Choosing a Paint Color :: The Art of Elimination

Disclaimer: every camera and computer monitor reads slightly different colors, the time of day, weather, flooring and lots of other things can affect how a color looks –if you think you like this color, try a sample in your own home first knowing that colors react differently on every wall in every house.

We have a new color on our walls.  We started out going for a super light neutral and Layla suggested Rice Grain by Sherwin Williams.  I have a confession, I’ve never used a super light color on my walls. When I sat that white chair in front of the walls it turned invisible against super light color. Since we’ve decided to slipcover our sofa, I feel like having super light walls makes the room look weak and kind of feminine.  But it’s still a beautiful color.

Here’s Rice Grain on the walls.   I had it mixed at Lowe’s and it turned out a minty green, I have a feeling if I would have gone to Sherwin Williams  and had it mixed there, it would have a little more brown in it. Once we decided this color wasn’t going to work for us, I had to face the daunting task of finding a color that would work.

Dear me,
Please at least hide the laundry and move the stray cushion before you take a photo.
–Love, future, adult me

The first step is eliminating colors.  I like to start with that because it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.  We are renting so I wanted a neutral.  I wanted the lightest neutral without it being too light.  So I stared light and worked my way dark.  So, all colors but neutral tans were out~what a relief.

We also have an 8×10 rug that we will continue to use in this room.  Rugs are one of the most expensive items in lots of homes and to replace this big rug would mean an extra expense, besides, I like the rug.  However, the colors in the rug greatly dictate the colors I can choose from for the walls.  I’m actually glad I have a jumping off point from the rug.  Otherwise, I’d get overwhelmed with too many choices.  So, since the rug is neutral with slight green undertones {remember, you might not be able to tell the true color online} I wanted to pick a color for the walls with a green undertone.

Now, I’ve eliminated pinky tan neutrals like Macadamia, and yellow tan neutrals like my love, Tobacco Road along with gray tan neutrals like–oops, I forgot, I’ve lost my color wheel someplace in that last week.  Just know, gray tan neutrals were out too–as much as I LOVE them.

Put sample colors on your walls. Believe it or not, I was back to the original Rice Grain family thanks to Layla’s first recommendation and  its green undertone.  I stopped by Sherwin Williams and $10 later I had two pints of Rice Grains darker sisters, Ramie and Favorite Tan. So in the photo above, Rice Grain is painted on the entire wall, behind the left lamp is Favorite Tan, behind the right lamp is Ramie.  Ramie was still too light to have that pop I wanted with white furniture so we went with Favorite Tan from Sherwin Williams.  Since I knew I’d choose a color similar to my samples, I just slapped it up on my walls.  If you are iffy about what family your color will come from, you can paint a poster board and tack that up around the room.

Live with it for at least a day. This is the most difficult part because I want to pick a color NOW.  But, you want to make sure the color doesn’t take on some weird glow at night.  A 24 hour period lets you see the color in different lights.

Here are the three colors side by side.

What’s interesting is in my foyer, Ramie looks really dark.  But in our family room, it looks really light–it all depends on the kind of light your room gets.

My muscular man and I painted the room together the other day, it took us 2 1/2 hours from clean brush to clean brush.  He did the cutting in, I rolled. We were a little afraid the color would make the room dark but since we have so much natural light, it looks great.  I think that’s part of the reason we needed to go with a darker shade to offset our white.

For those of you who are worried that I’m abandoning my colorful roots to go neutral, let me assure you, one of the reasons I’m going neutral on the walls and sofa is so that I can have a blank canvas to change my colors up whenever I want.  This tan wall and white sofa thing will serve as a backdrop to any color I’m in the mood for.  I cannot wait to start mixing it up.

By the way, the color I used in the front room is Sherwin Williams, Comfort Gray #6205.  It’s a beautiful warm blueish gray that looks nice paired with crisp white trim but still holds it’s own next to tans and cremes.

Now that I have our main living space painted with a color we love, I’m using Favorite Tan as a starting point for the rest of the house.  We might use Ramie in the stairwell and foyer–our next painting project.

And because inquiring minds deserve to know, here’s Tobacco Road next to Favorite Tan.  The photo isn’t quite true to life but TR has more of a yellow undertone and FT has a green undertone.

Looking for more advice on choosing a paint color that works for you?  Find out what  Kimba thinks and read the series Holly did about favorite paint colors , AnnNicole just wrote a great post all about Picking a Paint Color You’ll Love , and of course, I love Melissa’s reasons for always wanting lots of color in her world.


  1. It’s crazy…I just posted today about Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray! I LOVE that color and used it in my dining room. I am currently using the left over paint to refinish a dresser. You can check it out here:
    BTW – I really like the color you chose for your living room, it is a very nice tan!

  2. It looks beautiful!

  3. Doing a happy dance cuz I think on your FB page I told you to go with Favorite Tan……. yeah!!!!! Ramie probably is perfect for Layla… but she likes light and you love color. Glad you found something you love. Curious… did you go with flat? I am going to do a post soon about the the pros and cons of flat vs. eggshell vs satin.

  4. Love the new wall color!! We have SW macadamia on our living/dining/hall and I do not see the pinky tone in it that you do, but we did the job in 2006 so they may have done something different. Went into SW once to get some yellow and they gave me two different formulations for the same color. I’m thinking of going to BM next time.

  5. dont you just love the way that a paint color can change a room – it really does set the whole “feeling” of a room – I LOVE that!!

    by the way, i have couple people email me that they found me through you – you posted my laundry room on your nest files today. That is very cool, thanks so much, glad you liked it :) i love my laundry room – still dont like to do laundry in it though ;)

  6. This post could have come at a better time! My husband and I just bought a new house and I am over my head in paint swatches for the living room and hallway. I want a basic tan…not too pink, not too yellow, not too green. .. I can’t find one that is “just right”. However, based on your post and the color name alone; “Perfect Tan” might be a winner!

    I’m going to pick up a sample tomorrow!

  7. I did a double take when I read Rice Grain. I’ve used lots and lots of that for our trim and it’s great. (It would be light for me, too, for walls. Think are shaping up, can’t wait to see what changes you’ll be making.

  8. Isn’t that how it goes? Trial and error….oh those evil little twins.

    Thanks for the mention, your LR looks great!

  9. I am kicking myself and have been for over a year… I chose Favorite Tan for our basement, then after the 1st coat I thought it looked too green, and I made our painters switch to Universal khaki. WRONG decision… Universal Khaki is much more bland and gray. The Favorite Tan looked very green against the white floor drops they had everywhere, but once they pulled them and our pine floors were exposed, it wouldn’t have looked so green. I no wish i had gone with Favorite Tan, as I want something darker/richer down there.

  10. i like the favorite tan. I had Brittany Beige from Kelly Moore in my whole house, Got sick of it. It is a weird color that sometimes looks fleshy and sometimes looks grey. I changed my bedroom to adobe white on the walls and bone on the ceiling. I went round and round on paint chips from all the paint makers I could find, and I picked two shades of white. Go figure.

    I broke out a little in my guest room , though and picked Eddie Bauer Linen for that room.

    I’m needing help picking art for my walls in my bedroom if you care to come look and voice your opinion. I would love to have yours!

  11. I like the idea of eliminating what you know you don’t want in order to find what you do! I am working on that in my bedroom. I want a color that goes with two comforters/bedspreads I already have. The obvious choice is a deep, dark red. Which I don’t want. I don’t mind red rooms in other people’s houses, but the thought of my bedroom red makes me cringe. So red is out. Browns, golds, yellows, tans and pink are left in the comforters. No pink – too girly, no brown – my personal preference, no yellow – kitchen is yellow, so that leaves golds (but not too yellowy or orange-y) or tans. Which still leaves about a million shades, hues and undertones, but only in one color family! Which I am narrowing down, slowly, which is also how I will remove the wallpaper so it’s all good.

  12. love the rice grain. a few pics do look sort of like your tobacco road, but I can realy see where you are going with this… lovin the white seat!

  13. Jennifer Phipps says

    It’s perfect! There is another Sherwin Williams color that Iove too. I use it when I can’t make up my mind but the room just has to be painted…”Knubby Wool”.
    It is looks like a good old pair of khaki pants.
    It is from one of their really old collections and you have to ask them to dig out the sample for you.
    I love that you always keep changing it up! the new Shutter color really changed the whole effect too, and it’s great!

  14. LOVE this post! Will soon be searching for the perfect color for my foyer… after I learned the hard way that paint chips truly truly are NOT the way to go….

  15. that is the cutest slipcovered chair ever! and against the Fav Tan, it really pops! See ya soon! i’m glad that i’m not the only one who will re-paint a room right after i’ve already painted it and then do it again!

  16. I just can’t do light colors. I am not a beige girl but I do love all the rooms online that are white or cream. I just can’t do them in my home. I like your color choices alot though.

  17. Love the comfort grey with the cremes, whites, and tans.

    I would be afraid to try that color in my living room- but it works for you.
    Maybe I should- heck it’s just paint right?

  18. I really, really like the darker color on your walls. And I have to confess this makes me feel a little better about the fact that I spent most of last summer painting and then re-painting my downstairs rooms because I failed at getting the right colors the first time I painted. I too, went with light shades and ended up with white-ish walls. I hated it. Instead of using neutrals like you did, I ended up using bright colors for each room and it really works for us.
    I can’t wait to see your finished room. Your white furniture will look really great against your new walls.

  19. I LOVE your paint color! I just love that chair you slipcovered!
    I have painted and repainted my walls to find the right color. I need to follow your tips next time! Thank you for sharing all the great tips!
    Take CAre,

  20. We have both Ramie (LR- and wish I had gone darker) and Favorite Tan (entry and hallway) in our new home as well and love them both! I have been thinking about Rice Grain for my Master but it too gets lots of sunlight.. thanks for doing the work for me.. after seeing it in your LR, I now know it would be too light!

  21. i really like the look of the new colors!!

  22. We painted almost everything tan when we moved into our new house and it was super hard to chose- I love the process you outlined. I ended up with a custom tan, mixing a bunch of stuff but after I went back in and saw the code it was closest to Sherwin Williams Bittersweet Stem. Not too pink, grey, yellow- just right. I need to get some Tobacco Road to compare! :)

  23. I love the colors you’ve chosen for your house and for your blog! Beautiful work~

  24. Man, that whole time of day thing makes life hard sometimes. The pale yellow in my master bedroom takes on this weird, nauseating greenish color in the evenings and at night. I hate it but with it’s vaulted ceilings, I don’t have the stomach to re-do it. That, or my 3 kids, 2 and under might have something to do with it too…

  25. Jennifer says

    I just painted my bedroom in Rice Grain and I love it! It is so soothing and warm in the bedroom. I did the trim white to lighten it up a bit. I got a lot of compliments on it.

  26. The color looks great with your white slipcovered chair. I’ve lived with white walls for awhile (and I love them) but I also want to get my couches slipcovered. The contrast is so calming and clean looking.

  27. The *vast* majority of my house is painted Favorite Tan! :) I love it more than I can express. It goes with so many different color schemes, since the green undertone is so wonderfully complementary to the entire stinking color wheel! It’s warm and comforting in my blue/green/tan/brown/cream living room, and it’s stable and calming in the kids’ primary hued playroom. It energizing and inspiring in our neutral-loving bedroom and perfectly understated in our hallways and stairwells (creating a great backdrop for the varied smattering of photos and art pieces hung in those places!)

    Oh, how I love Favorite Tan! It’s truly my favorite tan! :)

    • Brayden Christopher says

      Lindsay-your passion and enthusiasm are delightfully contagious! I, too, love Favorite Tan and I’m going to use it my new kitchen. I wasn’t sure if I should bring it into the LR/Dining Area as well, but you’ve made me ask myself ,”Why the heck not?” I will also choose a nice accent color for the fireplace wall. Thanks for helping me decide!!!!

  28. I KNOW you’re so crazy busy, and really need six more arms to keep up with all of the paint and mantles and such … but could you pretty please tell me WHERE you found your rug? And how big it is?

    I’ll be your best friend!?


  29. I loved this post! Picking paint colors is so tough, and it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones who have to re-do rooms. I recently did our dining room Rice Grain, and I have the same feelings that it was too light and somehow unappetizing in the room. I’m thinking I’ll try Macadamia or Favorite Tan instead!

    Also, we painted our master bath Comfort Gray and it’s absolutely perfect. Soothing but refreshing and looks great with white trim. The lighter version, Sea Salt, is really pretty, too. To avoid too much gray/green, we went with a different gray scheme in the bedroom: SW Agreeable Gray and Anew Gray. I highly recommend the Anew Gray family for a neutral, warm gray. Each shade has VERY different tones, but they are all great. Another favorite of ours is SW Grassland– in bright rooms, it’s gorgeous; in dark rooms, it looks brown.

    I hope that’s helpful for others looking for good colors! Now I need help with kitchen colors please… :)

  30. Lauren Bretz says

    Nester, I know this post is totally old, BUT, just wanted you to know that my husband and I painted our bedroom Comfort Gray last week and LOVE it. It is just so wonderful! We painted our living room a color called Shaker Beige by Benjamin Moore. It is my FAVORITE paint color ever, possibly. I used it in our last house and I’m so glad I used it again. Have you ever seen it? I know you’d love it. Blessings!

  31. can you please tell me what color your ceiling is? we are moving into a new home and i am not talented in the realm of choosing paint colors. especially for ceilings.
    thanks in advance

  32. I love love the transformation!
    And thanks to you… we are just about finished painting our whole house in Tobacco Road and Svelte Sage as well. :) Love those two colors.

  33. What color paint did you use for the shutters and tv armoire?


  34. I currently have like 7 different tans on my wall now! The perfect tan is beautiful but in our space it looks WAY green. I don’t know what I’ll end up settling with. Who knew picking a tan could be so hard?

  35. Hi! I love your website! I also was wondering where you got your rug? Thanks so much!

  36. Julie Harris says

    Has anyone seen Comfort Gray on the exterior of a house? We have bought a house built in 1902 that is somewhat of a Craftsmand style house with a wraparound porch. We are in the process of renovating it. I usually like neutrals and earthtones for but wanted a splash of color for this historic house. All the homes around us are in the white and taupe family, including our current resident that is 2 houses down from the renovation painted BM Bershire Beige (25% darker).
    Any suggestions?

  37. Sandra, Where did you get YOUR Tobacco Road from?

  38. You’re on Apartment Therapy Re-Nest!!!

  39. I love your laundry. And your cushion.

    You rock.

  40. Jennifer Tate says

    I have an olive green sofa and am looking to paint a neutral color with a hint of green, but not too tan, I have SW Latte in my adjoining dining room; I do not want them to look alike. I am debating on using either Avenue Tan or Grassland? After reading this post I am going to consider favorite tan as well. Thoughts or suggestions welcomed!

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  44. Pull a color out of something else that is going to be in the room such as the chosen fabrics. Narrow down two or three and purchase a quart of each to paint sample boards (while no one wants to buy paint they won’t use, this can keep you from buying gallons of the wrong color)

  45. Thank you for posting such great info and tips! Currently, my walls are sherwin Williams blonde and all of my trim is white. Any tips or suggestions in colors for interior trim colors that would pair well with the blonde?

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