If a home is a family’s castle, then the color of the interior defines their lifestyle. While each person has individual preferences about where they land on the color wheel, some general suggestions will help them avoid making a dizzying decision about which colors to paint walls within their home.
The biggest decision involves whether a person plans to live in their home for many years or put it on the market. If they plan to stay, the dark, neon and fluorescent, loud and bold, or pastel coats they love will bring them a lot of pleasure. If they plan to move, however, some of these areas may benefit from a more neutral refresh.
Colors to Avoid or Use Sparingly When Painting Your Home’s Interior Walls
Below are 15 of the worst colors to paint walls in your home. Some apply to particular rooms, while others should be avoided – or used only sparingly – anywhere in the house. The last color mentioned usually falls in the category of “avoid at all costs.”
RGB 0, 0, 0
CMYK 0, 0, 0, 100
Black creates an intense feeling. Used on a single wall or in companionship with other colors, it serves as a valuable accent color. However, the very intensity that black adds to a room makes it a less-than-perfect tint for bedrooms. Although darker tones work well in bedrooms, an all-black room may create an intense feeling that could promote sadness or enhance symptoms of depression.
Many designers recommend not using black anywhere in the bedroom, asserting that even a few black accents may symbolize or perpetuate negative feelings such as anger, sadness, and fear. Used sparingly elsewhere to create a calming effect, black in the bedroom may take people onto a dark, unfortunate trajectory.
2. Bright Yellow
RGB 255, 255, 0
CMYK 0, 0, 100, 0
Best used intermittently as an accent, bright yellow on a larger canvas creates a sense of anxiety, distraction, and movement. While it may work on a wall in an exercise room or as a door accent, bright yellow in large doses will intoxicate, overexcite, and overwhelm. Bright yellow shines with optimism, but in large doses, it becomes a risky and tricky color to balance with other colors and contours in a room. To a prospective buyer, an empty room shining with bright yellow may leave them with more of a headache than a heartfelt adoration for the home.
Keep bright yellow out of the kitchen, living room, and bedroom. Bright yellow or a marigold mix of orange and yellow hues will lower home resale value if it predominates in a kitchen, regardless of the cabinet colors. For someone who wants to relax in their living room, seeing a bright or blazing yellow wall will excite, energize, and overpower them as if they are sweating under the sun. Though an intense yellow will wake someone in the morning, it does little to help a person unwind in the evening.
When choosing yellow as an interior color, the hue matters. Bright, blazing yellows have a limited role best applied to places where activity is common – except kitchens – such as accents in a home office to energize thought patterns. Rather than an aggressively bright yellow, consider softer shades such as a butter yellow or perhaps pale ochre.
RGB 99, 50, 0
CMYK 0, 49, 100, 61
Basic brown works on clothes, makeup, and in wood tones, but an entire room with this drab tone would have an effect similar to painting all of the exterior walls in the same way. While some beige or chocolate browns and taupe tones make great wall colors, basic brown is best applied to interior spaces as an accent color rather than the primary palette. Although some brown hues add a perfect tone in the living room, darker brown walls may give a crushing feeling in smaller spaces.
Basic and dark brown tones give a room a very heavy, almost restless, feeling. With brown more so than many other colors, a slight difference in shading may have a great difference in effect between creating a soothing space and one that depresses, dulls, and constrains. Focus on a beige or brown shade that gives a sense of warmth rather than dreariness.
Dark browns do not belong in the bedroom as a predominant color, especially if your dresser and other large furnishings in this room have wooden tones. Similar to orange, purple, and red, dark brown walls in a bedroom do not promote restful sleep. They leave one depressed and dreary, not relaxed and rested.
4. Builder’s Beige
RGB 239, 232, 200
CMYK 0, 3, 16, 6
Rather than an exact tint, builder’s beige refers to a generic beige color that is often applied to walls on a new home. Within a subdivision designed by a single developer, this neutral color may be used in many if not all of the structures as a money-saving measure. Not really white but often light in color, builder’s beige offers a relatively inexpensive, flat, neutral color meant to appeal to a generic, run-of-the-mill homebuyer. Unfortunately, most builders neglect to understand that individuals are not generic or cookie-cutter in their personal tastes.
Workers who add paint to residential structure interiors near the end of a construction project have become acclimated to the routine. In one home after another, they apply the same hue of builder’s beige in an almost mechanistic fashion. With its lower quality, evidence of touch-ups is often visible in areas where people have touched the walls before the new owner takes occupancy. Applying a couple of coats over the builder’s beige should ensure that a new color replaces this boring, uncontroversial but equally uninspiring color.
5. Burnt Umber
RGB 138, 51, 36
CMYK 0, 63, 74, 46
This dark color combines some of the negative effects of brown, orange, and red. Sometimes confused with burnt sienna, this color loses some of the soothing characteristics of its similarly-colored cousins because people who notice the subtle red tones may experience more anger or anxiety.
In smaller rooms, burnt umber may create a compressing, constraining feeling, but it does work in small doses to add an accent to particular spaces. However, areas painted in burnt umber will have more of a darker, tightening effect than maroon or burgundy.
RGB 128, 128, 128
CMYK 0, 0, 0, 50
Gray works in many interior settings, but should be used with caution in certain rooms. Lighter grays offer great accents in many rooms, but darker gray and slate-like tones may have an adverse effect on home values if they tend to dominate in places such as the living room, dining room, and kitchen, because some may perceive their pronounced presence as a sign of inhospitality, or create feelings of loss or depression.
When considering color designs in the kitchen and dining room, refrain from using darker shades of gray as the primary color. A kitchen with dark gray tones may give an unwelcoming impression in a space where people usually enjoy gathering. If dark gray tones cover the walls in these areas, it may produce a dark, glum, uninviting, and inhospitable experience.
Grays may or may not function in the bedroom, depending on the tone. Lighter grays work well in bathrooms and may give great context in a bedroom. However, cool, darker steel grays fail to offer relaxation in a place where people go to sleep and recharge their bodies. While gray accents may work in a home office, using too much of the same tone creates a suppressive, depressing, dull space that gives what should be a warm and productive space the feeling of an office cubicle.
7. Lime Green
RGB 50, 205, 50
CMYK 76, 0, 76, 20
Greens generally work well in any room as long as they are not mixed with brown. While a dark green wall offers a bold statement, lime green retains too much light, giving it a bright reflection that may not make it the right selection.
Different tones of green have applicability throughout a home’s interior, but lime green is usually too bright for a bedroom and too intense for a home office where productivity and concentration are the focus.
RGB 255, 165, 0
CMYK 0, 35, 100, 0
Ripe oranges look inviting hanging from a tree. Bright orange feels over-dramatic in smaller interior spaces. Orange is a mix of red and yellow, which both work well with fast food settings since they are energy-stimulating colors that can inspire hunger. Orange popsicle tints leave a less-than-satisfying taste that will overwhelm a small room, packing too-much “wow” factor for the stomach to handle. Orange accents may strategically work in certain areas, but as an entire wall or room, this color bursts with excitement that may make it best used in an exercise space or children’s play area.
Orange does not work well in bedrooms. Similar to red, the color has an attention-grabbing energy and impact that will keep people awake. Softer shades of orange, closer to peach, may work in some settings, but brighter orange tones better serve other spaces of the home than bedrooms.
RGB 255, 229, 180
CMYK 0, 10, 29, 0
A peachy keen color in the 1960s, peach tones on the walls or tilework within older homes date the structure as quickly as paneling and shag carpet. Peach fuzz works nicely and uplifts as a minor accent but can quickly quash feelings if it boldly occupies an entire wall.
Peach is a challenging color for designers to use in large areas, even those trying to craft a retro vibe. Although a light and vibrant color, this merry hue crashes into a major mood-crusher. Keep peach accents on room items, appliances, and attire rather than entire rooms.
RGB 255, 192, 203
CMYK 0, 25, 20, 0
Pink is a hit-or-miss color. Sometimes found in bathrooms or bedrooms – and less frequently elsewhere – homes with a “pink room” meet the particular tastes of their occupants. Pink works better as a background color or in a more muted form. If too bright, pink gives an overly sweet appearance; if too dark, it feels dirty or muddy.
Parfait and pastel pinks have a purpose if used carefully and strategically. Calm and considered a feminine color, these shades of pink work well as accent colors in some situations. When covering the walls of an entire room, pastel pink may create an oversaturated feel. The dusty pastel composition of parfait pink may look fancy on wardrobes or curtains in fashion magazines, but filling an entire room with this color takes much of the brightness and reminds people of the glazed tiles that filled grandma’s small, utilitarian bathroom in her mid-century home.
RGB 128, 0, 128
CMYK 0, 100, 0, 50
To older generations, Deep Purple and “Purple Haze” had cultural and musical meanings that set a mood and emotion. To most people, regardless of age, purple is a mood-altering color that gives a “dated” look they associate with a darker time in their past. An aubergine or purple tone used sparingly offers a great way to accentuate space. An entire room awash in that tone may leave a person feeling as if eggplants are conspiring against them, joined in concert by the purple people eaters.
Purple triggers energy similar to the way red elicits a reaction and should not cover the walls of a bedroom. Hotel surveys have found that purple walls were not conducive for a restful sleep and even prompted some to experience nightmares, perhaps of those purple people eaters! Purple increases the heart rate and brain activity, making it a better tint to use selectively in an interior playspace, exercise area, or home office. It is best to keep it out of the bedroom, however.
RGB 255, 0, 0
CMYK 0, 100, 100, 0
Even those who consider red to be their favorite color should use it sparingly on interior walls. Similar to the effect this color has when we notice it on road signs or traffic lights, red prompts a visceral response in many of us because of its association with the color of blood and the feeling of danger. Hints of darker red shades may motivate or stimulate in an area such as a home office, but even there, it should have limited use as a color accent rather than the predominant color. Bright red creates an intense feeling in any small space, drawing energetic attention that may overwhelm the observer. Crimson red may excite those trying to relax at the end of the day in a living room.
Refrain from using bright or deep red colors in a bedroom. Except for a small number of people who can handle the intensity, nearly every shade of red creates an aggressive palette that makes it hard to fall asleep in a bedroom. Red coral, with pinkish and neon accents, does nothing to promote rest. Bright red tones make it difficult to unwind, instead setting off alarms, escalating stress, and raising energy levels.
Although red should be used sparingly on interior walls, it may make a great accent on a front door or in targeted areas. Despite its value in these limited areas, a person with red walls – especially in bedrooms – should plan to cover them with a more neutral color before placing a home on the market.
RGB 226, 114, 91
CMYK 0, 50, 60, 11
Terracotta works in many locations and is as common on exterior walls in the American Southwest as the blue skies above. Though less jarring than bright orange, the orange elements within terracotta make it a color that should be used carefully and strategically.
Some people love a muted terracotta shade on a living room wall, while others view it in the same off-putting way as they would view bright red kitchen walls or an orange bedroom.
14. Bright White
RGB 253, 254, 255
CMYK 1, 0, 0, 0
White gives a clean, new, and sparkling appearance. This standard color brings great appeal and value to interior settings. However, if placed in high traffic areas or rooms with lots of activity or youngsters, the stains that easily appear on white walls will bring unwanted attention. Stark white walls may look too sterile and clinical. Although white certainly creates a bright and open feel, in some spaces, it may lead to eye strain and a sense of fatigue. Common in walk-in closets to give a greater sense of space, scuff marks and scratches become immediately obvious when the space is emptied for a home placed on the market.
White does not work in certain places. In very small rooms, a bright white may exaggerate shadows. Home buyers tend to eschew minimalist white bedrooms and bathrooms, preferring off-white or eggshell hues rather than a very bright or glossy white. Tans and beige tones work better in these areas, as well as in home offices, where an overwhelming white hue may create a boring tone rather than one that fosters creativity.
15. Opaque Couché
RGB 74, 65, 42
CMYK 0, 12, 43, 71
Also referred to as Pantone 448 C, the drab color known officially as “opaque couché” has few admirers. It is considered the worst color in the world. When once announced as “olive green,” the Australian Olive Association protested, claiming that this dark and drab brown’s mischaracterization might hurt olive sales. Opaque Couché owes much of its notoriety to Australia, largely due to a 2012 study the government commissioned by the German-based research agency GfK.
Australia sought a new design for tobacco-based product packages to make them unappealing. GfK conducted research and found that the most off-putting, offensive color to regular smokers was Opaque Couché. Called “olive green” at the time, the shade’s distasteful palette may have a positive effect by curbing smoking.
What Are the Best Colors to Paint Your Walls?
Now that you know which colors to avoid, here are some of the best colors to paint the walls in your home:
- Best Colors for Living Rooms
- Best Colors for Dining Rooms
- Best Colors for Bedrooms
- Best Colors for Kitchens
- Best Colors for Bathrooms
- Best Colors for Home Offices
- Best Colors for Kids’ Rooms
- Best Colors for Home Gyms
- Best Colors for Basements
- Best Colors for Laundry Rooms
Lastly, when painting your home, also consider what your house color says about you.