Valspar's Color Strategist on picking the right paint color | Home Front

Jan 31, 2013

Sue Kim, the color strategist for Valspar Paint, is responsible for the company's annual color trend forecasting. She chatted with readers about picking the right paint color and discussed color trends for 2013.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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We have Sue Kim, a color strategist at Valspar, on the chat today to answer questions about paint! Sue has great ideas on how to cheer yourself up in this dreary time of year by tackling a little paint project. And she has the new spring palette to share with us. So let's go.

And here is my story today on some fresh ideas for spring.

Good morning, everyone! Sue, here. I’m delighted to be here today to discuss paint colors and paint trends for 2013. I look forward to answering your questions!

Hello, we are updating my son's room as he is moving out of the toddler into a big boy room. His room is VERY small. It is currently some not so great shade of paleish blue. We want to add navy and red somehow to match his new bedding. Should we go all white with a strip of navy around the room? do a Nacy accent wall? Trying not to be boring, but don't want to overwhelm and or make the room look even smaller. Thank you!


Painting stripes on the wall is a good method to make a small room look bigger. Think about stripes on a skate board, which incorporates two or three colors.


I recommend painting the walls of the room navy and incorporating a lighter navy color for the stripe. I recommend Valspar Celebration Blue with a stripe of Valspar Sailboat in horizontal format, covering at least two walls.

Someone last week asked about locking file cabinets suitable for a living room. Ballard Designs don't lock but IKEA has some that do. It's a combination lock on the top. They are wood and their typical modern design if that is suitable. Get out your electric screwdriver!

Thank you. Very helpful.

Hello! We need to paint our very dated cream/beige colored basement. Walls are wood panels pained a deep cream/beige with cream/beige trim, and cream carpet (also old and dated). Basically a big beige room. Other than white, what would be a good color that is not too dark? I thought perhaps white would be an option to freshen it up (accenting with bold colors in accessories) but maybe need to stretch some. Thoughts on white? Maybe a very pale green/blue? Room has sliding walk out to outside, but not much light as backyard is wooded. Also, what would you do with the trim with either option? Ceilings are only about 7 tall so not sure if better to blend as one wall, or make trim stand out. There is a very dated orangeish brick fireplace that we plan on painting white thus we thought all white might be problematic (unless of course different shades of white are used). Perhaps that is not advisable. Ugh, paint is so hard. You however, are awesome. Thank you

Great question! Let's experiment with the green/blue color family. With limited lighting it's always recommended to use lighter colors. Start with Valspar Sparkling Sage as your main color, this light green-gray has a strength in balancing different elements around the basement. I also recommend keeping the ceiling and trim in a warm white, such as Valspar Paramount White, because with your low ceiling white is the best color to make the space feel taller.


Happy Thursday! Sorry my question isn't about paint, but we recently painted our new townhouse and I love the colors we have going in it. However, we are in serious need of design help. We're in need of rugs (hardwoods throughout and it echoes!), lighting and *some* furniture and we really would like to work with someone who will be able to pull our place together into a more cohesive look. But how do you find or pick one? What's a reasonable rate? Is it like any other project - get three bids and go with the person and price-point that works best? Having never worked with a designer before (and fearing they will be way too expensive - we don't live in Georgetown) we are at a loss.

This is a very good question. The Washington Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has a Find a Designer page on their website. Often in the spring, they host a Spring Spruce-Up where you can purchase two hours of time with a local designer at a very reasonable price. Usually this in in March. Keep checking their website for information at Also a number of retail home furnishings stores offer the services of a designer to help you pull things together if you are purchasing things at their store. Ethan Allen is one of these. Check out designer show houses in your area to find the names of local designers you might want to work with. The 2013 DC Design House that opens on April 14 is one place to start looking. Also ask your friends who they have used. Designers use many different methods to charge for their services so you have to ask specific questions. Good luck.

We used a light gray color in the basment with white ceilings and white trim. Worked well as it seems to be light without trying too hard.

Sounds nice.

Hi! Can you please assist me with changing my living room color? The shade I currently have is light blue. I wish I never selected blue for a living room because it's a challenge. The room feels dark not only because of the blue color but the dark wood furniture that's in the room. Can you please offer some suggestions as to what color I can paint my room and still keep my dark wood furniture? I want the room to feel light, spaceous, and sophisticated. Thank you!

This is the perfect question to call on hue-infused neutrals. Gray undertones will set a spacious and sophisticated mood in your living room and will work well with your existing dark wood furniture. One of the current trends is to bring red and gray undertones together, I would recommend Valspar Seagull Beach. Although the color may be feminine, for a space where your family spends a lot of time this color will bring a delicate embrace for late night conversations.

I want to paint an accent wall sports car red and add a high gloss finish. What do you suggest? Thanks!

I recommend Valspar Cut Ruby for a nice high-gloss, sporty red.

Hi Ladies, thanks for taking my question. It's great that Sue is here today because I finally have a paint question. I would like to repaint the exterior of my house but am worried that my roof shingles will clash. l would like to paint the house light grey with black shutters, but my roof shingles are a red brick color. do you think it would look odd? Is there a way that I could minimize it? Thanks!

If you go with a warm gray instead of a true gray, it will harmonize with your red roof shingles. I recommend Valspar Rocky Bluffs or Valspar Frappe.

Husband and I are in disagreement about the powder room lighting situation. He wants the light to point up, I want to point it down. Fixture with three lights (100 watt) being installed in a powder room with no window. Thoughts? Always appreciate the advise of an expert to help resolve such disagreements.

I did indeed call an expert! We are happy to help in the role of designer/marriage counselor. In a word, Washington designer Annie Elliott says "DOWN." She adds,  "If it's the only light source in the room, you want it to point down on the person and to light up the room. If it points up, the light will bounce off the ceiling and it will just give you a duller glow. It won't be as bright or as cheerful."

Do I exactly match the paint color for the walls to my curtains? The paint will be in the kitchen lvg area and up the stairs; curtains cover the sliding glass doors to the patio. Why do paint contractors prefer flat paint?

When selecting a paint color for your walls, you should not feel limited to your curtain colors. Explore other options that are inspired by your curtain color, one way to do this is to go with a lighter tone in the same color family. Since it sounds like your space is quite large, my recommendation is to go a step or two darker shade.

I cleaned out my home office last weekend and have a surplus of office supplies, all in great condition. The largesse includes hanging file folders, post-it pads, etc. Are there any charities in the DC area where I can donate this stuff? Or do you have any other suggestions on how to get it out of my now significantly less-cluttered space? Thanks.

How fantastic! I might call a place like Martha's Table to see if they could use it. Also you can bring it to the Georgia Avenue Thrift Store at  6101 Georgia Ave. N.W. Washington, DC. They take donations every day and sell things at a very reasonable price. Please post other ideas.

I've seen a few questions lately about lighting away from wall outlets. I've had my electrician put a floor outlet in the living rooms of both my old and new houses and I LOVE it! It's not terribly expensive (a couple hundred $?) and the basement ceiling will need repair if finished, but totally worth it!!! My floors were hardwood but I don't see why it's not possible with carpet too.

Sounds lovely. I would love that too. Thanks.

Hi! My husband and I are in the process of building our first home and it is time to pick out paint colors. We don't want to go overboard with a lot of different colors but I also don't want it to be boring. I'm want all the colors to flow and make our home feel warm and inviting. Do you have any suggestions for how to do that?

It's a challenge to envision a color palette without being in your home, however as a starting point you can narrow down your color choices to one color family and then pick your three favorite colors. Any size home needs a minimun of three colors to harmonize the different spaces.

I have a number of plates and platters I use when entertaining that are currently stacked in my sideboard. Of course, the one I want is always on the bottom, so I'd like to find some way to store them in a dish rack sort of thing so that they're more accessible. Does this exist? What sort of term should I use when searching? "Wire dish rack"? Thanks much; love the chats.

You are not alone. I see The Container Store has a slat bamboo rack by Umbra. At Kitchen Source, there is a nice cherry one. Any other ideas?

donate them to a local school. Teacher always need these kinds of things!

So true!

We are starting to get our house ready to put on the market. What neutral colors should we use? The kitchen, dining, family and foyer and hall are all "one" space.

One of our most popular neutrals is Valspar Cream in my Coffee. I recommend painting an accent wall in your kitchen as the focal point in your open space. You can try an approchable earthy-tone like Valspar Copper Hide.

I recently started painting my living room Hotel St Francis Fawn, and starting to second guess my choice. My living room is very large, and Im wondering if I should tone it down to a more neutral shade. Any suggestions?

I love that color! Just looked it up on my Valspar fandeck. Go with it!

Ballards has a nice iron one.

Great. Thanks.

I am wondering which color you think most resembles the color of the ocean. I would love to paint my bathroom a soothing color and I find the ocean very relaxing. Thanks!

I recommend Valspar Beach Sparkle or Valspar Exotic Sea. These colors will remind you of an ocean view right from the beach! If you don't find that one of these colors work in your space, Valspar offers the Love Your Color Guarantee (

We had a similar issue recently, and decided to work with a color consultant - Jean Molesworth Kee, who I had learned about through these chats. She comes out to your house, gets a sense of lighting as well as the types of colors you like, and comes up with suggestions based on those. She also provides samples of her recommendations so you can make a final decision. I found her work to be excellent, and quite reasonable cost-wise. Here's her website: Good luck!

Thank you! Here is a story I wrote about Jean's work.

Hi Sue, Can you please suggest some paint color to use for my kitchen. The cabinets are a light beige. The color in the room is white and the wood finish is light. The kitchen looks boring. I would like it to feel more updated and clean looking. Thanks.

The kitchen has become the hub of the home and the current trend for the space is to bring in more livable and family-oriented colors. I recommend trying Valspar Mustard Glaze, the yellow will bring an updated and happy feel to the space, or if you want a more sophisticated approach try Valspar Tropical Bay.

We're looking to paint an accent wall in the kitchen of our studio apartment. Can you recommend a warm yellow color that won't make that room look any smaller? Thanks :)

I recommend trying Valspar Lazy Sun. It's a warm, light yellow that will work well with your studio space.

Thank you for your questions! I had a wonderful time today. Happy painting!

In This Chat
Sue Kim
Sue Kim, color strategist for Valspar Paint, has a passion for seeing color through graphic, product and interior design. In addition to building a new in-store and digital color shopping experience, Kim is responsible for the company's annual color trend forecasting.
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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