Sam Pynn Gives a Step-By-Step Guide on How to Choose Colour

Sam Pynn Gives Step-by-Step Advice on How to Choose Colour

When it comes to colour – I like them all. That said, colour forecasting and trend reports make me a little nervous. I loveseeing what's hot with the arrival of every new year, but ultimately, I believe colours for your home should be chosen because you love them.


Yes, choosing colour can be nerve wracking. I’ve watched people at paint stores choose colour from a one-inch paint strip out of sheer frustration, with no reference to their existing decor. I’ve decorated homes for people who've admitted to hating their wall colour "...but I started with one room and continued to paint the entire house in the same muddy beige".

In my early days at Style at Home, I had a call from an upset reader from rural Ontario. She had seen a room painted in the "perfect dark blue", and decided to give it a try in her great room. Well, she ended up hating her Chinese blue great room, and was now stuck with eight gallons of high-end paint (which she had a friend pick up for her in Toronto).

My heart broke for her. As she explained what happened, I sunk further and further into my chair knowing that choosing paint based on a magazine photo is a bit like buying pants on the internet. What you see in a magazine is never an accurate representation of a given colour. Colour changes based on the amount of light in the home, the photographer's style, and even the printing process of the page. I advised her to have the paint tinted and fortunately, the reader ended up with a colour she liked.

You see where I’m going with this? If you see a colour you like, or hear about "the perfect grey" from a friend, make sure you test it on your wall before you buy it in gallons. It's the only way to get an accurate representation of how the colour will look in your home. 


There are so many gorgeous colours -- how do you even decide? The easiest way to choose a colour direction is to start a file of magazine clips or virtual bookmarks of spaces that inspire you. You'll find plenty of eye candy in decor magazines, blogs, and designer websites. At this stage, don’t analyze the photos too much -- if you like it, throw it in your file. If you happen to be somewhere where you love the wall colour, ask if you can take a shot and don’t be shy about asking the name and paint brand.

I LOVE... *Fill in the Blank*

Once you have a big file, start looking for a pattern. Which colours pop up most often? Trust me, your 'I love' colours will reveal themselves. If your colours are ocean blues and greens, then stick to this colour family. I know this seems obvious, but many homeowners have told me that they like red or blue, but chickened out and painted the walls beige.


No matter how much you may love a colour however, I don't advise that you start decorating by painting your walls something bright and bold. If you’re the type to pull together a Martha Stewart-esque story board, and plan every colour, pattern and fabric, right down to the piping on your pillows, then you have my blessing. Otherwise, don't limit your decor choices with a colour like fuchsia unless you're sure you can commit to it with other dramatic furnishings like a fuchsia urn or a black lacquered table. Unless the colour will work with your existing or intended decor, you will feel frustrated because the room will feel unfinished. It’s like having your hair and makeup done while wearing your PJs and slippers -- you don’t get the full effect until you’ve put on the evening gown and shoes.

The decorators at Serena and Lily are masters at working with colour. If I could dissect this room and tell you how to get it in stages, I would say the inspiration file was filled with images of orange, yellow and pink. It's also safe to say that they pulled their orange wall colour from the orange in the rug, and not the other way around. A story board is a great way to plan, but you can also use a piece like a colourful rug as the source for your colour palette. A rug is a sizable investment that you're likely to hold onto for a while, so using it to dictate colour choices in the rest of your decor is a pretty safe bet.

Know, however, that the Serena & Lily room would still look super with a sisal rug. Large neutral piece of furniture -- sofa, armchairs, coffee table, and the linen upholstered ottoman – give this room complete flexibility for the future. I wish I had a magic wand (or the Photoshop skills) to switch all the orange and pink in this photo to blue and green -- the results would be just as striking.

Starting with neutral essential pieces is best if you're really anxious about colour commitment. Once you’ve got the neutrals in place, you can add your 'I love' colour in a more controlled manner, using pillows, throws and other accessories. Paint a small piece of furniture to further amp up your 'love' colours. I can almost guarantee that the small table against the wall in the photo, is a secondhand find or a cheap-and-cheerful piece that the S&L stylists didn’t mind painting for their pink and orange cause. The orange lacquered tray and small poof are new purchases from S&L that work like sprinkles on top of a sundae. They add an extra layer, without being overbearing.

Finally: the paint. If this room were painted cream, it would still be dreamy. But the orange is the perfect subtle feel-good colour.  Did I just write that? Orange walls; subtle? Yes. The colour feels subtle because of the balance of neutral and bright. All the careful planning, accessorizing and decorating in stages makes this room a place were you could sit with a good book all day.

A word on art: Art was likely part of the inspiration. Most arty people say that you should never force your art to work with your décor. I agree, but if you’re really listening to your heart about the colours, shapes and patterns that appeal to you, you’ll find yourself gravitating to art with a similar mood.

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Robert McIntyre

Robert McIntyre

CENTURY 21 Bamber Realty Ltd.
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