Let’s talk about paint, baby

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Let’s talk about paint, baby…!

Of all things interior design, painting can be the number one most cost-effective upgrade a person can do to a room to give it a refreshed look.

Let’s say a person just isn’t liking the vibe in a room anymore, and they want to bring some new life into the space without forking over an arm and a leg.

Paint to the rescue!

New colors on the walls (and ceiling) can give a room an entirely new look, and overall feel. Consider it an easy upgrade, for a relatively cheap price.

The most common question designers get asked during a design consultation is, “Which color is best?”

The short answer? There is no magical color.

Every single selection in a designer’s paint deck will look different in one room, versus some professional photos online. To avoid these types of inconsistencies, a good trick is to correlate paint colors, to clothing.

If a person puts on a yellow shirt and loves the way it looks with their skin tone, hair, and eye color, they will likely not expect the same result on a completely different person with different features.

What is best for one, doesn’t always mean it is best for another.

Paint (like clothing) will also change depending on the time of day. This is often due to the amount of natural light in a room, or even the type and light being used.

Painting Pros

It makes sense to bring in a professional when selecting paint, especially if the thought of selecting a perfect color seems almost impossible. A designer can help guide a client to the perfect hue that will complement their unique space.

Where does one start?

The first step is to realize that there are five walls in a room, not just four – many forget this when painting.

The ceiling plays a major role in the feeling of a room.

There are 2 avenues to take here:

1 – Use the same color on the ceiling and walls.

2 – Contrasting color on the ceiling to make it stand out more.

A wall covering is another fun way to add some visual interest to your ceiling, however, it will cost more than paint in both material, and labor.

Budget is key.

If a client doesn’t have the budget to accommodate such a drastic change, there are options…

Option #1

Bringing the wall color up into the ceiling is a perfect idea for many trying to achieve this look. Below is a great example.

Photo courtesy of Lauraberninteriors.com

Option #2

On the other end of the “idea spectrum,” one can always add a splash of color to the ceiling.

Adding a pop of color up above with some beautiful finish work can work wonders in any space.

Photo courtesy of Lauraberninteriors.com

Another interesting way to give a unique twist to a project is to play with trim and molding colors.

Crown molding (like the above photo) can give a room an updated modern look, but with classic materials, which can mesh nicely to give an unexpected twist.

It is still very common to paint trim and baseboards white, or lighter than the wall color, but there is nothing wrong with using a darker, or brighter trim.

Trim Option #1

Light walls with dark trim.

Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest.

Trim Option #2

Dark walls with brightly colored board and batten.

 Photo courtesy of BHG.com

Trim Example #3

All blue everything.

Photo courtesy of BHG.com

If not wanting to bring in a professional, the best thing to do is sample the paint, and to test it out.

Lay down some samples, and look at them for a few days – take the time needed. Don’t rush this process.

An old designer trick is to get a few pieces of large foam core, paint a bunch of different colors, and move them around the house at different times of the day to really get a feel.

This is the best way to see how each specific color can change in each space.

The paint then gets a chance to live and show its true potential.


What one needs to consider when selecting a sheen is cleanability, location, and aesthetics.

Baseboards and trim need to be taken into consideration when discussing sheen. Typically, a minimal sheen is best, but these areas need to be cleaned, so a satin option can also be a great idea.

The ceiling is another area that needs to be treated, so painting it to be completely flat helps to hide imperfections, and can also help reduces the glare from lighting.

Keep in mind that the ceiling will not need to be cleaned as often, so a flat or matte sheen will work just fine. Many designers like to pack a punch on the ceiling, so they opt for a high gloss option to give that 5th wall its “15 minutes of Fame.”

Sheen spectrum.

Photo courtesy of Greydoc.com

The below example of a high gloss addition to the ceiling is beautiful, and it really opens up the room nicely.

Photo courtesy of Housebeautiful.com

Each paint manufacturer has its own unique twist on colors.

Some of the best options are Benjamin Moore or Kelly Moore for classic neutrals. They have a large selection of historic color pallets, from which to choose. Sherwin Williams is also a great go-to for a full spectrum of vibrant colors.

If looking for non-toxic paint (pricier), Clare would be a great choice, although they can be somewhat limited with their color selections.

Farrow & Ball and Pratt & Lambert have worked closely with interior designers over the years, much like Kelly Wearstler to create some rich, luxe hues.

Lastly, look to purchase peel and stick samples from Samplize, as they have free returns and this helps keep the overall mess to a minimum.

Do the research before making a serious color commitment. Have fun, and take the time needed. Paint is an incredible way to express one’s, inner artist!

Dream. Design. Redefine.


Niki Milliken

Mom, wife, and design enthusiast living in Rocklin but originally born and raised in the Bay Area. Niki has been creating unique spaces for over 16 years. From mid-century to the modern farmhouse aesthetic, & everything in between, she loves every style, and mixing them together is her specialty. Incorporating found objects and sourcing the right collection of products for a project is where her passion lies. She believes that everyone deserves a space to be proud of and will help bring together a beautiful functional home. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in Interior Design as well as a minor in Art History from CSU Chico in 2006. She began her career designing model homes, moved into commercial interiors, then took her expertise to several well-known manufacturers acting as a material consultant between the manufacture and architects or interior designers. In 2019 she started my own firm to help work towards making all her own dreams come true. She spends her free time designing for Rooms of Hope, a Bay Area non-profit that provides design services to children in need, see more here: http://www.roomsofhope.org.