Even if you can’t paint , how to choose a color scheme for an apartment

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Choosing a color scheme for an apartment can be a daunting task, especially when you’re unable to paint the walls. However, there are several creative ways to infuse color into your living space and create a vibrant atmosphere, even without picking up a paintbrush. When selecting a color scheme, consider starting with a neutral base, such as white or beige, as these shades provide a versatile backdrop for other elements. Next, focus on incorporating color through furniture, textiles, and decorative accents. Choose vibrant and contrasting hues for pillows, throws, rugs, and curtains to add pops of personality and visual interest. Additionally, artwork, wall decals, and removable wallpaper can introduce color and pattern without leaving a lasting mark. By carefully curating a cohesive color palette through these alternative methods, you can transform your apartment into a stylish and inviting space, all without ever lifting a paint can.


When engaging with new clients, Susan Grant, the proprietor, designer, and color expert at Color Envy Design, encounters a recurring issue: clients often commence their projects armed with erroneous color information sourced from the internet. Grant elaborates, “By the time they reach out to me, most of my clients have already committed numerous ‘paint color mistakes.’ The descriptions of colors found online are predominantly subjective opinions, and there is no guarantee that your perception will align with those descriptions.”

This is precisely where Grant’s proficiency proves invaluable. For her, identifying the perfect colors involves an almost scientific approach. Grant asserts, “I adopt a fact-based, data-driven methodology when it comes to paint color, enabling me to truly comprehend the intricacies of how colors interact. Consequently, my clients are relieved of the burden of stress and uncertainty throughout the process.” To cater to individuals seeking accurate information, Grant dedicates a section of her Instagram account to dispelling common color misconceptions prevalent on the internet. By refraining from relying solely on written descriptions and ensuring the veracity of the sources consulted, one can steer clear of ill-informed color choices. Additionally, it should be noted that selecting the wrong color can create an illusion of reduced space within an apartment.


When assisting clients in their color selection process, Grant also considers the impact that each hue and shade can have on their emotions. She emphasizes, “Color undeniably influences mood. It is a deeply personal experience, where the focus lies in how each color evokes emotions within the client, rather than adhering strictly to conventional norms.” Instead of fixating on whether a color scheme is trendy or photogenic, Grant advises exploring physical stores to gauge how different colors affect your mood and bring you joy.

Additionally, take a moment to scroll through your social media feeds or peruse inspiration boards. Pay attention to the color palettes that consistently catch your eye. Grant explains, “Some individuals crave vibrant and visually stimulating colors, while others, like myself, find solace in soft, muted hues for their primary walls.” By recognizing the colors that naturally draw you in, you can develop a better understanding of what to look for in your color choices. If you possess a stylish accent chair, a couch in rich gem tones, or any other eye-catching furniture piece that you adore, it’s worth considering how to incorporate and harmonize those colors within your overall scheme.


For Grant, the initial step in the process involves carefully assessing these existing elements. She advises, “The most valuable advice I can give is to start by narrowing down the color choices for the permanent fixtures in your space, such as flooring, tiles, countertops, and so on. Once you have established these foundational colors, it becomes much easier to select the rest of your color scheme.” Grant further explains, “Clients often share inspiration photos with me, showcasing everything they love and wish to retain in the space.” Taking these preferences into account, she builds upon them, taking note of the existing tones that may need to be incorporated or retained.

In the case of renters, there are limitations to making permanent changes to the space. However, there are temporary solutions that can have a significant impact on the overall ambiance, such as using peel-and-stick wallpapers, changing window treatments, swapping out bedding, or refreshing the decor and throw pillows. While renters may not have control over major aspects like flooring or furnishings, it’s important to avoid drawing attention to elements they didn’t choose. Instead, focusing on finding complementary colors can accentuate the elements they genuinely appreciate. By gathering color samples and introducing them into the space, a strategic plan can be formulated to determine the ideal color tones.


Grant emphasizes the significance of having a well-thought-out plan in the process. She highlights that even if you have a strong affinity for a particular color, it’s essential to refrain from overwhelming the space with it without considering the overall area first. Grant explains, “Just because someone adores sunflower yellow doesn’t necessarily mean they will love it when it dominates the entire space.” When it comes to selecting the ideal color for the walls, it becomes even more crucial to wait until you have established a comprehensive color scheme that you wish to incorporate.

For those who require additional assistance, color consultants like Grant can play a transformative role in your space, helping you avoid costly mistakes. Whether you embark on a personal journey to discover color schemes that resonate with you or seek the guidance of professionals, the key is to find what works harmoniously for both your space and your personal taste. Grant emphasizes, “The most important advice I always impart to my clients is that you must absolutely love it!”

(Image credit: Megan Hamilton / @meganhamilten)

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