How to Work with Bold Paint Colors

Arm yourself with painting tips from an interior designer so you can tackle future painting projects with confidence.

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Pennsylvania interior decorator and designer Kimberly Smith-Johnson loves using bold paint colors in her home, and she is blessed that her husband, Ben, loves painting and decorating just as much as she does. “I’m very much for color. You’d be amazed just changing either one wall color or the whole entire room, how it can give a whole different feel and look to the home. And it’s the cheapest thing to do.” She offers these four key tips when starting a painting project:

1. Work in order. She prefers to gather decor for a room, planning it out, and then painting to coordinate. But, she has worked in the opposite fashion, painting a room first and then shopping for coordinating items.

2. Strike a balance. There’s nothing wrong with using neutrals on some walls to balance other walls painted a bright shade. Perhaps paint one wall of a room and make it a focal point. “I’m really big on having one wall in the room as your accent wall,” she says.

3. Test it out. Kimberly suggests painting an entire wall as a test before committing to the paint color. In her home, a guest room in a rich shade of yellow took three tries to get right, and a burgundy living room was off the mark at first, too. The wall material, the light, and the depth of the hue itself all come into play. “Paint’s tricky,” she says. “Sometimes that swatch they give you—once it’s on a big wall, it doesn’t match that color 100 percent.”

4. Let a trusted person help. It can be difficult for Kimberly to gently steer some clients away from colors they have fallen in love with. One client could not be convinced her chosen color was too loud until she saw it on the wall for herself. “She had to see it. And it did not work,” Kim recalls. The room had to be repainted. Conversely, it can take encouragement from a professional or trusted friend to consider brighter hues. “Not everybody trusts themselves when picking out those colors,” she adds.

To read more of Kimberly’s inspiring decorating ideas and get a peek inside her lovely home, see “Parade of Color” in the July 2021 issue, available for purchase here.