How to Chose Paint Colors for a Whole House

The first order of business now that we finally closed on the house was to paint EVERYTHING! Choosing paint colors for a whole house can be overwhelming, so I wanted to share with you all the method to our madness of getting the colors just right.

The day after we closed we went right to Lowe’s and bought enough paint samples to make you go cross-eyed. You should have seen the look on the poor paint counter guy’s face when I walked up and said “Yes, hi… I need 14 paint samples please.” And that was just to get us started!


Now, of course it goes without saying that throughout this whole waiting-to-close process we had been talking about paint colors and narrowing down our choices. Let’s be real… I had been Pinterest/HGTV obsessing over every detail of this beast. But now it was time to see them on the walls in real life. Hurray!

This house has a very open layout, which is one of the things that drew us to it in the first place. But that does come with its own set of design challenges. Each room really flows into the next. Standing in any given spot within the main living space you are visually connected to at least one or two other spaces. If we had a true open layout where everything was essentially in one big room, I may have gone with just one color for the main living area. But each room has it’s own distinct space, so I wanted to define each with wall color as well. I knew from the get-go that I wouldn’t be picking out paint colors based on what I wanted in each room. I really had to choose a cohesive color scheme for the whole house.

To tie everything together, I wanted colors that all had gray undertones. We didn’t want it to look like a “rainbow house” (as hubby put it in reference to painting each room a different color.) But to get the exact look I was going for took a lot of trail and error…

…and paint samples.

For each room I probably had at least half a dozen colors to slap up on the wall to make sure we chose juuuust the right shade.


Oh, and remember the close up views of the 80’s light fixtures I promised? Yeah, we affectionately called this one the space ship.

There was a lot of going back to Lowes and saying “Ok this one but lighter,” or “this one but greener,” etc. I had a system of writing a code on the paint chips and on the lids of the samples, and then writing the same code on the wall next to the painted sample. That way once they dried I knew which one I liked, and it was a little easier than keeping track of a bunch of silly paint names. “Do we like K1 or K2 for the kitchen?” is a lot easier than “do we like “Fuzzy Garden Hose or Roasted Pistachio Shells?” Those names all really start to blur together after a while.


After much sampling and debating and tweaking, we finally settled on our colors.

Next, we went around the house with a razor knife and cut the carpet and padding away from the walls. This let us paint the baseboards easier.


Since we were not keeping any flooring, it made for a lot less prep work, and we didn’t have to be all that careful with drips or spills. We found it easiest to paint the baseboards first without worrying about being too neat, and then come back and cut in with the wall color to clean up the lines.

And there was a lot of cutting in. That was hubby’s job because I do not have the patience or attention span. Even after 4 years of marriage (I know… we are still babies) we learned a lot about each other during this renovation. We discovered that we are each perfectionists about different things, and it really just works. I let him obsess over the details that mattered to him, he let me obsess over mine. For example, he let me spend more time and money narrowing down paint samples than most normal people probably would. He even humored me when I asked him to help pick between two colors on the wall, and he legitimately couldn’t tell the difference between the two. His obsession? Perfectly straight paint lines. And luckily, he was just fine with me backing off and letting him handle that. Because I can paint a straight line about as well as he can pick between to hues of grayish-blue.

This house has all kinds of angles, so the cutting in was definitely the most time consuming part. But it’s crazy what a difference a coat of paint makes. It’s looking like a whole new house already!


I spy another special light fixture. You can really see in this shot what I mean about the flow. From the kitchen you have a view into both the living and dining rooms, so every room had to coordinate.

We also slapped some white paint on the mantle. We will be doing a lot more to the fireplace, but for now the black just had to go.


Also, I am incapable of painting anything without getting it absolutely everywhere. I wish I could tell you that I have never gone to work with paint in my hair… but I am hopeless!


Overall here is the color scheme we ended up with for the house. We used the Sherwin Williams HGTV Home line from Lowes. Looking at these swatches on the screen, versus seeing them here in person… it’s crazy how different they look. The swatches for the master look very beige, but in reality they are more gray and green. It’s another testament to why you should really do paint samples. Just do it friends. It’s a little more time and little more money, but still better than getting a gallon of paint on the wall and then deciding that the color is not what you had hoped for.


The muted gray-tone colors have a bit of a chameleon affect to them. Depending on the time of day or how the light hits them, sometimes they are blue or green, sometimes they are gray. I absolutely love the soothing cool tones, and once the dark floors come in it’s all going to come together. Oh by the way… post all about the floors coming soon. I am totally in love with them and I can’t wait to show you what we picked! I am also swooning a bit over the accent color we picked for the dining room. I mentioned during the before tour that I felt the vaulted ceilings in this room could carry a little more dramatic color, plus there is great big window that lets in all kinds of light. We are going to be lightening up the space more once we get the white trim work around the windows and doorways. I’ve never been a dark wall color kind of girl, but I’m loving how this room is coming along already.


See what I mean about the base boards? Paint them messy, then trim up with wall color. Big time saver! And yes, yet another crystal and gold 80s-throw-back light fixture.

Another tip: once we had all our colors finalized, I cut that color off the paint card, wrote the room on it in sharpie, and also wrote down the brand and sheen we chose. I put it all on a key ring and kept it in my purse. Not only did it help with the constant runs to go buy more paint, but it also helped with picking out furnishings and other finishes since I always had our house colors on had.


Up next: my favorite part, in which I absolutely geek out over slapping some 1x4s around our doorways.

How do you guys go about painting? Do you meticulously plan, or just jump in and go for it?



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