Home Renovation

3 Tips for Picking the Best Paint Color for Your Bedroom

Straight from an interior designer.

November 29, 2018

Is there a bedroom makeover in your future? One of the easiest ways to refresh and revive your bedroom is with a fresh coat of paint, but as you stare at the huge wall of colors at your local paint store, you might feel overwhelmed. I’ll be the first to tell you it takes some serious skill to tell the difference between Shadow White, Simply White, and Winter White.

While the ultimate choice in selecting the 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 a professional. San Francisco-based interior designer Julia Goodwin was kind enough to share some of her go-to tips and tricks for picking the best paint colors, all of which you can use to revamp your sleep space. It'll be so serene, you’ll never want to leave.

Use Light, Less-Saturated Colors

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.

To this end, some ideal bedroom colors include pale blue, gray, mint green, pastel pink, lavender, mellow yellow and, of course, any of the 100 shades of white. This range of colors allows you to work with your existing color palette or create a new one all together; it depends on how much you want to spend on redecorating.

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Top Comment:
“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.”
— tia

If you really 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.”

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.

“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.”

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!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Monika
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    Lisa Palmer
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    Glenn Webster
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Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


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.