Well, Paint Me Purple: How to Refresh a Space with Color

Written by Nate

Have you ever found yourself at home staring at the walls after an especially long day at work, thinking to yourself, “Green? Why the heck did I paint everything green?” Be honest now. It happens to the best of us. You designed your living space with a favorite color in mind–in this case, green–and now everything looks dull, mundane and redundant, like dried Astroturf or that old tarp you tied over your truck bed last winter.

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Well, don’t despair! I’m here to tell you that color doesn’t have to be a commitment. With the right tools and, perhaps, better planning, you’ll be able to change or modify the color of your décor to find a decent look for the long haul. The following are a few tips to help roll you in the right direction.

The Truth about Color in Design

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Color is not simply a matter of paint. There are also factors like furnishings and lighting that contribute to an overall scheme. I’ll explain what I mean in rhetorical form. Have you ever seen how dreary things look under the fluorescent lights in a restaurant bathroom? Have you ever felt slightly awkward walking through a cluttered living space with a modern, monochromatic motif?

These are but a few examples that reveal color for what it truly is…DUN DUN DUUUN…a complex harmony of hues, aesthetics and lighting. Sorry to say, that can of paint will only get you a third of the way there, at best.

Consider Scale

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To get the job done effectively, you must ask yourself what it is you are trying to do. Try to be as specific as possible. This will save you a lot of time and headaches along the way. First consider, what is the scale of my project? Am I adding striped accents to the wood inlays of a dresser, or am I repainting each and every wall with complementary colors?

The scale of the project will often hint at the tools necessary to complete the work, so pay attention as you answer these questions! Remember the restaurant bathroom and the cluttered living room? These represent the extremes involved in changing the color of a space.

In some cases, paint may not even be needed to change color in a space. Instead, there are other things you can do to change the perception of a color, and not the actual color itself. It could be as simple as buying a warmer bulb, or as complex as refurnishing to further accent an existing color scheme.

Color Me Moody

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We’ve all heard it before, from either the television, the internet or in the vague recollections of our second-grade class, but it’s worth repeating: color affects mood. And so, choosing a color should not be a simple matter of picking favorites. There are plenty of great resources diving into the common psychological effects of each color. (I found this one especially helpful: Color Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel?)

Remember the poor overworked soul with the green walls? Though dissatisfied, they might find that, over time, they have an improved reading ability and are able to relax fairly quickly once returning home. Other colors might be worth checking out, but this one seems ideal for someone with a hectic schedule. Wouldn’t you agree?

Take the Darn Complement

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While color can affect mood (I’m feeling a bit yellow myself, these days), it can also influence every other color you choose for your space. Not all colors get along. In fact, some are downright dissonant, like an out-of-tune orchestra for the eyes. Consider, if you will, a warm red wall with a mauve stripe, or sheer blue drapes over an orange window sill. Feel nauseous yet?

If you don’t use complementary colors yet, you probably will. While there are plenty of helpful graphs and color wheels out there to help, a quick rule of thumb is to stick with “like” colors. If you go warm, stay warm. If you go cool, stay cool. Do not mix unless you want a stomachache to go along with your inevitable solitude.

Special Considerations

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Certain rooms have their own certain considerations that should be taken into account when it comes to color choices. In this case, while they implicitly tie to mood, colors have a broader, thematic approach; you want to create color combinations based on the inherent activities of each room.

Have I lost you yet? Take, for example, the kitchen, which naturally benefits from more earthy tones that, consequently, exude a feeling of warmth and appetite (red and orange are said to increase a person’s appetite) consistent with the area’s function. Conversely, bedrooms benefit from a more relaxing color palette–blues and greens–that will have a calming effect on the human psyche, and thus help you prepare for sleep.

The bathroom is also worth mentioning, as this is the place where we observe ourselves most intimately on a day-to-day basis. Here, we would benefit by avoiding extremely dark colors as they tend to make the space look smaller and, by contrast, bring out our own imperfections. Instead, try more flesh-toned colors, or, perhaps, light earth tones that convey a warm, yet relaxing ambiance.

And, just so we’re clear, fluorescent lighting is a definite no in any room! You’ll thank me in the morning. Trust me.

About the author



Nate Sverlow is Senior Product Content Publisher at, writing copy, brand statements and department procedures. He enjoys lighting and design that inspires, that has a story to tell. He currently resides in the Sacramento area with three cats and an incredibly supportive wife.

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