Paint is the least expensive way to transform a room yet it can be one of the most challenging things to select.

How many times have you picked a color off of a 2”x2” paper swatch only to find out it is certainly NOT what you thought it’d look like? So then you go back to the paint store to pick another one… and again… and again.

Yeah, we’ve been there too!

Even as a design professional, paint can be challenging and complex. Through a lot of trial and error, I found quickly what worked and what didn’t work when it came to certain paint colors.

I built upon that knowledge by earning my True Color Expert certification through Maria Killam’s course.

Will you be an expert after this blog post? No way jose. It takes lots of practice (and mistakes) to become an expert! What I will share with you are my tips and tricks on how to even start the process of picking a paint color.



Before you can pick the perfect color, you’ll need to know some basics when it comes to color:

Light Reflectance Value (LRV)

  • Knowing the LRV of a paint color is very important during the selection process. LRV refers to the percentage of light a paint color reflects. The higher the number, the lighter it is.
  • Most white paint colors will start at a 80 LRV and go up from there
  • If you have a lack of natural lighting in your room, you’ll want to go with a color that has a higher LRV

Artificial lighting:

  • We’ve all seen those super blue tinged LED lights and how they can totally throw a color off. To prevent this, you’ll want to change your lighting temperature to 2700-3000K. Some recessed cans have an option to adjust the temperature, so keep an eye out for those.

The Color Wheel:

We all remember this from grade school, right?? A quick reminder that the three primary colors are: red, yellow and blue. These colors are purest in form and by combining these colors, you create the secondary and tertiary colors. Secondary colors include: violet, orange and green. Tertiary colors include: blue violet, red orange, yellow orange, red violet, blue green, yellow green.

We categorize paint undertones into two categories: warm and cool tones. A warm white is a white that has a yellow undertone. A cool white is a white that has a blue undertone. Every neutral color has an undertone. Understanding this will help you make decisions quickly when you are comparing different colors together in a room.

Let’s look at this principle in real life situations. Here are two examples of “white” kitchens with two totally different colors and feels. Yes, they are both “white” but here are the differences:

An example of a white with a warm undertone:

This is from our Cuyama beach house project. The cabinetry color is Simply White by Benjamin Moore. It’s one of my favorite whites (see our other white favorites here)

Why did we pick this white out of the bajliion other whites?

Well, the floors here are very warm, meaning they have a very yellow undertone. A white with a blue undertone would have totally clashed. Sometimes white that has a blue undertone looks like primer – no bueno.

OK, what about a white with a blue undertone? Here is a good example:

This is from a Honeycomb Cabinetry project. The paint color on the cabinetry is Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore.

Why did we go with a cool tone here? Well, the island is a navy blue, the flooring has a cooler undertone and the ceilings were a bright white. If we had done a warm white here, it would have totally clashed.

Even though we’ve done this exercise with whites, you can apply this principle towards any color in the fan deck – cool vs. warm undertone.

Now to understand how to select a paint color for a room:

  • First, identify which items are fixed and which items are moveable. (i.e. your kitchen cabinets, flooring, countertops etc.. are fixed. Your barstools, area rugs and drapery panels are moveable) This is really important to consider first because the fixed elements will set the starting point.
  • Are those fixed elements collectively cool or warm tones?
    • HINT: Flooring is really the biggest tell-all when it comes to color. Many homes we’re starting to remodel are still in the “tuscan” phase where the flooring is tumbled Noce travertine. Noce Travertine naturally has a warm undertone to it. Pairing this warm flooring with a cool gray paint color would be a huge no-no. An example of this travertine is below:

Ok, so what color WOULD work well with this? Well you’d want a color that would complement the warm undertones of the flooring.

I’ve used Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige in the past and it has worked out great because it’s a beige that has a warm undertone to it.

  • Now what about a flooring with a cool or gray undertone? Let’s check it out.

These are examples from our Hurley Ranch project.

The flooring is a dark brown with gray accents throughout. While brown is considered a warm color, the gray undertones in the flooring are pretty pronounced.

So, we kept the walls a bright true white, like Chantilly Lace, and also kept the furniture with cooler tones with blue accents. You can also see that our accent color in the Dining room is a bright blue. No yellow tones for these walls!

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the difference between a cool color and a warm color.
  • Identify which items in your room are fixed and which are moveable.
  • Complement the fixed items with their corresponding color temperature.
  • Decor can go a long way. If you’re still not loving the paint color you selected, pull out some complementary colors with your area rugs, pillows, and artwork. You’ll be amazing at how quickly that can make a difference.

Be sure to check out our previous blog posts about our favorite white colors from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore.

It takes some practice but understanding undertones and how to select a paint color for your room can be achieved!

And if you are still running into issues – we are here to help!

Contact us to book your paint consultation!


Our home was originally built in the 60s and had already been through a remodel in the 80s. It had good bones but they were hard to see under the later revisions. Ariana’s team went straight to the elements that needed to be preserved and highlighted them. The kitchen/dining room has been opened up amazingly and we’re very happy with it. In addition to the design efforts, we really value the 3-D renderings. It makes it much easier to talk with tradespeople about what we want to be done and how, and prevents miscommunications. Five stars for the Honeycomb team!


805 . 202 . 8269


132 W. Branch Street
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

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