DIY

How to Choose the Wrong Paint Color

April 13, 2023

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So happy to have my sister Andrea Ahedo and our Visual Media Producer/Head Photographer share her recent paint color debacle with us!

One of my toxic traits is buying a gallon of paint without sampling it on the wall and thinking that it’s a flex to do so. I confidently strut into the house with a bucket of paint in each arm, swing them onto the kitchen island, and happily gaze down at that little dab of paint they put on your lid without a worry in the world that it’ll be the perfect match for the room. I love the adrenaline of prying open the lid and seeing if my immediate reaction is regret, which I will surely disguise as curiosity or pure excitement.

Step one of choosing the wrong paint color: buy paint blindly

This is a story about how I painted my dining room on a whim, ended up hating the paint color, and eventually faced the hard truth that the only way to fix it was to repaint. Here’s a look at the room in question.

Before

After

Dining Chairs | Rug | Pedant

When I opened Sherwin William’s “Grays Harbour” this past January, I felt excited and sure. After all, I had scrolled and scoured Pinterest for a total of two days, trying to land on a moody, stormy paint color for our formal dining room. It was a toss-up between the green-gray and blue-gray families.

Ultimately, the cabinet color in this photo had me sold.

Image Source: Studio McGee

Step two: pick a paint color based on an internet picture

Read, “Why paint colors you see online might look different in person.”

The dining room plans were as follows: paint the room ourselves, install picture frame molding, then paint the trim. We outsourced the picture frame molding installation, and our contractor said it would be easier in that order, which I’m still questioning. The first night, I eagerly put on paint-splatted leggings, popped in my AirPods to begin Prince Harry’s Spare, and tackled the never-ending uphill climb of “cutting in.” The entire painting process took two weeks when I thought it may take a weekend. It was meticulous and tiring. I would switch back and forth from roller to brush night after night, getting into every crevice of trim, striving for three even coats of paint on dark walls in a dark room.

Once the picture frame molding was installed and I started painting all the trim, the closer I felt to the point of no return. It took so much time to do just one coat of paint on the freshly installed trim, and it’s definitely going to need two. I think that’s when the first sting of disappointment really started to sink in. My love for the color dwindled as I painted, and I realized that I didn’t love the paint color two-weeks-of-painting worth. Ouch. I carried on, and with every last stroke, I justified my doubts.

Jules Merlot Multi Runner

“I’ll like it more once art is on the wall.”
“Once I choose curtains, the room won’t feel like a cave.”
“It’s okay to have this much blue on our main floor; it’s kind of an unplanned theme.” 

Step three: ignore your doubts

Alas, I persevered and finished what I started. Days after the room was all painted, I had an overnight stay with a friend in picture-perfect Charleston, South Carolina. We walked its storybook streets for two days, and I consumed muted pastels and mid-tones on every corner. Like bad dejavú, I would remember my dark navy dining room at home and feel that sting of regret again.

To numb the pain, I ordered nine different patterns of drapes from my favorite Amazon storefront, “Maison d’ Hermine.” Maybe the answer could be found by mixing in a pattern! It’s really funny now that I think about it. I was so persistent on moving forward because I had already worked so hard on it—not because I liked this dining room paint color. Once I threw in the towel and uttered out loud that the room doesn’t feel the way I hoped it would, I felt immediate relief.

Julie came to drop off Polly for a sleepover, and, knowing she’s painted and repainted rooms before, I confided in her my paint color regrets. We paced our eyes around the room, and to my surprise, she didn’t solve my dilemma by suggesting a new paint color. She leveled with me and said, “Andi, you don’t need to repaint right now. You need a mood board.” She encouraged me to go wild and not be skimpy. To really put every dreamy piece of furniture, art, lighting, and curtains I’d want in this room onto a blank canvas. She granted me permission to dream up what I really want the room to be, and I felt excitement start to creep back in.

Step four: don’t have a “big-picture” plan for the space

And so I did as she said and dreamed up how I want my dining room to look and feel. Oh, and I tested more than a few paint swatches. Yeah, sure, I mourned the hours lost on Grays Harbour, but the only thing to do is pivot and keep moving forward.

Painting the dusty pink swatches directly onto the blue was not giving me any clarity whatsoever. And so I painted a big square with primer and painted even more swatches! My new hobby became staring at the swatches at all times of the day to see how they change. I guess this is what people normally do before deciding on a paint color…

My new direction for the dining room is inspired by Mérida, Mexico, and Charleston, South Carolina: two places I never wanted to leave after arriving that felt just like home. In giving myself permission to really visualize and dream, I’ve already learned the pattern I’m always drawn to is called “jungle toile” and that, yes—a pinky beige called “Classic Sand” is exactly what my heart wants on these walls ( and I think ceiling too! )

Dining room mood board (with the new paint color)

Shop The Mood Board

I would love to hire painters this time around because I’m still scarred from painting myself into a cave for countless nights. Plus, I’d love to see what a paint-glob-free room feels like. I have to say, it’s liberating to unapologetically change your mind and go for what you really want—even if what you have is “good enough,” why not go for great? 

I’m not saying this won’t be my last time buying a gallon of paint before testing any swatches, but I did learn a valuable lesson! There are a million ways to go about choosing a paint color, but there are some ways to avoid choosing the wrong one.

Other posts featuring Andi

Solving Andi’s Awkward Living Room Dilemma

Andi’s Story: Selling a House for The First Time

Six Budget-Friendly Things That Completely Transformed Andi’s Kitchen

Andi’s Art Ledges (& Tips For Displaying Family Photos!)

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What do you think?

  1. Julie says:

    The picture of your blue dining room would inspire me to use Grey’s Harbor color, so it’s not all wrong. I love the voice in your writing and it’s so fun to read along and feel the paint pain with you. I currently have Pinky Beige all over my hands as we paint our bathroom today. Leaving us on a cliff hangar, I can’t wait to see the finished room!

  2. REK981 says:

    I do not enjoy painting and lived with paint I hated for many years. Finally spent time picking a color I absolutely loved only to sell that house about a year later. I didn’t love the paint in the new house but wanted to sit and get to know it before choosing new colors. Sold it less than 2 years later having only painted the primary bathroom. I now have paint sitting in the basement waiting for us to start on this house. Maybe I should slap some swatches up on the walls and see…

  3. Michelle says:

    I can definitely relate. Two years ago I decided our bedroom needed updating, painted a bunch of swatches, and hated them all! I couldn’t stomach repainting the old color over the swatches, so I covered them with a large mirror. Solved! Someday I’ll take down the mirror and give it another go. ;)

  4. Jeanna says:

    I loved the blue color! :)

  5. Liz says:

    I love the blue after. Just sayin.

  6. Penrhyn Olsen says:

    Hi Andi!
    I’m enthralled and can’t wait to see the Classic Sand on these walls as well as anything else you’ve decided to change. “Why not go for great”, love this❣️

  7. Cassandra says:

    Honestly, the most tragic part of your painting process was having to listen to the senseless resentments of an English prince.

    • Abby says:

      Bahahahahaha agreed.

    • Steph K says:

      I was thinking the SAME thing 🤣

    • Jessica says:

      Amen. I’d repaint a thousand times before listening to him.

    • Tanya says:

      Haha same as I was thinking! Burying the lead :)
      Seriously though, I did like the blue as well as others here, but know that I find it difficult in the end to live with dark/cave like colors in my rooms. I think they make great pictures for magazines and blogs, and that may be how we get tripped up into using them. I am a light color gal, and at most, mid tone. I’ve heard 62 is the perfect LRV for most rooms (most have average lighting) and if I want color, I don’t usually go much below that.

  8. Kelly Lyden says:

    Love to see the final paint choice in the room. Please post a pic 😊

  9. Johanne Mercier says:

    I love this! I’m still in the, staring at multiple paint swatches on the walls, at various times of day stage 😅 I think for almost 2 years! I just need to paint it

  10. Isela Villalba says:

    I love Andi and everything she shares. She is a really influencer for me.

  11. Lindsey says:

    Great tips! Selecting a color can be so overwhelming! I love how you are not afraid to change things if it doesn’t turn out how you wanted – admitting you don’t love something after working so hard is not easy!!

  12. Christina says:

    This post speaks to me…except I DID do all the right things LOL. I spent months with samples painted on primer and on white boards placed around the room so I could study them in different lights and exposures throughout the day/night. Even after all of that, I am still not 100% happy with the color that I finally chose. I don’t hate it, but it’s not the one. I literally have been saying the same things to myself “maybe I will like it better with art…curtains…etc.” I did pay for someone to paint it and so part of me not wanting to repaint is due to feeling like I just wasted a bunch of money….but I am also trying to tell myself that they already did the hard work of patching and sanding the walls and all I’ll have to do is paint over, so it’s not a total waste of resources. Funny enough, the SW Grays Harbor looks more like the color I was aiming for in my space, so I may have to try out a sample of that!

  13. Betsy says:

    Thank you for sharing and making me feel normal! I once painted my entire house (luckily it was small) before trying out a paint color and hated it for the next two years.. paint regret is real people. I love your tips, honesty and mood board is beautiful! Good luck!

    • Jocelyn says:

      What mood board service do you use or how do you find one?

      • Margaret says:

        If you can do Power Point even a little, you can make a mood board. Just do screen shots of things on the internet that you like, and then drag them over to a blank PP page. Then save it

  14. Nicki says:

    I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Andi for redeeming CLJ for me. I started following with their first house, but at this point their designs and recommendations (while beautiful) are simply not accessible for those of us who are still back here in the middle class. And maybe that doesn’t describe you either, but after a couple years away from the blog I just discovered the post from your kitchen, plus this, and I instantly felt excited and motivated again! Lovely, realistic, yet creative ideas—please keep up the awesome work!

    • Abby says:

      I agree! I’d love to see more projects done at the houses of CLJ employees that are more attainable and DIY than what happens in CLJ’s actual house. I love CLJ but I need more content that’s relevant for typical homes.

    • Julie says:

      Ditto, ha!

    • Taylor says:

      Totally agree!!

    • Julie says:

      I’m right there with you, Nicki! The transformation of CLJ from approachable DIY to nearly 100% outsourced updating/reno/contracting and so on feels disingenuous. They certainly cater to a different crowd now.

      • Tanya says:

        Wow, I am so glad to see these comments! I am finding that with many of the bloggers I followed for a long time. In fact, at least CLJ doesn’t charge for their paint colors and sources now, other bloggers are using private pay accounts so you have to pay to get information about colors and products they used. And agreed, that it feels somewhat disingenuous, as do it yourself bloggers now decorate in this high end way that you wonder if they would if they weren’t catering to a different crowd, perhaps even trying to outdo/keep up with their blogger friends. This post was so relatable, in fact, I am pondering a repaint of my dining room as I read this, and her post motivates me to just go ahead and do it! :)

    • Tara T says:

      Completely agree. I left CLJ for a while, too, because they had become totally unrelatable. Andi is like the Julia of yore. So refreshing!

    • yes i completely agree! my husband and I are working on choosing paint colors and we came to CLJ to look at some rooms for inspiration, but we had to go back years and years to find anything that wasn’t completely opulent. i really love seeing chris and julia enjoying their success — they should! and their home is beautiful! but more stuff like this would be so helpful!

  15. Taylor Gayhart says:

    This post was so great! It’s so fun to hear directly from Andi, as her narrative voice is so different than Julia’s, and it’s great to mix it up sometimes! But also to hear her feelings about the process was wonderful, as I have definitely been there. I’m at the point that I’m ready to paint the whole house and I needed to be reminded to slow down and plan! Lol

  16. Ash C says:

    So basically back to the color she started with?

  17. Sarah says:

    Would love to see the finished room with her favorite color!

    • Andria says:

      Honestly, my favorite discovery via CLJ is Andi herself. There is no one more charming or relatable. Would watch her do literally anything.

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