Do you know the one element of design I lose the most sleep over?

It is the “C” word.  COLOR. The greatest (and simplest) emotional trigger behind every design.

When color selection is done well, you may not even notice it. Instead, you’ll recognize how it makes you feel: relaxed, energetic, playful. Conversely, when color is done poorly, you may not be able to put your finger on what you don’t like about the space, but you’ll know exactly how it makes you feel: anxious, irritable, depressed.

Have you ever looked through paint colors and thought you found the PERFECT color, only to apply it to the wall and realize you are staring at unsightly, medicinal, hot pink walls?  Not what you intended, huh?  It’s happened to all of us.  In fact, I figured out my “Gray It Down” color theory by making a hot pink mistake of my own once.  But no more!

Here’s my theory and few more tips to help you feel your absolute best about color selection:


It’s important to keep in mind that paint looks much darker on an interior wall; therefore, when you’re at the paint store or looking through a color fan deck and you see the color you like, look at that color and then “gray it down.”

Gray it down?  What does that mean?

Look for that same color but with a more gray (muted) tone to it and then go one shade lighter than your selection. Once on the wall, it will be what you envisioned originally.


Picking a color for an exterior wall?  Exterior colors appear lighter than they do on the paper swatch. If you are trying to select a color for the outside of a home or building, don’t be afraid to find a favorite color you love on a building, then walk right up to it with your paint swatches (or your favorite paint APP) and get a match.  Don’t just guess.  It’s just too risky!


Purchase a quart or sample of the paint colors you think you like. Test them on the wall and live with them for a couple days. How do they look during the day vs. at night?  Also, how do they make you feel?  You might be surprised by the results. Color rarely works when you just randomly select a color you love.


When using color, make a connection with something else in the space. Perhaps a beautiful color could be pulled from your favorite piece of art, an accent pillow or rug you can’t live without. You can also draw connections from nature and your surroundings.


Start looking at color in every space.  When you are in a restaurant, a hotel, an office or a friend’s house, stop and think about how you feel.  If you feel really good, look around. Notice the colors.  They definitely play a part in how you are feeling.

These tips should have you feeling your best in your environment by helping you better choose the right colors that stir and move you to a positive mood.

So, where do professional interior designers go for color inspiration? 

JAI looks to Sherwin Williams. In fact, we just attended Colormix 2017: Sherwin Williams Color Forecast event. Their brand is a household name, but it is also a very relevant source for finding current, classic and cultural palettes backed by an enormous amount of research and resources.