Color Quandary


OK, IT’S NOT A LIFE-ALTERING DECISION, but I’m surprisingly perplexed about what to do re the paint color for my bedroom walls. Me, the expert who successfully chose colors sight unseen for the living room and bathroom, below, when my landlords offered to paint any color I wanted before I moved into my new pied-a-terre, a brownstone garden floor-through in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, last month (that’s right, it’s not an apartment, it’s a pied-a-terre, and I’m gonna keep saying it.)


Benjamin Moore’s Dalila in the living room, above, and Ben Moore’s Tropicana Cabana in the bathroom, below


For the bedroom, I had been thinking red/orange, and I’ve now spent about $100 trying 9 samples from 4 different paint companies:

  • Benjamin Moore. I started out with 3 wimpy pale pinks that are definitely not me; moved on to Coral Gables, more assertive but still too pink; then tried Poppy, an overly aggressive red I couldn’t possibly live with on a daily basis.
  • Ralph Lauren. Hot Orange, way too dark; Mesa Sunrise, a maybe.
  • Farrow & Ball. Orangery, which is more like yellow ochre. No.
  • Pratt & Lambert. Pale Carnelian — love it for a chair, not a room.

All this has required several trips to Pintchick, one to deepest Brooklyn (Eastern Paint on Flatbush Avenue is the only Brooklyn store that carries the full line of Ralph Lauren paints), 2 trips into Manhattan (one to Saifee in the East Village which also carries RL, and another to London Paints in Chelsea for the Farrow & Ball).

See what I’m up against in the bedroom, below?


I’ve looked at my sample patches in every kind of natural light from dim to dark (it’s a north-facing bedroom under a deck, above), as well as artificial. Not one of my samples is calling out to me as the right color.

These are among the considerations:

  • I want something to brighten the room and make it less dreary
  • The paint mustn’t be too dark. Not only is the room already dark, it’s unfair to my landlords (as a landlord myself, I’m always pissed when I give people permission to paint whatever color they choose, and they choose deep purple)
  • It has to work with the sunflower yellow living room, as the door between the rooms is almost always open
  • It has to make me happy, lift my spirits, and envelop me with a sense of well-being, constantly

Tall order for a can of paint? Well, yes…hence the quandary.

My friend Debre thinks I should just keep going in this vein, use up all my samples for a kind of crazy quilt effect. No, my dear, I’m not doing that. Meanwhile, time’s a-fleeting. I’m already in the second month of a one-year lease (though I hope to stay much longer).

I’ve got to choose something, and soon. Maybe a nice blue or green?

17 thoughts on “Color Quandary

  1. Living room looks great…enjoy. How about some sort of buttercreme for the bedroom? Do you have suggestions on an interior painter for an old brownstone? We’ve got the tin ceilings with at least twenty layers of paint… Happy New Year! Robin

  2. Poor thing……such a quandry indeed!! I like the middle one in the bottom row of samples. Looks like it will work with your living room without being too dark & is only marginally pastelly. I think Debra’s idea would be fun!! I love the cheery living room! My own bedroom is painted tomato soup, but I have lots of windows & light.

  3. I had a feeling buying all those samples would lead to indecision! But I’m only the copper maven not the paint maven…

  4. I go with buttercream colour (like Devon Cream!)suggestion,and something to reflect wonderful rich pink against it…chair/ rug… it will be like a Hibiscus flower…..

  5. I’d vote for a pale blue. I love yellow/blue combos. a friend who often visits us in the country once told me that our yello/blue bathroom always reminds her of a sunny day…

  6. Hey, all, thanks for commenting – nothing like a paint color quandary to bring commenters out of the woodwork . RKB/Pam, buttercream sounds safe but….boring, god forbid? However, I will give Devon Cream a look. Could be the answer! ML, that middle of the bottom row is the Pale Carnelian (Pratt & Lambert), a great color but dark(er) than it looks in the pic. Copper, left to you, I would paint the room copper… no, pale green, maybe. Fran, thanks for reminding me that blue/yellow is a classic combo. Of course, it would have to be the right blue…back to the paint store…
    P.S. RKB, it’s been so long since I used a “good” painter for an important job that I’ve lost all my contacts. Look on’s forum for up-to-date suggestions. I’m going to do this bedroom wall myself.

  7. I find sometimes it how you work the medium. Right now they are only being considered as large fields of the same color. Laying down some blue painter’s tape at the principle datum lines could give you breaks of white makeing the color panels rather than a whole wash. Extra points for using varying thicknesses
    Lets go ahead and paint the whole whole thing one of your signature bold colors and ease it with one of the wall decales from Blik…yes decals. Some are hoaky-others really elegant, oversized and impactful. Usually as white on a field. They go up easy and down (less, but still manageably)

    CYCLAMEN pattern in white on a blue or the same yellow? The decals are glossy so applying them to a super flat could be a nice textural move.

    The pattern reminds me of the window boxes with elephant ears that sat outside of the turqouise playroom I used to wake up in many years ago!…xR

  8. hey Raf, thanks for the thoughts! The decals idea could work for the wall behind my bed, opposite the window wall, which I was going to keep white to reflect whatever weak rays of sunlight manage to get in. Of course, then I’d have to choose a decal of the hundreds available…
    What’s a datum line?

  9. Datum lines are the (usually horizontal) architectural points in elevation from which elements are aligned , doors windows crowns etc. You can unify a choppy elevation by highlighting the principle datum lines and lets the secondary alignments (or non alignments) fall into color. In the case of your bedroom, I’d hit the top of the door and windows and ignore the bottom of the sills with a continuous stripe of white around the room, interrupting it with vertical lines at the window casings and doors, holding the color within these points. holding the color off of the trim by an inch or two will look clean and sharp. Letting white rest under the window will create three uniform blocks on that elevation (window door window) restful on the eye, paired with three sets of curtains or drapes (merete from Ikea are a great value) could be very vertical and elegant. Allowing a band of white from the top of the casing along the top portion of the room into the ceiling will add light and height to a space…

  10. Is Anonymous shilling for IKEA? Those are interesting ideas though…you really have to know what you’re doing to pull it off. Best to “get a man in” as my mother always said: “Get a MAN in!”. Response: “Ma, I don’t need a man. I’M painting the apartment!”

    I was thinking that a warm but intense yellow might be fine. If you go with blues or greens, it will go with that bluish northern light and end up relaxing…and depressing. The pinky, red, salmony colors may not cut it…will look wan and dull, possibly muddy in daylight.

    Just bite the bullet and go with that bright Giverny yellow (a bit toned down but a real bright yellow nonetheless)…kind of knock-your-socks-off…but think, at night, with low lighting it just won’t be *that* harsh. Daytimes, it will truly glow off the walls.

    Or mix it up and paint that alcove-looking area in a different value or tone.

    Enjoy! And you’re using low V.O.C. paints, no?

    Sorry, but this may be the last time checking in…it’s off to a Jewish Christmas…a series of endless events, family–with the non-Jewish in-laws, eating things that would have the grandparents rolling in their graves and otherwise enjoying the “season” (as jaded as I would like to be!). :-) Happy Holidays and Enjoy!

    I hope you’re in town for this first real flurries…it has been pretty tonight in Fort Greene.

  11. Hi Cara,
    If it’s not too late, I recommend these two websites to assist in your color quandary solution!
    Just a nice visual of the color wheel to get the juices flowing:
    a paint person…
    Thinking something in the pale orange family, like DKC-20 or DKC-32… would love to see this guys shop and samples!
    Best fishes,
    PS- got Zoe all set up with her u/w camera gear!

  12. I should have color quandaries more often – getting a record number of comments! Raf, yes, you came up as anonymous, but I figured it was you. BG, good to hear from you. You realize I already have yellow in the living room (very successful) but wanted something different for the bedroom? Still, you got me thinking – maybe I should consider simply using the same yellow into the bedroom as well… As for “Get a MAN in!”: LOL!! Your mother did have a good point there. Victoria, welcome & thanks for your suggestions. I will check out those two sites. I was leaning toward Ralph Lauren’s Mesa Sunrise, which is a pale orange, so we’re on the same page. Who ever said choosing colors was easy?! (Nobody, far as I know)

  13. I’d pick something to match that red-orange chair in the living room. Doesn’t have to be an exact match, but a shade of it.

    I like Farrow & Ball because the colors look natural and recede. What about their Blazer? If you go to the showroom (they have two in NYC) you can see the actual paint on a board, and the sample pots cost only about $6.

    I am a fan of Benjamin Moore’s Tomato Red but don’t think it would work in here. It’s an accent color for use on one wall. It is exactly the color of Campbell’s tomato soup — the soup itself, not the package color. It’s a slightly orange red. I used it on a kitchen wall once that peeked into a living room, worked great. But it’s too intense for a whole room, particularly a bedroom.

  14. hi Mopar, thanks for weighing in. As it happens, I painted the bedroom the day after Xmas. It is a red-orange (Pratt & Lambert’s Pale Carnelian) and it’s only on two walls. I’m going to do a post about it very soon. I think you’ll approve! Very close to what you were suggesting.

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