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how to pick the perfect paint

Peel and stick paint samples/Photography: Nico Schinco/A selection of designers' go-to neutral peel-and-stick paint samples.

Stumped on color choice? Three designer-approved questions can quickly get to the heart of the matter, helping you identify the right hue. And when you've chosen your color, start sampling to find precisely the right shade for your project.

1. What's in your closet—or on your couch?
By the time designer Rachel Cannon of Rachel Cannon Interiors and her clients get to color selection, she says, "I've been observing how they dress and what colors they wear most often, to inform me about what they naturally gravitate to. If a client consistently shows up in a powder-blue top, that means it's a color she feels confident in, and more than likely, the type of color palette she'll want in her home."

Julie Mays of Julie Mays Interiors follows her intuition too: "I like colors that truly give me a happy feeling when I look at them—I strive to find that emotion for my clients when selecting colors. When meeting with a new client, I mentally search for clues to learn what their favorite colors might be: Their vehicle, clothing, their eye color. Next I look for trends in colorways, on throw pillows, paint colors, art." 

2. Do you know your neutrals?
Don't think for a moment that going neutral absolves you of color decisions. Take white—sounds simple, but have you ever tried to source it? As designer Alison Rose points out, "Out of all the colors, whites are the trickiest!" Her choice: "I absolutely adore Cloud Nine by Benjamin Moore. It never looks like primer, and has a wonderfully enveloping quality when on walls, ceilings, and all trim." Her favorite neutral of all time is Benjamin Moore's Silver Satin. Julie, meanwhile, opts for Sherwin-Williams's Snowbound as a go-to white and Benjamin Moore's Penthouse for her all-time favorite neutral. And Rachel is a fan of Sherwin-Williams' High Reflective White and Gossamer Veil.

3. How do you want to feel?
Even if no personally hated hues come to mind, read up on color psychology before you begin mixing palettes and patterns. It can save you from pricey do-over jobs later on. Colors carry societal meaning, emotional weight—and scientifically proven power to influence mood. "Too many hues in one area can bring about anxiety rather than peace," says Julie.

The right blends can also be used to positively influence emotions. "Color has its own psychology," she shares. "For example, restaurants use red toned bulbs over dining tables—the red makes the food look more enticing." Identify your goals and keep in mind, location matters too: that relaxation-inducing blue used in your primary bathroom might prove too sleepy when used in the home office.

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