$Monday: The Value of Wall Color

Home is where the heart is (and the office and the break room and the spa and the outdoor-distancing social gathering spot and the gym and basically our whole lives now). This year, the home color palette has become more important and more personal than ever. How is yours feeling after this cabin-fevered spring?

Wall colors affect the inhabitants of a room in complex ways. Each person may have a different response to each color, so get in touch with how different colors make you and your living companions feel, and consider repainting as a relatively affordable and easy way to improve your everyday quality of life--your mood, productivity, sleep quality, alertness during waking hours, and behavior. Consider different values (on a light/dark scale) of your favorite hues and how different finishes respond in your particular environment.

Assuming you're not preparing your house for sale or making your living as an Instagrammer who earns revenue via painting your own home's walls in ways that look striking in photographs, feel free to disregard trends. During this time when it isn't safe to entertain company inside your house, there's no one outside of your home to impress or please. By the time the pandemic is over, there will be an entirely different set of Colors of the Year anyway, and you can repaint if you want to--but I'll bet you won't, after you get used to living just the way you like.

Choosing a harmonious palette that works for you is only the beginning of determining how to repaint your spaces. Next, attend to how paint finishes and home lighting interact. The way wall colors visually "read" depends upon how light bounces off them and can change throughout the day and with different artificial lighting sources. Also, warmer and cooler hues can not only affect your mood but your physical perceptions of heat and coolness in a room. The reflectivity of the paint, from matte to shiny, and the brightness of the tint can actually affect auditory perception as well--after all, sound bounces off walls as well as light. A shinier, brighter room can look, but also literally sound, noisier than a "quieter" matte room.

Take care to notice the difference between how your swatches look with the naked eye compared to how they look in photographs. Like stagecraft, interior walls can look a lot different through a digital lens. Bright, glossy, high-contrast, and cool-tinted interior design schemes tend to look striking and attractive--bold, crisp, airy, fresh--in little two-dimensional squares on your phone, but those same rooms can feel harsh and cold in real life. And in my own home, the existing entryway paint looks moody and elegantly textured--almost, dare I say, magical--when photographed through a wall mirror, but it's a different story on set.

The textured look was produced by a rag-painting job done fairly well, but as it extends into the living room where there is a lot of natural light, one can tell that it was created with an unsettling mix of soft green and bright, shiny white paint. The green is lovely, but the brightness and gloss of the white put me on edge, like irritating static spoiling a pretty song. I can't show you what I mean in a digital photo, because these walls don't photograph true--in pictures, they often look gray yellow or blue--but you'd know what I meant if you stood in my living room. Even if you didn't consciously notice the walls at all, they'd still affect the way you felt.

So I've determined to fine-tune my home's interior color palette and start repainting this summer in colors and finishes that better suit my family. I plan to invest in the best-quality paint and supplies available and to do a slow, careful DIY job so that I can be done with it for a long time, and I won't find my attention snagging on annoying chips, drips, and smudges every time I walk into a room.

We'll start with our preteen daughter's bedroom, because it's a small and simple place to start, and our big girl is ready to graduate from the colors we chose for her nursery before she was born. I gave her a book of swatches and let her browse, thinking we'd let her do her own thing in her private space, regardless of whether it fit the rest of our home's color scheme. But without knowing it, she ended up choosing a pale, sophisticated pink that happens to be the same exact color we'd chosen for a bathroom accent (matching the existing tile) which is on the same swatch as a coral and a red we might use in other rooms in our home--and which my parents used to paint their own front door, a ten-minute walk up the road! How synergistic.

To follow along with our progress and surely learn from our mistakes, find me on Instagram @MsAmiernika and watch for #SloMoReno updates.


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