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It seems like paint should be easy enough to select. After all, it is the easiest, least expensive and most transformative of my “49 Fast Fixes” that I use often. But choosing the right colors often is one of the most frustrating and challenging elements of any project. I spend days and sometimes even weeks working on color. After all, there are hundreds of shades of white and just as many for gray.

Why is color so tricky? Lighting, room décor, another color, and exterior views all affect the outcome. A single paint color might look different in every room. What to do?

I have done, undone, redone, and recycled more homes than I can count. I’ve tackled color over and over and know how wrong it can go. Here is how I do it:

First, give yourself time, and plenty of it. I may spend weeks deciding on paint colors. I want to live with it before I commit. Do not try to do this in a day. Paint needs time to dry and when it does, it changes again! When you give yourself time, you have the luxury of changing your mind. Don’t pick the “color of the year” unless you are prepared to repaint sooner rather than later. Trends change and after the entire world has used that color, you will tire of it quickly.

If you are prepping to sell, use one wall color on large walls throughout. If you have old pine wood trim and baseboard, paint it all. I know that sounds shocking, but it will update your look dramatically. You may choose a colored wall and almost black trim, or a colored wall with crisp white trim.

Start by standing in the main living space and look outside. What colors are you seeing? If you have a view, pay attention to the colors in the landscape before you. Don’t fight them. Connect them. Wall color that expands space should direct your eye from inside to outside and blend into your view. Save dramatic wall colors for spaces like powder rooms or a dining room wall.

Research colors online, and then buy real paint samples of what you think might work for both interior and exterior applications. A paint chip just won’t hack it. For example, “Dove Gray” turns yellow. “Swiss Coffee” actually has brown in it just like the name, but both are shades of white. Get samples of colors you like. Investing in small samples will save you time and money disasters later. Paint large square samples around the room. Look at the colors from different angles and at different times of day.

I promise, the same color looks completely different depending on the lighting in each room and certainly the time of day. Paint a corner wall next to existing woodwork to see if you like it and can get away without painting the trim.

I am loving Sherwin-Williams’ Repose Gray for my walls in a few of my current projects. It is quite soft, and everything looks good against it. Not too dark, not too light, not blue, not yellow, just soft and nice. I always replace uninteresting baseboards and door casing with very wide trim which I then paint a very crisp white called “Snowbound.”

Another favorite is a rich, dark almost-black called “Wrought Iron” for exterior trim against barn wood, or a dark-bodied siding. I also like “Iron Ore,” another great shade of black that is a little less blue.

Even if you’re not selling your house, it is summer and a good time for a home refresh. Time to call the painter!

Ann Abernethy is a broker associate with Slifer Smith & Frampton. Find Ann’s Fast Fixes at and check out her podcast: “Beyond BadAss: How fierce women get it done!”

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