My standard “where to start?” advice that I’ve been repeating for over 10 years is simple: “First, ask yourself how you want a room to ‘feel,‘ then how you want it to ‘look.'” And I still stand by this. But lately, I’ve gone even further down the descriptive rabbit hole, adding “What do you want your experience to be while inside this room? What are you going to DO while in this room and then how do you want to feel while doing it?” Essentially y’all, what mood do you want to be in when you are doing the thing you want to do in this room??? Because, your emotional state will be affected by the colors in the room. Once you can lock that down you can back into it and choose design elements, including colors, that support the best version of that experience – or your mood. It’s a great exercise that has really given me some clarity and keeps me focused on what this house should be like, versus what design styles/furniture/colors I’m currently into. Because, while I love every style and (almost) every color out there, the internet often distracts us with incredible inspiration, which causes us to lose focus. Luckily for us, you have almost endless paint color options to support all of your moods. For this home, I’m partnering with Sherwin-Williams to show you where the color palette is headed and give tips on how you can choose colors based on how you want to feel in the room – and with so many incredible colors, we feel very covered.
Some quick notes on color theory – while there are some obvious anecdotal suggestions like “bright red makes us feel energized,” and “muted tones are more calming,” what a color does to you might be different than what it does to me. I might find a blue tone “warm,” even though it’s technically cool and I might find dark brown to be cold and dark, even though it’s “warm.” A lot of it might just have to do with your “comfort colors” (I wrote a whole post about that), and words are just words, so be sure to lean into what makes you feel the way you want to feel.
To help narrow down color selections for the farmhouse, I turned to Sherwin-Williams color samples – both the paint chips as well as the larger (and beloved) peel & stick samples. I got a little greedy with these, knowing that I was going to paint so many rooms in the house (they are mess-free and so much easier to use than wet samples). They have these in their most popular colors, and frankly, they are all REALLY GOOD. I found a lot of comfort in the fact that they had narrowed it down to their most popular colors, it’s how I like to shop “best sellers” from my favorite fashion brands, because you know that many many people have been happy with the product. Since I’m going to be using them for a few months as I choose colors I mostly just peeled off the corner so I didn’t use the entire sticky back. It’s just so helpful to see it on a wall, in a larger format than my fan deck. You can shop their super-affordable peel & stick samples and order FREE color chips online. Still not sure where to start with colors? You can request a free Virtual Color Consultation with one of their experts for some personalized color recommendations for your project.
Overall Mood/Desired Experience We Want In This House:
CALM, COMFORTABLE, EASY, AND WARM. On repeat. There are so many rooms I see on the internet that I LOVE and I want them to be mine, but then I remember that what I want is CALM, COMFORTABLE, EASY, AND WARM. These were not my adjectives 8 years ago – it was more light, airy, youthful, fun, etc. But now it’s all comfort and warmth and making sure the house functions for US. This keeps me from buying another sculptural chair that no one wants to sit on or more random tchotchkes that will clutter up a shelf (I have a lot, trust me). It’s been very freeing actually and while I know it’s not everyone’s style, having experienced living in a home that was calm, comfortable, and warm I feel confident it’s what I want. Now, where we might get a bit nuttier is in the kid’s room (they are not into this neutral minimal thing and begged for more color at the mountain house) so stay tuned for some fun color risks in their spaces. But for the main living space, kitchen, family, mudroom, and our bedroom – I’m trying SO HARD to stick to that mood.
The Family/TV Room
The Desired Experience: To chill and relax, while feeling cozy, warm, snuggly, comfortable as if enveloped by a fluffy bear – and not like Leo did in The Revenant, more like one of those massive stuffed animal bears from Costco. After living here for 7 months I’m dying for a cozy den of a room, especially on the darker wetter days/nights. Here we’ll chill after dinner, play board games when it’s just us, watch family shows/movies, and maybe a Saturday rainy day snooze. I’ve never desired “coziness” and “warmth” so much before and this is the room for it. I’m learning to lean into that winter darkness up here, and embrace my homebody-ness. To do so, I’m choosing a paint color for the family room that will make it feel cozy and warm year-round. It will be a low-energy color, a medium-toned vibration that just feels like that bear hug (probably not as intense as Sara’s in that photo but it’s hard to find inspirational cozy family rooms on the internet). Sherwin-Williams has A LOT to choose from, which you’ll see below.
Quick note – The comfy sectional has been ordered and it’s a denim-y blue – cozy fabric, so I’m still on the fence between just making it tonal (more blues) or contrasting the blue and embracing some warm tones (darker mauves) or going lighter so it’s still cozy but less cave-like.
Here you can see the bare bones of the room – a TV, and stove fireplace with a storage bench underneath it. What you can’t see (yet….stay tuned) is the paneling, the flooring, and of course, the color that we are getting closer to choosing. This room only has one source of natural light (which is a covered porch) so I really have no idea how these paint swatches will look until I get them in the room with drywall. Colors change wildly if/when light hits it (or doesn’t). So while I’m leaning towards a darker tone right now, that mood might be achieved through a medium color (and a dark one might go crazy dark). Another factor we’ve talked about a lot is that you will see this room from the living room when the door is open, so the color in here should look good to your eye when sitting in the living room. Saying that makes me nervous to do a warmer mauvier tone, but I also know that warmth can be achieved through medium/dark blues, warm grays, and greens even though those are technically “cooler” colors.
You know I love blush and copper tones, so in a way these are just really dark versions of that – so warm and fairly neutral. I don’t want a bold burgundy or aubergine, but these in-between colors have a lot of earthiness to them while still leaning on the “pink” side.
Another part of me wants to lean into the blue and make it a full dark blue room – and I just might. I find that tonal rooms where the furniture, walls, and rugs are the same color feel so calming due to the lack of contrast. Your eye doesn’t have to bounce around and figure things out – the room just says “shhhh…blue” to those eyes and then you just sit and the TV is already set to Bridgerton or Love is Blind.
How pretty are those colors? The only one above that I’ve used is Waterloo (Portland house, basement) and it’s EXCELLENT so I have a feeling it will end up somewhere in the house. The rest are excellent options that I am very tempted by as well.
The Desired Experience: I want to feel “pleasantly productive” because a lot of utilitarian and annoying housework will happen in here. I’ve never had a truly functional-sized mudroom/laundry room before so I’m fantasizing that I might enjoy being in here while cleaning, doing laundry, putting stuff away (for hours a day, right? Parents??), and washing the muddy pups. I want it to be pleasant but not precious. In here we are going to have this dark teal tile on the floor and white oak cabinets, that all feel very “Pacific Northwest” to us (green + wood = trees). The question is do we take the color up the wall and put it on the paneling and casings, or go lighter and let the floor be the main color?
The room has a ton of natural light so it could handle a darker color, and we’d likely do it in eggshell so it’s really wipeable for those long-haired post-walk pup shake-offs.
There is something simple and Scandi about just bringing the color from the floor up (think DeVOL), especially if there is contrasting grout in the floor tile showing off the pattern (which I’ll show you later) and then releasing into a solid tone on the walls. So here are the colors we are still thinking about. I think I’m headed towards a neutral on the walls, letting the floor ground the space in a deep color, with the cabinets warming it up with wood but we won’t decide until the cabinets and tile are in.
The back and forth between light and dark will only be solved once we are in the space with tile/cabinets, but I love all the above for different reasons. Once we know how the colors dance (or don’t dance, rude) around the room we can get a lot closer to the tone. While “gray” is never the recommended color in Portland, these have blue and green undertones and I think once light hits it the room will look happier (not gray).
The Powder Room
The Desired Experience: A calm surprise (pink!) that provokes a tiny bit of happiness during the few quiet personal minutes in here for guests. I want it to be simple, not precious, but with some design elements that feel thoughtful and purposeful. I’m surprised at how much pink I’m bringing in the house – not bright or hot pinks (yet… Birdie’s room is TBD) but more muted, rose-y, and mauvey. Where others love taupe, I suppose I’ve always leaned towards blushier neutrals – but have refrained from using any on the walls before….until now. The powder room is the perfect contained space to take a paint color risk.
We are paneling in here (not like the inspiration shot above, although I love it) and that rendered vanity is NOT confirmed, nor is the skirt. The design is still a bit TBD, but I feel 80% sure it’s going to be pink (20% might be a powder blue – depends on the rest of the design).
We’ve already confirmed that Dressy Rose and Artistic Taupe are going somewhere – they are very very calming, warm, and pretty. I pitched them to Birdie for her room since she wants pink and she said, very politely with this “I know what you are trying to do” look on her face, “no thank you, mama. I want more colorful.” So expect some hot pinks coming at you sooooon…
The Living Room (Trim/Paneling)
The Desired Experience: “Comfortably fun” or “relaxed enjoyment.” I’m sure in another language there is a singular word for that, but you know, the kind of fun that feels like home – not performed, hard-won, or put on. Fun in your jammies. Sunday – Thursday I want it to be conducive to hanging out with kids while I cook, we listen to Hamilton/Greatest Showman/Encanto, play games at the coffee table, listen to the fire crackle, but come the weekend it will be ready for small lively group hangs with other families. I want people to sink into conversations with areas of design/decor that feels intentional without being distracting or busy. Now, most of this will be achieved through the furnishings/textiles/art as it’s too big of a room for me to paint a strong color (I’ve only done that once, and it was too much for me). So the color, in this case, won’t necessarily create the experience, but it will give it some contrast and design interest. It will be more of a foundational neutral.
Remember that one of our biggest goals in this room was to lighten it up, and it’s a huge room so as of now we are going to paint most of it a really light tone of white (including the ceiling). But don’t worry. We are applying a low wainscot paneling that will be painted a light blue/gray tone, as well as along with all the window/door casings. The intent is that this helps the room feel grounded despite being such a big room, and that it unifies the zones, while also giving it some slight color contrast. I’m seriously considering painting the ceiling but nervous 🙂
A fun “fact” about light blue/gray is that almost ALWAYS it’s bluer than you think it’s going to be once on the wall. The undertone of gray is always a different tone, and I usually lean towards the bluer tones. So many times, especially earlier on, I’ve painted a room a “light blue-gray” that turns out totally “baby blue.” So while those above look like “gray” on your screen, they actually have a decent amount of blue in them and will read as such. Not saying I don’t want a baby blue or powder blue because there are times when I do, but I also don’t want too much contrast on the walls to remain more minimal and calm.
The Desired Experience: Surprise, joy, and some drama. I’m so excited to have a dedicated pantry and be able to style it out, play with vintage jars, my collection of still lifes fruit paintings, etc. As a stylist, I have so many wooden spoons, platters, footed bowls (!) that I love and I don’t want to clutter up the kitchen so this is my hoarding moment. It feels like a fun opportunity/space to do something that pulls you in and takes more of a risk. You’ll see the pantry through the vintage windows in the kitchen, but obscured enough that you don’t see too much of the mess. My hope is that the dark tone is going to pull your eyes in there, expanding and deepening the space and make you smile. I also think that food packaging might disappear more in a darker pantry – the room might become more of a shadow, than a big bright space where you can see all our jerky wrappers and canned goods.
This is the only room in the house where the paint color has been chosen and there is no going back because we had to give it to the cabinet makers when we ordered them months ago. It’s a color that draws you in and makes you happy, but still works with the rest of the moody tones in the house. And it’s going on all the walls, window casings, and the ceiling. I’m so excited.
The color will be revealed soon (in a “pantry design plan” post) and don’t even try to guess from these swatches. As most of you might know your computer screen will not show accurate paint colors as it can’t really read the pigmented tones correctly. And inspiration photos really don’t do it too much justice because those are often doctored themselves. So our plan is once drywall is up (and possibly primed), we’ll be able to properly hang swatches on all the walls, comparing them to tile, fabrics, etc. You’ll see the whole process, I promise. I generally like to choose paint last if I can because Sherwin-Williams has far more paint colors than there are rugs out there, for instance. So I like to lock down more of my major design elements before confirming the exact color and right now way too much is still up in the air. But now you know where we are headed, what mood we want to be in, and how it has affected our color choices. I’m EXTREMELY excited to get to the point of even thinking about paint colors. It means the end is near, RIGHT? Painting won’t happen till July so I have a bit of time but I wanted to at least figure out where I’m leaning so I can continue to pull together the rest of the design. Stay tuned…
*Farmhouse Photos by Kaitlin Green