You’d think that colorists and paint professionals who spend their days sifting through chips and wheels might have an affinity for every shade under the sun. But you’d be dead wrong! Alas, the general consensus is that a few colors just don’t play nice in any room, in any home, period.
“Not every paint color works where you want it to, especially when it comes to the bold and bright ones that live at the bottom of color cards,” says Dee Schlotter, senior color marketing manager at PPG.
Even some of the more subtle shades—like in the white family—can give the experts pause, particularly in the wrong lighting.
“Proper lighting is important because when it’s off, whites can come across as dingy or gray,” she adds.
So if you’re really in love with that tangerine paint, go for it. It’s your house, after all! But if you’re working with a paint pro at the home store or an interior designer, let the expert lead the way when it comes to certain paint shades—like the following.
1. Light green
“As someone who employs a ton of thoughtful colors into all of my projects, there are very few that I truly dislike, because it’s all about context. But there are a couple that I have a strong aversion to—and one is celery green,” says Liz Caan, a Boston-based interior designer.
The reason? “It lacks visceral warmth and doesn’t sit well in any space,” says Caan. Celery Ice from Benjamin Moore is the worst vegetal version atop Caan’s no-fly list.
2. Garage-floor gray
There’s a reason this bland medium gray should be slapped only onto prison walls and your outdoor shed.
“It’s feels so cold and institutional,” laments Caan.
Word to the wise: Skip Anonymous by Behr and anything that comes close, and your rooms will thank you.
3. Bright orange
You want to live on the edge, so you grab orange paint. But don’t pick this hue if you’re hoping for quiet ambiance.
“The PPG color Orange Poppy isn’t the best option in a bedroom or space where you’re looking for a sense of tranquility,” says Schlotter. Save this shade for an accent wall or kid’s playroom, where it’ll evoke a sense of energy.
It’s a classic that’s been covering walls forever—but some decor pros believe it’s time to put it out to pasture. Yup, we’re looking at you, Navajo White.
“It’s a warm off-white that’s been around for decades, but the variety of neutrals has expanded so much in recent years and now includes soft pinks, sage-greens, and gray-blues, so it would be great to push the palette a bit for those still stuck on Navajo White,” says Sara McLean, color expert and stylist at Dunn-Edwards Paints.
For folks who can’t leave off-white in the dustbin, McLean suggests newer options like Pueblo White or Gunnysack.
5. Vivid yellow
Small doses, please, urge the pros when it comes to acidic shades like this type of yellow.
“PPG Crushed Pineapple is best on an interior door or a picture frame, as this vivid shade can expand when it hits the wall and then easily overpower a space,” offers Schlotter. But yellow just might be your jam—and if this is the case, opt for a softer, lighter version at the top of the color card.
“You’ll often achieve the look you’re going for,” she adds.
6. Flesh tones
Debra Kling, a color consultant, wishes the whole spectrum of “CoverGirl” colors would disappear.
“These midsaturation pinky beiges and flesh-tone shades belong in liquid makeup bottles, not on your walls,” she points out. The varying amounts of brown, pink, and yellow that they contain make for muddy, unattractive paint. There, we said it.
7. Neon anything
Your teen may think she’s dying for a hot pink and lime-green room, but it’s a headache in the making.
“Neon colors are just too electric for any interior design use—because no one needs fire-engine red or yellows that are more blinding than the sun,” says Kling.
In fact, neons tend to confuse consumers who are looking for a bright pop of color, say, on a bold front door.
“Other sufficiently intense colors pale by comparison, and I think neons should be eliminated from paint company fan decks altogether,” she adds.
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