Painting a room is one of the easiest, most affordable remodeling projects you can do—which is why we selected it as the first subject in our new Home School series. Most painters will want to see your apartment or photos of it before giving you a proper quote. For the sake of this piece we asked a number of professionals what they’d charge for a 12′ x 16′ living room, and the price ranged from $700-$1100, including paint. This is just a ball park figure of course, and the price becomes more cost-effective as you add on rooms to paint.
To find reliable local painters and their pricing, check out The Sweeten. For personal recommendations, search the Brownstoner forum or the countless parent listservs in Brooklyn. (Ask a friend to search theirs if you don’t have kids.)
As for the paint, a professional will almost always advise on and pick up the paint for you. Benjamin Moore is often the brand of choice for quality and ubiquity, but a few other recommended brands include Farrow & Ball, Fine Paints of Europe, Behr, and Restoration Hardware.
Below, our experts gave us their advice on choosing the perfect hue and the best choice for your living room. All recommend sampling potential colors first. Mary Van Vliet of Olive Design offered the most original approach. She paints two coats on 19″ x 28″ sheets of poster board with a small roller, then moves the sample around to see the color in different lighting and areas of the room. (This is also helpful if you’re painting a few rooms a series of colors—you can place the posters side by side to see how they’ll work together.) At the very least, buy color test jars, and paint two coats each around the room.
Our Color Experts:
GV: Gordon Voisey, Artist, Painter and Plasterer (email)
JGS: Jean-Guy Simard, furniture designer and former painter (email)
BL: Stefanie aka “Mrs. Limestone” on the blog, Brooklyn Limestone
MVV: Mary Van Vliet of Olive Design
GE: Greg Evans of Paint Your Apartment
K&D: Kimberlee Paige Hanson and Darren Nathaniel Irving of Interior Bliss Design
How do you go about choosing a paint color?
GV: It’s important to consider the floor or carpet color, the amount of light in the room, and how furniture and art work will mesh with the colors you choose.
JGS: I tell clients to think about what clothing they wear–it’s an easy way to figure out what colors people gravitate toward. Also, it is a good way to think about how colors work together. It’s important for colors to go together and not fight each other.
BL: Sampling is key. The factors you have to pay attention to are: tone, quality of light, floor colors, furniture accents, size/condition of wall. Buy a quart of the color you want to use and paint a giant swatch on the wall before you commit. It won’t give you an exact idea but at least you can make a more informed decision. And if someone tells you ‘Oh you can always repaint,” don’t listen to them! Painting is a ton of work–who wants to do that all over again because of a mistake? A little forethought will save you so much time in the end. Finally, getting some input from a friend (or blog reader) can be a real help. Sometimes being too close to a project can overwhelm–it’s always nice to get a second opinion.
MVV: You need to find a color you love, but also, be aware that the color on the wall will be way different than the color on the handle of your favorite cup that you are trying to match. Always SAMPLE first.
GE: Sometimes you have to go with the colors you can’t quite “see” on a chip and trust that it will resonate and be right once it’s painted. Choose colors that look a little muted on a chip (a muted blue, a muted yellow, etc.) as opposed to picking saturated colors that might end up looking too “kiddie-ish.”
K&D: Color is powerful and it is a gift. Look through magazines and remember that you want to feel inspired in your home. Do you have a favorite restaurant or cafe? What have they done with color that draws you in and keeps you going back?
What color do you suggest for a living room?
GV: The color for the living room would depend on the client furnishings, drapes, flooring and artwork. A color I will often suggest is Benjamin Moore White Dove, a warm off-white, which contrasts well with white trim and doors.
BL: I think the most versatile colors are grayed beiges (also known as greiges) because they seem to work well with both cool and warm tones of light, furniture and accessories. For example, I used Benjamin Moore ‘Silver Fox’ in my own living room and it is a great color if you have the right light and molding.
MVV: There isn’t a cookie-cutter answer, I am afraid. It is a matter of taste and character. Some folks can carry off a cranberry living room, while others live and breathe beige.
GE: Over the years I have painted living rooms in a whole range of colors, but I would say overall the most popular are the neutrals, a.k.a. beiges and taupes. So here are several good choices in my opinion (all by Benjamin Moore): 1. WHITE: Decorators White 2. OFF-WHITE: Navajo White 3. YELLOW: Ivory Tusk, Goldtone, Honeywheat 4. BLUE: Exhale 5. GREEN: Abingdon Putty (really a beige-y green) 6. RED: Pomegranate 7. GRAY: Horizon, Stonington Gray 8. BEIGE/TAUPE: White Sand, Manchester Tan, Ticonderoga Taupe, Alexandria Beige, Barely Beige.
K&D: Color is subjective and very space-specific, but our favorite color palette to pull from is the blue family! There are so many rich and depth-full blues that it is always a winning choice.
If you plan to paint your apartment yourself, read our tips on painting like a pro.