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Design

Choosing The Cozy Paint Color For Our “Low-Light” Family Room… And Then Choosing Again

Thank goodness I’m not trying to bag new design clients right now. I really should blog more about all the design decisions that I’ve totally nailed and had zero hesitation on, but what’s the fun in that? Having to pretend to be great the first time at everything would just be exhausting so I’m glad we have this safe space to really go through the process. I have my strengths, but they lie more in instinct than bold fast decisions. But my instincts tend to be safe at this stage which both protects and annoys me. Luckily the permanence of paint is less threatening than say, tile or flooring, and over the years I have gotten much better at it so I’m trusting myself more. Plus the whole large paint sticker sample thing is extremely helpful. I’m trying HARD to go outside my “50 shades of blue” comfort zone and create a palette that is cohesive, vibe-y, and works with the overall art direction of the house (Scandinavian shaker farmhouse) while also creating the mood that we want in each room. This room is the most challenging – The media/TV/family room and here is what you need to know about it before we get into the color:

  • The only sources of natural light are few and indirect – the french doors to the covered back porch and the hallway with windows and skylights (and TBH I wish we had put a door there so when we are watching TV we wouldn’t have that light source – window treatments might be happening).
  • We wanted this room to feel dark and cozy and put it in the interior of the house on purpose – with barely an external wall.
  • We didn’t put skylights in here because the function of the room is movie watching and cuddling – we envision our winters being cozied up in here. But as I’m writing this I’m wondering…should we put skylights in here with room darkening shades so daytime can be more pleasant with nighttime feeling cozy? We vaulted the ceilings and I don’t think we have any HVAC up there…stay tuned…
  • There will be a stove fireplace in the corner on a low hearth/storage bench underneath the TV.
  • We will NOT keep the paneling natural wood no matter how pretty it looks here – the reasons are: 1. Poplar is paint grain and doesn’t stain well, 2. To stain it we’d have to go very dark to reduce the high contrast green tones in the grain, and 3. Dark stained wood would be more of a “cabin” vibe than a farmhouse one. If we could go back in time would we have chosen white oak for the walls? Maybe, but it would be much more expensive in material and in installation (it’s harder to work with, literally). Ultimately we think that the farmhouse vibe is better painted than stained, but it’s hard to see it as wood, I agree, then paint it (I wish we had used primed paneling but we couldn’t because it’s a custom run).
  • This room is not a corner or self-contained media room – it is a pass-through room which makes it trickier, IMO. We want the feeling of it to be dark but do we really want to go from a light room, through a really dark room to get into another brightly lit room? Would that feel weird? I think so. I think dark rooms work better when they are more self-contained, or have a ton of natural light…but honestly, I’m NOT an expert in dark rooms so I feel hesitant to suggest anything.

Other things you should know – We already have our cuddly sectional which we are obsessed with. Here she is:

We do not have a rug yet but I’m hoping to use the rug from our former living room since it’s not big enough for our new living room:

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a quick update: the changes i’ve made to my la living room

The Zena wood floors here won’t be this light – they are already sealed and covered but my goodness they are GORGEOUS and a lot richer than the dust-covered floor here.

So my first instinct was to do a warm pink/purple/mauve color. Something to contrast with the sofa, draw you in from the living room and feel so cozy. Brian nixed that pretty quickly but I think it’s because I didn’t show him the right tones. My bad. I now realize the colors I presented were either too pink or too brown.

The Decision: Round 1 – Blues And Greens

A few days before we left for a month we had to make all the downstairs paint color decisions. Most of them I thought were “easy” but this one stumped me. So I called in Anne and Stephyn (ARCIFORM), and of course, Brian and Sarah. After staring at like 30 options we narrowed it down to these blue and green worlds. Of course, like a real pro, I had lost my fabric swatch of our sectional so as you can see below I held up the phone with the photo of the sectional to the swatch to see what worked.

We all decided that Privileged Green would be it (despite its name). It’s a medium-tone green that has some blue in it but is decidedly green (remember that we have blue tile in the kitchen so when staring at it from the living room you likely don’t want to see two different shades of blue).

I wasn’t fully on board with Privilege Green, but everyone else felt EXTREMELY strong about it. Fine. But also maybe they were just done choosing paint colors. Maybe they have a better gauge of “what’s important in life”. Maybe they were hot and hangry. My hesitations were that it went very dark without natural light and that most of our artwork, light in color and framed in glass, would really contrast and reflect, negating the cozy and calmness of it all. A wall of oil seascapes or mountainscapes? Sure! But that’s not what we have (but could if we weren’t so starved for wall space in this house). We have mostly modern art. I also feared that while I love green, I don’t know if an all blue/green room sounded as good to me in this otherwise really light/airy home with one “cozier” room. I don’t know…I just didn’t feel GREAT about that color in that room, despite really liking the color in a different home.

The paint prep work for the house is going into week three and therefore I had more time to decide and then question my decisions. When we got back in town I went immediately to the house and now primed I felt even more sure that a dark green in the middle of these two well-lit rooms would feel jarring and off. I immediately ordered a bunch of larger sticker samples of mauves, but this time less pink and more gray. We have been told over and over “no gray paint” in Portland because well, the PNW can be dreary enough during “the great long dark”, so I think originally I really strayed away from anything close to gray. But I found a few that were so warm and cozy in the gray/mauve worlds and I started to feel hopeful.

You see I LOVE a warm tone mixed with our cool blues. And I really didn’t want 50 shades of blue or gray. So I ordered the samples and headed over with a lot of hope that A. I was right and B. Brian would passionately agree.

I held up the paint sample and at first it was a fast but not hard “NO”. Brian kindly asked, “is it kinda gray and dreary”, which I had been expecting. I responded, relating to his fear, “I would think that too!” and then I gave him my pitch. It’s warm and cozy and actually pretty light, but when in a dark room it goes medium toned in such a good way. It contrasts so well with the blue of the sofa and the kitchen, and yet isn’t “pink” or “purple”. It’s a complex color with a lot of pigments so the color changes all day (I love this in a paint color while also unpredictable, FYI). It feels more like a Scandinavian pastel tone – a neutral that you can just float through. Sure enough within 5 minutes, he said “No. You’re right. That’s good!!” Just like that! I think he could tell that I had been thinking about it for months and felt really really strongly about this color. He was very ready to put it to bed. I of course brought some other options, too, but Ponder by Sherwin-Williams was the real winner.

It’s so hard for the colors to be properly represented here because it had no real natural light (Kaitlin, our photographer, does such a good job). The sofa fabric isn’t quite that dark (I think the velvet sucked the light a bit), and the gray is a bit darker.

We went around the room and took photos of it on every wall, trying to make sure it felt good. Again, it’s hard to understand but this room is void of a lot of natural light so the color looks light here, but check it out from the living room…

See? There you can see how it actually goes pretty darn dark in there. It draws you in but isn’t just this dark void.

Lastly, I wanted to see how it looked if we had the french doors open to the back porch. When we have the darker green paint swatch hanging there I thought it felt weird to have such an indoor/outdoor situation into a dark room. But let me be clear, this is a personal preference and can ABSOLUTELY look great and I’ve witnessed it myself. I just want the house to flow a bit more from room to room, whereas some people want each room to be its own experience (which I love, just not for me). It’s like how some boutique hotels really create a different vibe and color palette for each space so when you walk in and you really get a sense of excitement and wonder. I love that, but again just not for this house. It’s honestly starting to feel like we are getting there – we have 10 different paint colors that draw you into different rooms and help create a really good vibe, but they all as of now are really feeling good together. And if I’m wrong about this whole “light Scandinavian farmhouse in the PNW” thing, I can always add more paint and go darker.

*Photos unless otherwise noted by Kaitlin Green

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Vera
1 month ago

Love this choice! I am really enjoying the farmhouse updates!!

ali
1 month ago

Seems like you have given up on a moody room for more cohesiveness, which makes sense to me. If I could afford it, I would go all the way and add the skylights..

Tarynkay
1 month ago

I would add the skylights. My thinking is that you probably are going to want to do things in this room other than just watch tv, especially since this is a pass through room in the middle of the house. Maybe you’ll play board games or do puzzles or just curl up with a good book in there when you aren’t watching tv. I can’t think of any room functions other than watching tv that you would want limited natural light for. If this was a designated theater room off in a less trafficked corner, then I would agree about just keeping it dark. But in this situation, I don’t think you’ll regret adding the skylights, especially since you have the room darkening shades for them.

Emily
1 month ago
Reply to  Tarynkay

100% agree!

Kathleen
1 month ago
Reply to  Tarynkay

I have two skylights plus five windows in my “great” room, maybe I’m accustomed to it, I don’t have any issue watching TV during the day.

Deborah
1 month ago
Reply to  Tarynkay

I agree so much and was going to comment along those lines – yes to skylights!! Otherwise I think it will feel like a cave and the claustrophobe in me hates that!

Ponder seems like a lovely color, kind of twilight-y and calm, good choice! 🙂

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Deborah

GAH. i know we should have! now of cousre, i’m not sure about where all the wiring is, etc. Should probably look into it ASAP. I feel like there was a reason why we didn’t in the first place, but it was probably a case of ‘we don’t need it’ and now realizing that every room can use more natural light …

Remington
1 month ago

I would have chosen the darker green. If you’re going to go moody, go for it! My good friend has a den she painted dusky black, including the ceiling and it looks amazing and feels so cozy. I understand that this being a pass through room influences the color, however I would have leaned into the moodiness. But paint is an easy change, so you can do grey now and change later if you want–or not!

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Remington

It turned out pretty darn dark and moody in there with the ‘Ponder’ paint. but again mostly because there is no natural light…

Amanda
1 month ago
Reply to  Remington

I agree – go with the original plan – I tend to be swayed by others a lot but regret that in the end

Monica
1 month ago

I vote no skylights- who knows how they will interfere with watching TV – you would probably have to deal with a way to cover them etc. I would leave it alone and see you feel about it in a few years….can always add skylights later .

Amber
1 month ago
Reply to  Monica

Agree. I think it’s nice (luxurious even) to have distinct ‘day time’ spaces and ‘night time’ spaces. There’s plenty of room for day time activities in the main living room.

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Monica

they have remote control shades that can totally block out the light 🙂 Velux has them and they absolutely work so well …

Renee
1 month ago

Love the new color! And I think it was smart to pass on the skylights. It’s all going to look so great!

Heidi
1 month ago

Great choice. And BTW: I’ve lived in the PNW (almost) my entire life and I think you are over hyping the gray winters as being dreary. Even when it’s cloudy there is so much color here. A thousand shades of green, the various browns and rusts of the tree bark, shrubs, and earth, not to mention the many vibrant colors of the gray clouds as the sun fights to poke through.

Emily
1 month ago
Reply to  Heidi

If you’re coming from California though, it might take awhile to adjust.

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Yes, however, remember that Emily grew up in Portland.

Holly
1 month ago
Reply to  Heidi

Heidi, I agree! You get a little bit of everything during the winter in the PNW, and all the greens are absolutely beautiful. Some gray days for sure, but much more variety that most think.

Samantha
1 month ago
Reply to  Heidi

Came here to leave a comment along the same lines. A flat grey looks bad EVERYWHERE, imo, but really bright colors can feel stark against the moody PNW backdrop , too. Don’t be afraid of neutrals in Portland as long as they have some depth and nuance.

Lesley
1 month ago
Reply to  Heidi

Agree on all these comments. When we moved to Portland from California 7 years ago, I was surprised at how many winter days alternate between rain, clouds, and glorious sunny intervals (that you totally appreciate!). And my daughter’s bedroom, off the dark central hall, is long and narrow with windows only on the far (West-facing) end. We painted it Benjamin Moore Silver Chain, which actually goes the tiniest bit purple in there. It’s cozy and beautiful with our old oak floors and an antique, mostly red rug.

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Heidi

Ha. listen. i could write a whole post about this. lots of feelings. In short: We were so pleasantly surprised about the winter – so beautiful, so many colors, so lush. I walked the dogs two hours a day, in the pitch black and watched the sunrise. I LOVED it. I was fine til May …. the spring this year was rough, very rough, – it rained every weekend, from morning til night, til mid june and we started pannicking that we weren’t going to be able to enjoy being outside. But listen, I’m not the one that said to not paint any rooms gray – i’ve heard it from so many PNW natives. So this isn’t my advice to give, its mine to take. and yes there is absolutely an adjustment coming from California…. I’m from Coos Bay – 80% gray throughout the year, but its been 20 years since i’ve lived through a spring and it was a hard one. Right now though it’s so beautiful and i feel properly prepped for next spring. I think i didn’t realize that summer didn’t start til July and now we know. Besides isn’t it best to complain about the weather… Read more »

Lesley
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Yep. This was the rainiest darkest spring in our 7 years here. Hopefully that kind of spring keeps alternating with more mixed weather!

Heidi
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Agree. This spring was too rainy even for my taste. But you should see my yard. My landscape has NEVER looked happier or more lush. Trade offs, amiright?

Emily
1 month ago

I love hearing about the thought process and changes of heart – it helps us understand how you make all kinds of choices, and makes me feel much better about my own decorating! I’m sure that experienced professional decorators often make choices they wish they could revisit, but since they have clients / publications they just outwardly act like it’s the best possible decision and put it into its best light (no pun intended).

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

YOU ARE RIGHT. you often don’t want to admit to your client that you wish you could change it (because then whose fault is it?) so you just keep selling it to yourself and then to press. Anne from Arciform has been refreshingly honest with her opinions on stuff after the fact, which i’ve loved. it made me feel less crazy when i didn’t like something and she agreed, rather being like ‘no its perfect’. 🙂

Beth
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Same! I’ve spent many, many, many hours working on my living room (I did all the work myself)- repairing the plaster walls and original trim, etc. and then painting everything. I’m about 3/4 of the way done with painting…and I’m not feeling very sure about the wall color (which is the same as the trim color, but in a slightly different sheen). I love the color on the trim and honestly like it on the walls, but I’m not feeling confident about them being the same color. The trim, which is one of my favorite parts of the house, just seems to fade into the walls, but I want the trim to be more visible. My whole extended family arrives on Friday, so I’m sticking with it for now, but I have a feeling I might repaint it eventually.

Emily
1 month ago

BTW, when you reveal this room, a post about working with a charcoal sofa might be helpful to a lot of people! We have one from a few years back when grey sofas were everywhere, and I love the sofa itself but struggle with how to incorporate it in to my now-more-colorful living room.

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

that is an interesting conundrum. i wonder what about it makes it harder to incorporate? and yet i agree!

Suzanne
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

Based on my experience with my own clothing, greys have so many different undertones, so while you think you can treat it as a neutral, the gray has a strong opinion about what it’s neighboring colors should be. So hard!

Lisa
1 month ago

I have to ask, and you’re the expert, so I am probably wrong, but do you have any concern that this will read really purple once it’s all over the whole room? Maybe the lack of light will help it stay mauve/gray vs. lavender?

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

HA. no it reads pretty purple 🙂 Just left the room but I really like it. I mean, its definitely a very gray purple, but I think with the furniture and decor I want to put in there that its going to be super pretty. HOPEFULLY 🙂

Liz
1 month ago
Reply to  Lisa

I admit my bias as a minnesotan but purple is a neutral!

Roberta Davis
1 month ago

I’m so relieved you chose that instead of the darker green! Not sure why. But it is striking, the difference in how it looks between the 2 photos from the living room and inside the room with photographer’s lighting. It feels like a warm hug, a cashmere blanket! Perfect!

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago

Oh, how I love that green!
Grey is probably my very least favourite colour for anything much. However, I totally see why you chose that specific colour for that particular space.

My vore is a yes to skylights, because the darkening shades are hood, but mostly since the room’s goingbto be a nice snuggly space for reading, playing board games and other activities. It’ll add snother dimension to the room.

Velux? Wanna do a makeover on a 100 yr ol’ house suffering in the dark in Australia and post it here????🤗 haha🤣

“Scandinavian shaker farmhouse” makes me wonder … isn’t Shaker derived from the old Scandinavian homesteads???🤔

Amber
1 month ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Shakers originated in England and then established themselves in the United States. They accepted a lot of converts though, who could’ve been from anywhere (necessary because of their celibacy).

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Amber

I stand corrected and less ignorant. Thanx.😊

Nora
1 month ago

Yesssss mauve. Looking forward to seeing it on all the walls.

Sophie
1 month ago

What about a thick velvet curtain which is pulled back to one side when not in use, over the hallway doorway?
I would definitely add skylights! I think that no windows makes it feel a bit claustrophobic/like a storage space otherwise.
Love the colour! Pink would also have been wonderful… men never like the idea of pink paint but should not always be listened to!

1 month ago
Reply to  Sophie

Just have to disagree with “men never like the idea of pink paint”! 🙂
During the height of our PNW blooming season last summer, I was swayed by the pink flowers blooming in our yard and we had both our newly installed back/side doors painted pink (SW Rose Embroidery)
I frequently question that choice but my husband LOVES IT.
Not all men hate pink paint.

Addie
1 month ago
Reply to  Lesley

Yes Lesley! My husband loves pink in home decor/paint too.

Rebecca
1 month ago
Reply to  Sophie

Men never like the idea of pink paint? My husband picked pink paint for our dresser, pink curtains for our living room, and even helped me dye my hair pink!

MKP
1 month ago

Wasn’t thinking I would like the grey at all, but when I looked at it on SW website I thought it was really pretty. Had more pink in it than I was expecting. Of all the pretty greens out there, I was surprised by the plan of priviledge green. It looks so olive to my eye. I would find that green so much more depressing than the ponder grey. I think a slightly lighter, brighter or bluer green could still be really beautiful. Good news is it is only paint. You will probably love the grey, but if you don’t it is easily corrected (though going through a big reno myself at the moment, I understand that the thought of having something repainted in the near future is NOT appealing at all!).

Suzanne
1 month ago
Reply to  MKP

I agree a bluer green would look lovely.

Alex
1 month ago

I like the new color. I am a bit surprised how narrow the entrance to the tv room is. I think double door width would have looked better more welcoming and less cut off from the living room. I don’t watch tv that much but from childhood I remember fondly watching tv during the day when the room was bright and not dark and moody. It is a different feeling

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex

there is a reason – we are doing a built-in dining/homework area over there. its definitely tricky but hoping it looks intentional once its built. We really wanted to be able to close off that room, but also needed an area to eat just the four of us. so we’ll see …

Sarah
1 month ago

It would be cool to do a stain that was green

Deb
1 month ago

I can’t stop laughing! In our apartment in Barcelona we painted our upstairs in On-Line.
We painted the downstairs Minute Mauve, (one shade lighter than Ponder) On both of the colors, they are constantly changing. We don’t get a lot of natural light so the whole place is “cozy”. When the Minute Mauve was first on the walls, I freaked. It looked so lavender. But once the furniture, drapery and art work was in, I was so in love. Not feminine at all.
A few years later, we buy a new house. Unfortunately, (or not) the ceilings are 12 feet tall. I thought Minute Mauve would be way too much, plus the place is south facing so we get tons of natural light. Thought maybe Ponder would work, bring one shade darker. Painted up 3×3 foot samples on every wall It just wasn’t going to work. Went back to On-Line and have been a happy little camper.
You have excellent taste in color, if I do say so.
It did make me laugh.

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Deb

Oh this makes me super happy and relieved. I’ve never ever ever in my life leaned towards lavender, but its so soothing (literally) and so if this gray reads purple (which it does) then I hope its a good thing. I’m not pannicked about it at all. Do i want to repaint? NO. but I just left the house and my first reaction was that yes its purple, but that i LOVED it.

KC
1 month ago
Reply to  Emily

The RGB for Ponder is 188, 182, 182, which definitely would make it lean more purple/pink.

leah
1 month ago

I really was hoping you didn’t pick the green. It’s a great color but like you, I think it would be too jarring and dark against the other tones you have going on. I love Ponder and think it’s the right choice, especially when paired with your sectional and the floor color! It’s going to look amazing!

Dena
1 month ago

The color is beautiful and at times when it is looking more purple than grey I think it will look lovely!

1 month ago

We’ve just chosen all the paint colors for the very unusual house we are finishing (it was left in studs for 10+ years, and has many huge windows, a 6 story tower (seriously) and a 3 story “main space”) where the many colors are seen from different rooms and the light changes dramatically throughout the day and from different heights and viewpoints. We found the only way to choose was to get quarts and paint right on the wall, in different locations in the room, and look at it (and look again) at different times of day. Paint is SO changeable according to the light and conditions, and architecture of the room. We were really stunned and amazed at how our choices did or didn’t look “right” in our house, compared to what they looked like on the paint chip, sample square, or on line. Many changes were made, and after 3 weeks and literally 30 quarts of samples, we selected our final 12 colors. We drove the painters mad, but finally they let me at it, and since I did all the sample painting, it was really only my time invested, and probably one of the best $300 invested… Read more »

Jennifer Mroz
1 month ago

If you could not decide on a color why don’t you do different colors in the same family on different panels of the wood, modern farmhouse, add moody without overpowering it

Addie
1 month ago

It’s not what I expected, even though I have noticed the mentions of mauve. This grey has lavender undertones. Personally I would have leaned more red than blue because I like the red/pinkish hues more than purpley ones (the coolness is not my preference). But, I can see where you are going and it will work — very tonal with the deep grey sectional and white-ish rug, monochromatic modern art. It’s giving me an Eileen Fisher layered winter outfit vibe with plush sweaters, cozy scarves, soft warm knits. It’ll be a cozy den!

I’m in favor of skylights being added because I think it will be a nicer experience during low-light days. But it might be fine without it, hard to say until you live with it. Thanks for sharing this process. I’m dying to see all the colors together!!

Lindsay
1 month ago

I have to laugh at how emotionally into this decision I am: My thoughts…
If your gray skews lavender, I love it! Far better than a pure gray, and has that elusive, “cool yet warm” vibe!
Otherwise, I could completely see the “privileged green”–I’m picturing a contrasting bright pop for sure in accent chairs, pillows and decor. IMO, this would be the look to go for if your family time will be by the big fireplace in the living room (I’m thinking yes to that! No TV, games, music, and fire), and this room is really the “teen room”–which will be sooner than you think!– for video games, kids horsing around, and later, let’s face it, movie and “make out sessions”(!) for the kids and their crushes.
Nothing like a cozy dark room, a fire, and a movie you’ve both seen before…sorry…but I see the future. 🙂

1 month ago

For centuries, wood has been used in interior design and does not lose its relevance. This is due to the fact that this material is durable and natural, and its application has unlimited possibilities. Wood has a characteristic pattern and grain, even if repainted in a different color, thanks to the texture, the look will remain magnificent.

Nora
1 month ago

Looking forward to seeing how the room turns out! I wonder if something like Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink might have worked for the mauve look you were going for?

Jan
1 month ago

The grain is lovely. I’m sure you PAID fo this lumber. I remember your field trip for flooring. All trees matter-and we all pay for the cutting down and using…Why not use semi-transparent stain? I’m sure someone would custom mix that for you? Or just some type of wash??
I would opt for a skylight and darkening shades to give yourself more options.

Jan
1 month ago

On the wing in a vaulted ceiling-I doubt there is any-ours is in the walls and then just travels up and into channels like beams to get to the ceiling locations. Call you electrician to confer!
Skylights, skylights, skylights:}

Sara
1 month ago

Love the gray! Agree 100 percent it’s better for a pass through room with modern art – and it will still be super cozy. I think the room will be great with or without skylights but don’t think you can go wrong with more natural light – you will have the shades to darken when needed to watch movies!

Kelsey
1 month ago

I painted my bedroom Coastal Plain and LOVE the colour (one shade lighter than Privilege Green )

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