4 Interior Designer-Vetted Tips for Picking Bedroom Paint Colors

Keep it calm and cozy, whatever that means to you.

March 15, 2021
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Even if you don’t necessarily spend a lot of time in your bedroom—and are asleep for most of the time you do spend in there—it’s still worthwhile to make the room beautiful. A well-decorated bedroom will not only bring you joy, but also help you relax and unwind at the end of the day—and wake up on the right side of the bed each morning.

If you’re planning to give your bedroom a lil’ facelift, one of the key decisions you’ll need to make is what color to paint the walls. That’s easier said than done, though, as there are quite literally thousands of hues to choose from—so many, in fact, that you might not know where to start.

While the ultimate choice in selecting that one perfect hue to use in your bedroom is yours to make, we can guide you in the right direction—with a little help from the pros. Two of our favorite interior designers, Julia Goodwin and Kathy Kuo, were kind enough to share some of their go-to tips and tricks for picking the best paint colors, all of which you can use to revamp your sleep space.

Use Soothing Colors—Whatever That Means to You

So what’s the trick to creating a relaxing bedroom? Apparently, this is the question on everyone’s mind. “This is one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by my design clients—a calm and relaxing bedroom is always high on the wish list!” says Goodwin. “To create this atmosphere, I use lighter shades on the walls.”

Many people tend to think cool colors—like blue, green, and purple—are the most soothing, but Goodwin explains warm colors can work too: “Both cool and warm tones can provide a feeling of calm, as long as you’re using a less saturated color.” So instead of a bold, bright orange, it’s better to use a light, muted variation.

Kuo offers similar advice, saying that she likes to opt for natural hues in the bedroom: “I prefer naturals, neutrals, and blues in the bedroom. I tend to think that bedrooms should be relaxing, an oasis for us to unwind, and nature-inspired color schemes are an easy way to add a sense of serenity in any space.”

In particular, Kuo likes to use blue in the bedroom, not only because it’s pretty, but also because of the effect it has on our brains! “Blue is my favorite shade when it comes to adding in a pop of color,” she explains. “For the bedroom in particular, it’s an fantastic choice because it neutralizes melatonin levels, meaning that it’s a refreshing and energizing color when our melatonin is low in the morning, and it becomes a soothing and relaxing color at night when our melatonin is high and we’re trying to fall asleep.” Her go-to blue paints? Farrow & Ball Borrowed Light and Stiffkey Blue.

Consider Your Light Source

Have you ever found a paint color that seemed perfect, but when you put it on the walls, it looked completely different? The lighting in your bedroom can change the appearance of paint quite drastically, which is why interior designers always recommend testing out swatches before you commit to a color.

“You should consider the size of the bedroom you’re working with and the amount of natural lighting available,” says Kuo. “If it’s a smaller space with ample lighting, I'd usually suggest leaning toward a lighter option, as it opens up a room. Conversely, if there’s little to no natural light, a dark hue like deep blue or charcoal can bring in an intimate feel, while creating a sense of grandeur.”

From here, you’ll want to select a few paint options in the shade of your choice and test them out. “Artificial and natural light dramatically change how you perceive paint colors,” explains Goodwin. “To select the right paint color, I always suggest placing paint samples directly onto various walls within the space. After they dry, they should be viewed at different times of day with both natural and artificial light.”

In particular, artificial light can make paint look different, so Goodwin recommends trying out different types of light fixtures to get the vibe you want. “When it comes to artificial light, add a dimmer for overhead lighting and supply the room with different options such as table lamps or wall sconces,” she says. “This will give you the ability to play with the amount of light to create a different mood.”

Steer Clear of High-Energy Colors

Finally, you’ll want to avoid colors that are too vibrant, as these will make your bedroom overly energetic—not great for when you’re trying to wind down for the day. “I recommend avoiding high-energy colors such as deep reds, bright oranges, lime green, and vibrant yellows—too much of these will make your room feel invigorating rather than soothing,” says Goodwin.

However, if you can’t live without your favorite bright orange, she recommends placing pops of the hue around the room: “If you love these colors, you can introduce them through accents, such as pillows and artwork.”

Add Interest With Fun Accents

If your bedroom is still lacking that je ne sais qoui, our experts have a few tricks up their sleeves to make it feel more like you. “An easy way to make a statement in a bedroom is changing out the rug,” says Kuo. “Rugs add warmth, texture, and color to your space. Typically, the larger the rug, the more of your furniture you are able to include on it, so the more custom and luxurious it will look.” So when it comes to floor coverings, go big or go home!

She’s also a fan of wallpaper, especially for those who might not be ready to commit to one look: “Wallpaper is also a great option if you want to add a pattern or something fun that goes beyond regular paint. With wallpaper there are different options for removal, which make it easy to maintain or switch out if you’re hesitant to commit or currently in a rental.”

If you want to increase the coziness of your space, Goodwin recommends playing with different textures, too: “To amp up the cozy factor beyond paint, bring in layers of texture through accessories, bedding, window treatments, and even wall art.”

And there you have it: The keys to a peaceful bedroom, straight from the professionals. Now go forth and get to painting!

What paint color soothes you? Let us know below!

This article was updated in March 2021 to add even more bedroom color ideas.

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Printable C. December 17, 2020
I think source of light plays a very important role
Printable C. December 17, 2020
I think source of light plays a very important role :)
Printable C. December 17, 2020
I think source of light plays a very important role :)
Printable C. December 17, 2020
I think source of light plays a very important role :)
Monika September 7, 2019
The advice about considering the light in your room cannot be underscored enough. We originally picked beautiful colours, ones we thought worked with our light, but they turned out to be awful. Could not stand our bedroom. Finally, we painted most of the walls a beautiful radiant white, the ceiling a metallic silver, and the main wall, the one behind the bed, Farrow and Ball’s Lamp Room Grey, one of the best and most beautiful greys I have ever found. It is now very soothing, and no longer depressing.
Lisa P. December 31, 2018
I agree with all of you who are tired of whites being the suggested go-to for calming spaces. I painted our bedroom wall, the big one behind our bed, a deep dark teal. The richness of it feels calm and soothing, like a warm cocoon. The other walls all have windows with views of greenery, so I kept those walls a neutral pale pale griege, so they recede in favor of the windows. The room just feels peaceful and calm, every time I walk into it. It is possible to have visual richness and complexity and feel at peace in a space.
Vira November 30, 2018
Right, white. All I can think is that when I go to a relaxing spa, or bar, or lounge, or Cafe, or jazz hangout, the rooms are not white. When was the last time anyone walked into a hospital, or grocery store, with white walls, white ceiling, white lights, white shelves, and thought, "wow, this would be so relaxing in my bedroom!"

Light, neutral, tones, can look great, but you idiots need to stop telling everyone that it's one-size-fits-all.

You know what I want to see? Pick a style, and delve deep into how to pull it off. Eclectic, global, '50s, '20s Hollywood Glam, modern, transitional, Egyptian, Turkish. Stop doing "here's what everyone wants!" Cuz, no. It's not.
Vira November 30, 2018
P.S. you know what I'd call that first image? "French Country meets poor." It looks like someone couldn't afford the furniture to match, so went with the cheapest options, and put the colors on textiles. Don't get me wrong, I am a sucker for great design, regardless of style, but that doesn't look soothing. Just cheap.
Dani S. December 4, 2018
woof, this is unnecessarily pointed lol
Vira December 4, 2018
My apologies. I realize I am being brutally honest, in this case. I am just really tired of seeing articles, like this.
Glenn W. November 30, 2018
Quarter Spanish white
Riva November 30, 2018
Color choices are very personal, and there isn't a 'one size fits all' solution. Where one person might feel relaxed and content in a light, airy, simple space, another may find it cold and sterile. On the other hand a person may feel nurtured and cozy surounded by dark, rich colors with layers of patterns while that same space might make someone else feel oppressed and uncomfortable.
Sherri L. November 29, 2018
My husband has painted our bedroom a deep purple, I love the color but its not very soothing. Next time around, I would love a blue gray, done very lightly.
Saima November 29, 2018
Yeehaw! My bedroom is actually the first greige colour you posted and I love it! My ensuite, however, has greige cabinetry but I went with a dark dark navy for the walls. With creamy tiles it also looks and feels equally soothing!
tia November 29, 2018
Bravo. I would have said it wasn't possible to take a lovely picture of painting supplies and you've proved me wrong.

I disagree on light colors, though. My bedroom is painted dark, dark green. It's almost black. I love it. It feels cozy and calm. It makes me smile every time I walk in there.
Shawn S. December 30, 2018
I had that at one time, it was gorgeous. With marshmallow white woodwork, and there was plenty of woodwork around those windows...

That bedroom in the photo makes me antsy, like I'm in a hotel room and need to get out before noon.