Picking Paint Colors

The biggest challenge that I have had with the new house is the paint.  I thought it would be so easy because I planned to use the same colors that we had in our last house.  They were soft and comforting and perfect.  I learned, though, that what looks good in one house might not work in another.

Townhouse great room - The 2 Seasons

The color that we used in our last house was Sherwin Williams Stucco with 50 per cent pigment.  I think Stucco is the perfect neutral because it doesn’t have any unwanted undertones like pink or green or yellow.  It is a pure neutral.  However, it is a little deeper than I like so I just always had it mixed using less pigment so that it wouldn’t be as deep.  (That’s the best word I can think to use.)

Vintage poster 3 888x1024 - Picking Paint Colors

In our new place it has been perfect in the second and third floors with the SW Pure White ceilings and wood trim.  Just perfect.

Townhouse paint - The 2 Seasons

However, at the urging of my decorator friend, we are painting the ceilings on the first floor the same color as the walls – Stucco with 50 percent pigment.  That will give the beautiful wood fireplace, baseboards, and crown moldings to stand out and shine.  The living room ceiling and Mike’s office ceiling are already painted that color, and most of the molding has been painted.  This same color, which was perfect in our last house, is looking way too dark in those two rooms.  (The addition and new kitchen are waiting for drywall so they haven’t been painted yet.)  It’s hard to believe that the paint in this photo is the same as the first two photos.  I checked the formula to make sure it was the same, and it is.

Townhouse paint - The 2 seasons

After losing too much sleep over these walls and ceilings, I bought three samples – Stucco with 50 percent pigment just to make sure they had used the correct formula, Stucco with 40 percent pigment, and Stucco with 30 percent pigment. (The gray background is primer)   I spent an afternoon applying those colors to various spots in the office, living room, and foyer.  You are probably wondering why I just don’t pick a new shade for the ceilings and skip the percentages.  It’s because I know this one is a good neutral.  It’s as simple and maybe as dumb as that.

Townhouse paint - The 2 Seasons

Then I realized what the problem is.  It’s those painted ceilings.  You can see in just this photo how much darker the paint on the ceiling is compared to the wall, and it’s the same color!!!  The living room gets the morning sun, and by mid-afternoon on even a very sunny summer day, it is very shaded.  (Remember, it’s in an historic neighborhood, and there are some big trees.)   The painted ceilings are casting a dark glow on the walls and throwing me off.  So, I have decided to go with white ceilings or maybe 30 percent pigment ceilings.  I know this will disappoint one person in particular, (sorry, Beth) but I have to live with it.

Townhouse paint - The 2 Seasons

The painters have several five gallon buckets of the paint already mixed up, so I don’t know what will happen when I pick a color for the kitchen and addition (family room.)  I have a week or so to think about it.

And one more thing – I don’t want to be that person who keeps changing her mind.  I already had them change the bathroom paint colors twice because again what I thought would look right didn’t.  Oh dear.

Thanks for coming along on this house remodeling project with us.  I am so ready for this to be over.

Take care.


  1. says

    Hey – it’s your money, so as long as you can keep the paint contractors, they shouldn’t care how many times they paint your walls and ceilings! And this is also a great lesson in going with your gut and listening to your own instincts, not someone else’s (sorry Beth).
    I labored over paints – whites, of all things – when we remodeled our bath. I ended up with Pure White on walls and ceilings, Extra White on trim. I think I purchased over a dozen quarts of hues that turned out looking like everything from pink and purple blue and grey to yellow. It’s a hard thing to choose paint!

    • says

      Rita, the second paint color I went with for our bathrooms was Pure White since that’s what is on the trim. It was too white for the cabinets. So, then I switched to Iceberg Blue, and it’s perfect. The Pure White is great on the ceilings, but it didn’t work on our walls. Glad you had success with it.

  2. Judy Williams says

    I know painted ceilings are “hot” and can look good in a bright room, but when lightness and brightness are desired, nothing like a white ceiling. My ceilings are white and I do have trim. I was helping a neighbor that has no decorating genes and her walls and ceilings were a fairly light green but the space was very dark. I encouraged her to paint the ceilings white and we picked a beautiful wall light aqua/blue color and the difference in the brightness was amazing! Everyone loves the paint colors now.

  3. Penny says

    Picking paint colors can make you pull your hair out! It is such a big investment for both product and labor so picking correctly is so important. I can appreciate your dilemma! Also — I always use SW and someone along time ago told me to read the receipt regarding their guarantee – which is color guarantee for 1 gallon bucket. So painters had to pick up many, many 1 gallons versus a large multigallon bucket. Check it out .. not sure if important, but you might want to read the fine print. May not matter – just pointing it out.

  4. Donnamae says

    I am always amazed how the same color can vary so much between walls, ceilings and placement in home for that matter. I know it’s difficult….but you need to get what you feel is right. Good luck! 😉

    • says

      Donnamae, I sent the painters a message this morning and said, “Go white in the living room.” I’m leaving the upstairs hallway and Mike’s office with the painted ceiling. I won’t be changing the hallway because that would involve scaffolding, but Mike’s office can be changed easily. I want to see how the living room looks first and then go from there.

  5. Patricia says

    I agree wholeheartedly with the other commenters ! You have to live with the paint , and YOU are the one that has to be happy ! Sometimes, although they are very helpful, our ‘likings’ are just not the same as the ‘decorators’ likings, and you should not feel bad about that ! Go with your gut – you are also an experienced decorator and so far I have LOVED everything that you have shared with us here on the blog ! I have to admit , that personally, nothing looks as good to me as a bright white ceiling ! Makes the room look light and open !