There are few things more permanent than a room color. You can rearrange your furniture, swap out pillows and tchotchkes — but changing the paint? That requires swatches. Equipment. Dropcloths. It's a commitment. Thankfully, it also happens to be Shannon Kaye's area of expertise, and arguably her favorite part about interior design. For Kaye, the hunt for the perfect hue is about communication: What does a room's color say to you (and anyone else who walks in it)? How does it make you feel? Below, some of her best tips, tricks and rules for picking the right color for any space.


1. Don’t fight the space with color.

Focus on bringing out the best features or items in the room. For example, if a room is dark and small, don’t try to make it big and sunny. Instead, fill the walls with gorgeous saturated color that looks amazing in whatever light you have, and then fill the room with things you love.

2. Use color to enhance the features you love.

A spiral staircase, your most beloved piece of art, the patina of the hardwood floor: Find a color that makes your favorite elements of a room pop. Making the room look good, instead of focusing on making it feel bigger, sunnier or more elegant, will pull you in to spend more time there.

KM5036 For Love of the Hue, KM5-67 Evening Hush. Courtesy of Kelly-Moore Paints

3. Create a mood.

Look for colors that help you feel the way you want the room to be expressed. If you work from home and need to be organized and focused, choose a color that does that for you (hint: peachy orange and cedar green are both reliable options). However you want to feel in a room, choose a color palette that helps you feel that way whenever you cross the threshold.

4. Remember: Colors define colors.

It’s hard to describe a color without hinting at another one. A yellow might look lemony on the swatch but more buttery once it's on your walls with your particular curtains and rug. It’s important to choose the color based what you’re putting inside the space. No color exists in a vacuum.

KM5309 Squash Blossom, KMW57 Cloud White. Courtesy of Kelly-Moore Paints

5. Use color to direct your eyes around a room.

If the walls and ceilings are the same color, then your eyes won’t go to the corners of the room as much. That said, painting the baseboards to match your walls can help make the walls look taller and the room more streamlined and organized.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try color!

If you gravitate toward warm colors, great. If you tend to prefer cooler colors, awesome. And if you really want to experiment with shimmery black paint, live your dream. Don’t worry about matching everything; don’t obsess over the latest trend. Instead, focus on your favorite things in your home and look for the wall colors to accentuate them.

KM5203 Wake me Up, KM5055 Cabana Bay, KM5038 For Love of the Hue. Courtesy of Kelly-Moore Paints

To learn more about Shannon Kaye, or if you’re interested in her consulting services and occasional color workshops, visit her website. Shannon also makes art prints, pillows and other design accessories, and updates vintage furniture with modern colors and patterns.

By Mike Weiss

San Francisco-based marketer Mike Weiss has an undying love for sports, film photography and anything with gin. He's a firm believer that the West Coast is the best coast. Find him on Twitter @mikeini.