I have struggled over the last month with paint colors for the inside of my new home. I have read everything online , have been to the paint store at least several times a day for a couple of weeks and while I LOVE all of your advice and expertise the best thing that I have taken away , after all is said and done, is to go with your gut . I believe you said instinct instead of gut but you get my drift. Thanks a million and I will send you photos when it’s finished;)

    1. Hi Janie,

      It’s really true. One thing I’ve learned over the years is to make a test and look at it in a few different lights and move it around the walls.

      And then decide if over-all it’s what one wants.

      One thing about paint. If you don’t like the color at 10:00AM, come back in a few hours. It’ll be a different color. :]

  2. I’ve been watching a wonderful series called A Place To Call Home and I just love the blue/green color in one of the rooms. I searched for it tonight and came upon this room which looks so much like it. I just LOVE this room. Warm, elegant, cozy…and that rug was perfect!
    I can so relate about moms…loved mine dearly but we were entirely different in our decorating tastes.When I had my kitchen painted 25 years ago in a red, she told me I’d regret it and find it way too dark.i have never regretted it and still have no desire to change it now other than maybe freshen it up a bit.
    Soooo this Buckland blue may just be the ONE that I’ve been searching for …will ask the walls to my living room what they think!!!

  3. I also wish I read this 2 weeks ago like DJ Thomas. I recently moved into a home so still not extremely familiar with how the home brings in lighting, but I knew I needed to paint the walls because I hated what they were. I wanted to stick with grey and blue tones. We just bought a couch that was a pebble grey and a chair that is a dark grey, so I thought we could do a light grey with maybe a blue undertone. Well I had my sister come up and she helped me paint the whole living room/dinning room/ hall way (because they are all connected and I didn’t know how to separate the rooms). At the time going on I didn’t mind it because it looked so much nicer then the ugly caramel color that was on the walls. But now that its done, and been living with it, I don’t know how I feel. I love the color at night, but during the day the natural light makes it looks like a really light blue and that is something I didn’t really want. I wanted something warmer and not so bright without going so dark because I was nervous it was going to make the room smaller or be too dreary. I considered repainting, but it took so long the first time, and would hate to spend the time and money redoing it. So my question is, if I do darker décor, do you think it would mute it a little and make it more warm, or would it still look too bright?

    1. Hi Dominique,

      Do you know the expression putting good money after bad? My feeling is that if you’re trying to alter a wall color with the other decor is risky at best.

      But dark furniture by contrast is most likely only going to make the wall color appear brighter, not darker and more awful.

      I would repaint, but first plan your other furniture because it is so much easier that way. Plan the look you are going for and then test your color. You already have a reference for what you don’t want which is helpful in that at least it’s not so different as the caramel color.

      If it’s a medium to smaller room, perhaps consider going darker. I’m not there to say for sure. It’s a beautiful look when the walls and furniture are close together in tone.

  4. I wish I read you article last week! HA! The “go with your instinct” comment is golden. I listened to the guy at the paint store and now I have a mauve bathroom (how 80’s) rather than the bordeaux or merlot color I was anticipating. I should have gone with the next color darker on the paint stip. The rest of my house it exactly how I desired (thanks to my interior decorator). If you can afford an interior decorator, do it! So worth it. Or even ask another person who has good color sense. I should have asked my 13 year old daughter, because whenI asked her post-painting, she immediately picked the darker color on the strip. Like, you said, live and learn.

    1. Hi DJ,

      Can you repaint? It’s only a bathroom so there can’t be a tremendous amount to cover.

      But take heart. It’s very common for folks to pick a lighter color on the line because of a fear that it will be too dark or intense.

  5. I just painted a south facing wall gladden skipping stone. It’s green on my wall
    I can’t afford to redo. Do you have any suggestion for accent colors in the room to luring out the gray???

    1. Hi Carmela,

      I’m sorry but I’m not there to see what’s going on and it’s also policy not to give out individual advice. I hope that you’ll understand, but I am inundated with folks who need help. I wish I could help everyone, but it’s impossible.

  6. Hi Laura,

    I am turning a small bedroom 10×10 into a office for myself and husband. We have a glass desk with black trim around it and black chair. The other desk is cherry wood (L shape) with a black desk top. The problem is I couldn’t decide on paint colors..(too many colors to choose) so I picked a Linwood Sands (SW), didn’t have enough paint but wanted to do an accent wall with the previous paint we brought (changed colors on hubby)because I didn’t want to waste money and that color was Icicle(SW6238) from Sherman Williams. Now I think it turned out awful but I don’t want to spend more money that I really don’t have to buy more paint. Any suggestions! I guess you might say who would have ever thought of putting those 2 colors together!! Yuk!

    1. Sorry Laura, I’m not doing paint consults at this time, but it sounds like if you want to correct the mistake, that you’ll need to repaint.

      I do no recommend accent walls unless they make architectural sense. Usually they don’t and look like a mistake.

  7. Hi! I love the article. My husband and I moved into a place where the walls are this ugly muted yellow and I want more of a “greige” color. When picking the color, should I be concerned about the color the walls are already painted making it more yellow?

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      No. The new paints cover super well. I love regal select which you don’t need a primer. (they say) But it has held up super well for me. Two coats should do it. No more ugly yellow!

      Aura, they claim is only one coat. No, not one coat. But again, two should do it. Please consult with your paint dealer for more comprehensive advice and/or your painter if you are having your place professionally painted.

  8. This is the first post that I’ve read on your site, I wish I had read this a week ago! I just recently painted our master bathroom what I thought would be a beautiful light green color. I originally had another green picked out but I thought that it would be too dark so I went with this lighter one. Now I’m stuck with a bright pastel green (if that makes sense). I can’t afford professional painters and I HATED painting it myself, should I just try to live with it or paint it something different? We have no decor in our bathroom yet so I’m hoping it will distract from the walls when we decorate!

  9. How long should I give the new color if I don’t like it. It is day 2 and I hate it. I wanted a change from all the “brown” and now its all too blue. I feel like I wasted a ton of money and if I have the painters re-paint that’s just more money spent…What to do????

    1. Hi Christina,

      I tried answering this on the plane but don’t think it went through. I guess that’s a rhetorical question?

      Sunday’s post is focusing on this question because sometimes it’s not the color but what else is going on and it could be lots and lots of things. But if the room is still empty, then that is definitely not going to help.

      With blue you need some black accents and lots of white. Try some pops of coral and maybe some other shades of blue. And art with blue in it too.

      1. Thank you, I think that will help. Now as I am putting things back on the walls it is breaking it up and looking much better!

  10. I don’t like cream colour on walls in my room. It adds to my depression! What to do with it, I’m just a student. We bought this house an year ago. I ablosultely hate this cream here, even white with nothing on it is better.What should I do?

  11. I wanted ‘cream’ for my small apartment. I got nervous when he added black, red and yellow to the paint. I suggested just adding yellow. He insisted he knew what he was doing to match the cloth sample I gave him. I have eight gallons of pale grey paint. Can I make it cream by adding yellow tint or should I just give up (I’m almost there!) and go for a pale turquoise or something?

    1. Hi Carol,

      If what you have is already gray, it’s not every going to be cream. At best, it’ll just be a warmer shade of gray. I don’t know how he arrived at his formula. If it was by computer, my experience is that it doesn’t always work and I never use it. With thousands of colors already formulated, it really doesn’t make sense. One of them is going to be the right color!

      I can’t say whether to go in a different direction or not. Perhaps, you need to hire a paint specialist.

  12. Where can I find the sofa in the article “my kitchen on pinterest”? It’s a shelter arm sofa in a chenille from Donghia, a blue with cream background. I’ve been looking for a sofa like this. The kitchen is beautiful. Thanks!

  13. I wish I had found your site before I painted my new living room! First we chose a sandy color which looked terribly drab at night. So we thought we should go lighter. Big mistake. We chose jasmine white because its a color we had in our old home, but in this new place it looks like a washed out pastel yellow. Absolutely hideous… So I’m going back to the store next week but this time I will follow your advice… Hopefully it wont be a complete disaster this time 🙂

  14. Laurel, I read all of your extremely helpful ideas about paint. I didn’t see anything about rooms without natural light like basements. I am choosing a light gray and not sure how to go about it in a room with no windows!!

    1. Hi Margaret,

      That is a very good question. A room without windows is like every room at night. (unless there’s a lot of light coming in from outside). So be sure to look at the colors you’re considering in the basement with the lights on. Usually I say, “lights off” because the artificial light distorts the color. With a basement, you need to see the distortion!

  15. LOL – “It’s not like brain surgery. It’s worse.” Too true! Choosing paint colors is its own circle of Hades. Dante just missed that one!

    Honestly, there are 4000 choices, and 3978 of them are just WRONG. Worse yet, sometimes the choice that was so right in a different room is WRONG in the room you’re painting now.

    We’re getting ready to paint our bathroom right now. Who knew that a pale beige (the tile) would be so hard to coordinate with?! Might have to hire you for a consult!

  16. Laurel:-) You should pay me for advertising; it seems I zero in on your blog every day- and every day I find more things that I just have to share on Facebook!
    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

New Edition, November 2023! Get The Indispensable Guide For 100s of Home Furnishings And Interior Design Sources That Everyone Is Raving About

laurels-rolodex-final-book-cover-master 10th edition 23-24

laurel home archives


Please click the image below for more info about my rockin’ Interior Design Guides for 2024!

Laurel Home Interior Design Guides 2024
Amazon ad

please click below to check out my favorite decorating & design books

Laurel Bern's Favorite Interior Design and Decorating Books