14 Under-the-Radar Paint Mistakes Designers *Always* Notice

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

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WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on April 28, 2022

Honestly, what’s not to love about paint? Unlike buying new furniture or renovating a kitchen, a fresh coat of paint can make a home feel brand new, minus the $10,000 budget. You can give your home a face-lift in a single weekend for a few hundred dollars and a little elbow grease.

And while interior paint can lean technical, there’s still plenty of room for creativity — you can opt for an accent wall, a cabinet refresh, a DIY mural, a whole-home palette glow-up, and beyond. It’s basically the textbook definition of low-lift, high-impact design.

But, with that creative freedom comes room for error. From the technical (passing on painter’s tape and fudging finishes) to the aesthetic (mixing too many paint colors in one space), a lot can go wrong when playing with paint. Ahead, Havenly designers share the 14 painting mistakes they always notice, and how to make amends.


1. Too many colors

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

From paint to furniture, selecting a cohesive color palette for your entire home is important when trying to create an elevated space. Approaching each room individually often results in a hodge-podge of paint colors that clash. Instead, select three to four complementary hues and divvy them up by room: stick to one color for private rooms like bedrooms and offices, another for communal spaces like living rooms and hallways, and a third for “wet” rooms like kitchens and bathrooms.

2. Forgetting the ceiling

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

One of the biggest paint mishaps we see is neglecting the ceiling when investing in a fresh paint job. This surface needs love, too! Whether it’s a fresh coat of white that matches the walls or an all-over, saturated look like the above office space, make sure to include the ceiling in any painting plans.

3. Playing it safe

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

We’ve very into warm neutrals at the moment, but we’ll always love a bold, daring paint moment in equal measure. Try one of the trending tones you’ve been seeing all over Pinterest, whether it’s rich berry red, moody sage, Benjamin Moore’s trendy Hale Navy, or even slate black. Or better yet, embrace the latest TikTok trend: geometric accent murals. The good news? You can always paint it again when you’re ready for a new look.

4. Mixing undertones

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

No matter how bland the hue, every single paint color has a warm or cool undertone. Warm undertones lean brown, yellow, or ivory, while cool tones have a touch of blue, purple, and green. Always select paint colors with matching undertone when building your whole home paint palette — mixing a warm gray with a cool gray in the same room (or adjoining spaces) screams “DIY paint job.”

5. Furniture mis-match

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

Similarly, you should also consider the furniture finishes in your home when selecting paint colors. Bathroom and kitchen plumbing, lighting, and hardware finishes in addition to wood stains (think: floors and cabinetry) all boast a warm or cool undertone, too. For example, honey-toned wood floors play well with warmer whites (we love Simply White by Benjamin Moore), whereas a soft blonde wood looks great with a crisp, cool paint (check out Chantilly Lace). 

6. Fear of commitment

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

There’s a time and a place for accent walls, but we have to ask: why not go all in? Four-walled color is a much more immersive experience that really sets a moody, dramatic tone (like the above cozy bedroom). If you are going to do an accent wall, we recommend it have size and scale to feel intentional instead of timid — this beachy blue wall is a great example. 

7. Sticking to rental beige

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

We love a warm neutral, but bland rental beiges and cloying 1990s yellows are a hard no for us. There are so many beautiful neutral paint colors to choose from! Go for something warm and comforting, like Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, or a slightly more deep, nuanced hue, like a trendy mushroom (Clare Paint’s No Filter is gorgeous). 

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8. Only sticking to primary colors

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

There are hundreds of thousands of paint colors for a reason — the swatch aisle is a far cry from an eight-count Crayola box. Forget plain “green,” and consider shades of moss, sage, kelly, hunter, evergreen, and beyond. If you’ve got a modern, edgy style, maybe a Pacific teal is more up your alley than a basic blue. No matter which hue you choose, look beyond the basic color wheel! 

9. Ignoring natural light

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

Paint colors look dramatically different depending on the natural light in your space. Before heading to the hardware store, take note of whether the room is flooded with sunshine or has zero windows to speak of, like a basement. Pro tip: painting a windowless space white can actually make it feel more sterile and institutional, rather than light and airy. Instead, lean into the lack of light with a dark, dramatic shade to create a cozy, comforting atmosphere. 

10. Finish fumbles

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

Simply put, different paint finishes are designed for different areas. If you go with the wrong finish in a room, you may have to re-paint sooner rather than later. A quick primer: Matte or flat finishes are best for lounge spaces like living rooms and bedrooms, while eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss are designed for high-traffic rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. It all comes down to cleaning and durability: Matte finishes scuff often and aren’t as easy to clean, whereas high-gloss paints wipe down in seconds and stand up to daily wear and tear. High-gloss finishes are specifically made for wet spaces, like bathrooms and kitchens, to ward off mold and keep walls looking crisp.

11. Passing on primer

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

Nobody will ever see primer paint, but it’s arguably the most important layer, especially if you’re painting over a vibrant hue. It basically sets your walls back to “neutral” so you can easily cover up that previous tenant’s mustard yellow with your clean white without having to do three-plus coats.

12. Skipping painter's tape

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

Unless you’re a professional painter that’s well-versed in the art of cutting, don’t skimp on painter’s tape. This is especially important if you’re painting your doors and trim a different color than your walls. Always tape off the edges of non-removable lighting, drapery hardware, and switch plate covers, and give the edges a second press before grabbing your brush. Pro tip: remove excess paint from your roller or brush before diving in — that extra paint will find its way underneath miniscule tape bubbles, which makes touch-up a nightmare (we speak from experience). 

13. Skipping the swatching stage

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

In our humble opinion, painting swatches before selecting your final hue is not optional. Natural and overhead lighting both impact how a color looks and feels in a space — the fluorescent lighting in your local hardware store is a far cry from the soft lighting at home. A color that looks tan in-store can actually read pink in your actual home. Spend the extra $10 on a sample and paint a large swatch before making your final decision — it’s worth it! 

14. Taking on too much DIY

Painting mistakes | house paint ideas

It can be daunting to tackle a whole-home paint project, especially if you’re flying completely solo on the effort. Curating a whole home palette, selecting the perfect white hue, or simply tackling intricate features like cabinets, wainscoting, and trim is an undertaking, to say the least. Be honest with yourself about the time and effort you’re willing and able to devote to a paint project, and considering hiring the pros if budget allows!

Looking for a way to overcome your unique home dilemmas? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz.

Words by Kelsey Clark