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Choosing Paint Colors: How I Find Inspiration for Color Schemes {and a fun quiz!}

by | Jan 27, 2012 | Color, Decorating Inspiration | 17 comments

Choosing Paint Colors: How I Find Inspiration for Color Schemes {and a fun quiz!}Gray and white striped stair way and wall {stripe tutorial}


For most of my homes over the many years I’ve been a homeowner, I have chosen mostly neutral wall colors. In fact, most of my rooms have been painted a simple white or off white. I felt like the architecture of an old house spoke for itself and color wasn’t really necessary to highlight what was already attractive.

While my new house is a craftsman style and I’m so grateful it has some character, it still doesn’t have the same “chunky feel” or texture as an old house. It has boring ordinary drywall. But even so, I try to stay true to myself and my general sense of what feels like home to me and my husband. So, I want to keep our basic surroundings cozy, neutral and dignified (with a touch of quirky and fun here and there to keep everything from being too serious).

Instead of choosing white for the main rooms this time, I am going with a muted gray with brownish undertones for the walls. That color or a variation of a neutral like it will flow through most of my house. I need to create a new paint colors post with updated paint colors I’m using, so bear with me until I get it done.

So as far the neutrals for my house, white walls alone would have been too bright and not cozy enough for the rooms where I have a lot of large windows. Funny that white walls in this house would have actually felt too bright and contemporary for me and yet in my old house, they were perfectly aged and charming. Hmmmm. What a difference a new house makes!

I am still using white on some walls and on board and batten and trims for contrast and brightness against the gray.

And I’m going to have a couple of rooms with colored walls to keep things unexpected! Note: I’ll be talking about our bright turquoise bathroom hopefully next week. Really. I’ve already taken the photos.

Choosing Paint Colors: How I Find Inspiration for Color Schemes {and a fun quiz!}

Inspiration for color schemes might come from a piece of fabric, a rug or a favorite painting, just about anywhere! I even have a Pinterest board where I’m starting to stockpile color inspiration!

We sometimes live in fear of color and pattern, and end up too safe, boring, predictable and gasp, matchy matchy in our homes.

If you think about it, there are so many color combinations in nature and do you ever think nature doesn’t go together? Of course not! 

I find personally that I’m more drawn to a color scheme that:

1) captures the general mood I’m after in my home

2) reflects the surroundings both outside and inside my home. For my surroundings, I consider things like the part of the country I’m in, the style of home I have, and other permanent things like my wood floors and woodwork. I guess I feel most at home with neutral backdrops and punches of color as my whims dictate.

Speaking of my part of the country, there are a couple of other NW bloggers that have some pleasant neutral color schemes for their walls if you are interested! Janelle from Isabella & Max (I linked you to a post about her favorite room, her bathroom) and Emily from Jones Design Studio (that link will take you to a post about her kitchen). Both of them use some dark wall gray walls too, but do it well as you’ll see if you poke around their homes! I recently asked Emily about her color scheme and thought you might enjoy her explanation (used with her permission, of course):

“First, I just love neutrals. They are calming, easy on the eyes and neutral – which means you can be fickle about changing accessories and still have them look good. Our walls and major furnishings are all shades of white, gray or black and I like being able to add red at christmastime, green in the spring or yellow in the summer in the form of pillows, books and flowers and still have everything look cohesive. Because it can get gray and dreary in the NW, we have lots of white to keep things bright.”

I agree with Emily! With mostly neutrals, you can go crazy with color any time you want to without so much restraint!

I always love a good design quiz, and this one (see below) from My Colortopia (the awesome new site I write for!) is pretty fun.  You can also find the quiz on My Colortopia.

If you answer the questions in the box below, it will give you a custom color palette you might like!  You might have to click over if you are reading this in an email or reader. Try it out, I think mine was pretty accurate and even gave me a couple of ideas for accent colors and perhaps an entire palette I might use for my bedroom! WOO HOO!


How about you? Did the quiz give you a color scheme you like?

Are you fearless or scared when it comes to choosing colors for your home?

I have partnered with Glidden/ Akzo Nobel Paints for this post and the My Colortopia program but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Lynn from For Love or Funny

    I must admit that choosing paint colors has always flummoxed me. Last time we painted the living room, we enlisted the help of an interior designer, and she did a great job helping us pick colors that would look good in our house.

    • Melissa

      Oh that is a fabulous idea, I bet they are AMAZING colors! I need to come check that out!!

  2. Tabitha (From Single to Marreid)

    I’d like to think I’m pretty fearless but I’m probably really not. I will say that I painted my living room a dark orange and cream our kitchen a deep red. Does that count? Granted I went through about three cans of paint before I could settle on just the ride shade, but still…

  3. Susanne

    Good Morning Melissa. We are painting the kitchen. Woo hoo! After two weeks of living with 8 paint swatches on the wall we have finally narrowed it down to 1 (at this time I have to still add, I think that’s the one). I was so excited to take The Colortopia Quiz, I love any quiz…but anyway, sure enough the color I chose for the kitchen was on the pallet recommended by the creative group at The Colortopia. I am so excited. I feel as if the teacher just said, “Good job!”. The need for approval is a whole different issue that I’m working on…lol. I live in MA just outside of Boston and I love the warm neutrals. The kitchen will be a “coffee regular”. Because the ocean is our favorite place. I can pop it with blue for the sky and not much of the water it can be an icky color and yellow for the sun. I should I ever feel in a formal mood, a deep burgundy looks very elegant. The house is very small the next walls will be more easily decided. As we replace furniture, I think we’ll stick with browns, white, ivory and maybe I can convince someone of a pop of blue tucked just into the right spot. Feeling much better, it’s the approval thing, I can now carry on with my day. May you and yours enjoy the day.

  4. {darlene}

    fun quiz, melissa! love your thoughts here today.

    • Melissa

      Thanks sweet Dar!!! xo

  5. Conspicuous Style

    I Have been pairing all neutrals lately, but I used to use a lot of color. I’ll try anything I guess! Occupational hazard…I want everything. Have a great weekend,

    Ps…couldn’t do the quiz in iPad, but will try on computer!

  6. Helen

    I used Studio Taupe for our living room this past fall and I love it so much. We have an older home and it has very thick wood trim so I was a little afraid to use the Studio Taupe since you have white trim but it turned out great with mustard accents. Now I am needing a color for our kitchen that goes with the Studio Taupe since the kitchen can be seen from the living room. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Melissa

      Oh I bet it is GORGEOUS!!! Are you wanting another gray/taupe? Or a color? You could go really wild and paint your kitchen a shade of yellow to go with your mustard accents!?

      • Helen

        I was thinking gray or something with a gray tone to it. I took the Quiz and it gave me two colors that I thought might go. Icy Teal or Pale Jade. What do you think? I also thought of doing a darker gray/taupe and painting the back door RED (like the picture in the post Mood Swings!) We have white trim and cabinets in the kitchen from when it was remodeled many moons ago. Thanks for your advice. Your blog inspires me everyday!

  7. Jen

    I love nuetrals too, I like to be able to add in fun colors whenever I feel like it. And I love that taking those pops of color away quiets a room or a house. And sometimes I feel the need to do that. I do love colors on the walls too, but I like them to always be calming no matter how bold they are. I live in a 120 year old home, and I really like a little bit of colors on the walls to highlight all the molding.

  8. Jo

    Ooh, I can’t wait to see your turquoise bathroom! I still love my turquoise kitchen, but I’ve recently been thinking I want to neutralise it (either the same beige/tan that’s in the living room, or white.) I love colourful accessories. I want a yellow le creuset kettle.

    • Melissa

      Turquoise is pretty in certain doses, you’ll see how I used it so it wasn’t overpowering to me (at least I don’t think it is!).

      Yes, I would want a yellow kettle too, sounds lovely!

  9. Emily

    Oh, how I love that striped design on your staircase wall. Yummy.

  10. Irma

    I’ve always loved medium tones of color. My living room has been sage green for years. I just can’t pull myself away from it. My kitchen is a sunny but kind of creamy yellow and the tv room is kind of caramel. The only neutral color is a light version of the sage green, in the dining room.
    They say that lighter,neutral walls will make your furniture and trim work stand out therefore making the room look small and choppy. And the biggest room in my house is 11×12 with lots of window and door trim in every room.

  11. Rachel

    I am definitely a neutral girl! Our house that we have been in for 8 months has amazing colors for us! It has a dark beige/light tan in most of the house, a light brown in the kitchen and then one burgundy wall that adds just the right amount of boldness for me.

    Overall I would say the quiz was right up my alley for color :)


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