I received this question the other day and realized that even though my ebook covers it in comprehensive detail, I don’t have a single post that answers this question directly.
So here are the 6 best ways to choose one:
1. Start with the living room because that’s where the entire colour scheme for the house is usually determined. Consider the colour of your carpet, sofa and drapery. The biggest pieces in the room will heavily dictate the neutral you end up with.
My ebook comes with a bonus book of neutrals broken down by undertone. Take the colour chips and place them on your furniture, tile or drapery until you find the ones that match.
2. If the wall to wall carpet or tile in your house is not cream or white or apple green (in other words, a colour) then it’s a neutral and usually that’s the one that should be on the walls so your space looks pulled together.
3. If you hate your carpet or tile because it’s, for example, pinky beige, and a) it will eventually be replaced or b) you don’t want it to boss your entire colour scheme around, then the solution to that dilemma would be to put an area rug on top of the offending broadloom. Or if your bathroom (below) has pink beige tile and blue gray wainscotting (or cabinets, or countertop), chose blue gray for the walls instead of pink beige.
So if your sofas are a green gray or yellow beige and your carpet is pink beige, get an area rug that pulls your furniture into the scheme and paint your walls green gray or yellow beige.
Sometimes people will ask “Is that enough contrast? Won’t it be bad to paint the walls the same colour as my sofa/carpet/drapery?” So here’s the thing, 9 times out of 10 the client asking this question is still not the exception to this rule. And the neutral I’m suggesting is still the best one that pulls the space together.
4. Here’s the rule about mixing undertones. All undertones can be combined except pink beige with yellow and orange beige. Yellow and orange beige next to pink makes it look dirty.
Don’t combine more than 2 neutral undertones in any colour scheme, it could start to look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
If the tile you have chosen or inherited has 5 neutral undertones (for example), that’s okay – just don’t pull more than two to create your colour scheme.
5. The other day my client had a green beige sofa/carpet and green beige marble around her fireplace mantle. This makes the right neutral for the walls is a green beige, however she emailed me later and said she wished it could be a yellow beige instead. I responded that going with yellow walls would work much better than a yellow beige.
A strong enough colour on the walls would make her green beige undertones read more neutral, however simply choosing a yellow beige would look like the wrong neutral had been selected.
6. Once you’ve found the neutral you think will work, paint it on a poster board and along with white boards behind it, hold it behind your sofa, next to the flooring, behind your drapery or beside your fireplace to make sure it’s the right one.
When your space bugs you and you don’t know why, it’s more upsetting than knowing what the problem is and then choosing to ignore it until you have the money to replace it.
Kind of like life really. Doesn’t it feel better to know why you’re upset about something? Walking around with anxiety and not knowing what it is can make you feel crazy.
Now that I’m a homeowner I’ve noticed that my tolerance for ignoring something old and dated is much lower than it was when I was a renter.
Because now I can do something about it, it’s just a matter of time (and money).
Download my eBook, to learn what you didn’t get in Colour Theory. How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones. Now available in Apple version for IPAD.
To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!
If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.