Matching Paint to Wallpaper Made Easy

Matching Paint to Wallpaper Made Easy


BY ANNE SAGE | @CitySage

I recently completed a full makeover of our guest room, with the goal of transforming it from a dated sleeping space into a sophisticated yet relaxing lounge. The room was last decorated by my grandmother in the 1980's, and I knew I wanted to keep the chic wallpaper vibe that she had set all those years ago. Yet one of the things I was most nervous about was choosing the right paint color when matching paint to wallpaper!

Lucky for me, Dunn-Edwards DURA has several tools that make it easy to select the perfect hue for every project—so adding a wallpaper element to the mix was no big deal! Here are the steps I took to get a paint and wallpaper look that felt chic and cohesive. You can see from the before and after below that the improvement is striking!

1. Getting Started Matching Paint to Wallpaper

When pairing wallpaper and paint, think of the wallpaper as the star and the paint color as the best supporting actor. The paint might not be the first thing you notice, but the right color choice will enable the wallpaper shine. (And of course the wrong one will detract from the wallpaper!) Given that the wallpaper is the primary element, you'll want to by selecting your wallpaper first.

Once you've chosen your wallpaper, get several paint color samples that coordinate with the colors in your paper. Dunn-Edwards DURA offers color consult sessions to help you identify which hues are worth considering—a service that I highly recommend if you're like me and easily overwhelmed by the huge range of color options out there! I opted for Peel & Stick samples to test the colors that my Color Influencer suggested. It was so quick and easy to and see which looked best with my wallpaper swatch; and I could also reposition the samples to different areas of the room that were brighter or more dimly lit.

2. Narrowing Down Paint Colors

Once you've got your samples and your wallpaper up in the room you're transforming, stand back and give them an overview. You'll most likely be able to rule out many paint color options on first glance, because they simply won't look quite right against your wallpaper. Perhaps they're too warm or too cool compared to the tones in your wallpaper, or perhaps they have more of a pinkish or greenish hue to them. You don't need to be able to put words to why certain pairings aren't working; your eyes and your instincts will tell you before your reasoning mind does.

It's important to note that this in-person pairing comparison exercise is essential to finding the right match. As you can see in my sample wall above, the row of samples along the bottom all look slightly "off" as a match for the wallpaper, whereas the top row of paint options looks much more complementary. Most strikingly, the medium grey on the bottom right seemed neutral on its own, but looked positively purple when placed next to my wallpaper—something I couldn't have known had I not tested my samples in the lighting conditions of the room I was decorating!

Once you've eliminated the colors that definitely don't work, look more closely at the ones that do. The decision will come down to factors such as:

  • What mood you'd like to foster: Dark and moody? Bright and airy?
  • The other elements in the room: Earthy materials such as walnut and rattan? Japandi-chic finishes such as ash and Carrara marble?
  • The lighting conditions of the room itself: Chilly north facing light? Brightly lit south facing windows?

Also, consider whether you want to create a sense of contrast or a tone-on-tone effect between your wallpaper and your paint. In the former case you would select a paint shade that's either lighter or darker than the background of your wallpaper. For the latter, go with a paint that is roughly the same value as the main color in your wallpaper.

In my case, I went through the following process of elimination:

  • I didn't want my paint color to veer too dark since the room itself is dimly lit to begin with, so anything darker than the background of the wallpaper was out.
  • Conversely, I didn't want to go too light, because I liked the idea of a cozy space that ensconced its occupants. All the paint options that were significantly lighter than the wallpaper were a no-go.
  • I loved the idea of a tone-on-tone sensibility that felt muted and subtle, so the wallpaper could really stand out. That left me with two medium value paint colors that both could work—one similar to the grey trees in my pattern and one similar to the beige trees.
  • Since I was envisioning walnut bookshelves and ivory furniture, I leaned towards the warmer beige over the cooler grey.
  • The room gets weak, cold light through only a couple small windows and I wanted to offset that stark feeling as much as possible, sealing the deal for the warmer of my two options.

The winner? Dunn-Edwards DURA in Desert Suede! A dreamy, creamy, inviting greige that's part of the Warm Neutrals collection. I opted for a matte finish because the room has a skylight that casts odd highlights against the walls, and I hoped to minimize sheen as much as possible.

3. Choosing Ceiling Paint Color in a Wallpapered Room

The same general guidelines apply for matching paint and wallpaper, whether you're discussing the walls or the ceiling and trim. My room features a painted wainscoting on the bottom 1/3 of the walls, so I chose to paint the ceiling and baseboards the exact color and finish as the walls. Choosing a second paint shade for the ceiling and trim—even one complementary to the Desert Suede—could create a disjointed color block effect, rather than the soft monochromatic vibe I was picturing.

As well, wallpaper inherently sets a more traditional tone. Opting for a monochromatic wall/ceiling/trim paint treatment helped me take the wallpaper in a modern direction. If you look at the "before" photo from my grandma's era, the trim and ceiling contrast with the wainscoting and wallpaper. From an aesthetic standpoint it absolutely works (shabbiness aside!), but it certainly boasts a more traditional feel. As with many design decisions, there are multiple right answers. The right answer for you depends on the final result you're seeking!

This room makeover was definitely a lot of work, as my husband Ivan can attest. (What a good sport he is!) But fortunately, matching paint to wallpaper was a breeze and not the challenge I feared it would be. The Dunn-Edwards DURA paint in Desert Suede plays exactly the supporting role I needed for my wallpaper. Best of all, the finished space is the perfect update to what my grandma created decades ago. It's stylish, welcoming, and thoughtful—just like she was!

Images: Anne Sage


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