Paint advice from Sherwin-Williams expert Sue Wadden | Home Front

Sue Wadden
Sep 07, 2017

Sue Wadden is Sherwin-Williams director of color marketing for The Paint Stores Group. As the color expert, she is responsible for the company’s overall philosophy and plays a key role in leading world color trend forecasting. Need paint advice? Wadden is here to help.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Thanks to Sue Wadden from Sherwin-Williams for being with us today. We always have paint questions. She knows great colors and is a color forecaster. Let's get going.

My name is Sue Wadden, and I am the director of color marketing for the Sherwin-Williams Company.  I have an amazing job, that I truly love love love because I get to play with color all day.  AND, I am an avid DIYer in my own home, so I like putting my color knowledge to practice!  Hoping I can provide some answers for anyone in a paint color pickle!

Hi Sue- I would love your suggestions for an indoor shade of white to be painted in all rooms (open floor plan). I realize lighting plays a big role here. Rooms do not get tons of natural bright light. Don't want it to be cold/sterile and not too yellow-y either? Suggestions? Maybe trim suggestion too? Thanks!

Hi!  Great question.  Believe it or not, finding just the right white can be daunting.  I am a fan of the goldilocks principle when it comes to white - not to cold (sterile) not to hot (yellow).  I call the whites done right NEUTRAL WHITES  Heron Plum SW 6070, Alabaster SW7008, Origami White SW7636 are nice whites.  If your looking for a shade darker...try Egret White SW7570 Eider White 7014 or City Loft SW7631.  Trim - try Extra White SW7006 or Pure White SW7005

I am planning to paint the first floor of my house a single color to hopefully make it appear larger and more unified. Is gray still the neutral go-to color? If so, can you suggest some gray paints that are on the "warmer" side? Thanks for your help!

I love warm grey's.  My favorites are Repose Gray SW7015, Agreeable Gray SW7029 Fleur de Sel SW7666 and Popular Gray SW6071 - Although, not in that order! These are very nice light grey's that trend warm.  If you want something a bit darker in shade, just move down the strip to a shade or 2 deeper, in the same color family.  Good luck!

Hi. Every time I repaint a room, I spend waaaay too much time choosing colors. I did hit the jackpot, however, when I painted my den the SW color "whole wheat," which looks gorgeous day and night. But I just can't make a decision about my fairly large old kitchen which has two north-facing windows, black oven, and stainless fridge. We just installed unfinished upper and lower cabinets. There's plenty of artificial lighting, but I want a nice cheerful kitchen. I tend to lean to Tuscany style colors, but not sure that would be appropriate. I'm not adverse to painting the upper and lower cabinets different colors. Floor and counters have to be redone, so not an issue here. I'm up to any suggestions, even if you tell me I should go neutral or off-white (I like Dover White). Thanks very much.

Whole Wheat is a fantastic color!  Bravo!  Dover White is a timeless white that is consistently a top pick for whites.  If you aren't opposed, painting your upper cabinets Dover White could be a great option - and keep your base cabinets wood.  This would allow for a soft color on the wall, like a warm grey or soft grey green, which would balance the Whole Wheat den.  For grey - try Mindful Gray SW7016 or Colonnade Gray SW7641.  Gray/Green - try Comfort Gray SW6205 or Contented SW6191

For interior brick, do you suggest oil-based paint or latex?

I would recommend a high quality latex product for a top coat, but more importantly, your going to want to be sure to use a good primer as your base.  Not sure if your brick has been painted before, but its important to seal the surface before top-coating.  We have some great latex products that will perform very well in this application - namely Emerald Interior or Duration Home Interior. If you would like more product specific information, check out our website at

Jura, I have two teenage boys who are big guys, we're talking offensive linemen sized big guys. I'm looking for new living room furniture and wondered if there are lines that are particularly sturdy. The sofa I bought three years ago has not held up well at all.

Oh my! You do have to get something durable. I would suggest Ethan Allen, Sherrill and Bernhardt. What else would people out there with big families recommend?


I have a classic 1930's Capitol Hill row house which is to say that it onyl gets light from the front and the back. We want to repaint our first floor which thanks so some renovations is mostly open from one room to another. Right now its a beige and it looks like the previous owners did different shades of the same color to deal with the fact that the different rooms all get different lights. I was hoping to do it all one color but do you think that previous approach is best? I was thinking of doing a light, very light, grey. We have white base boards and crown molding as well as a wall of exposed brick. How do you deal with open spaces that have different (or no) light sources? Thanks!

I think grey would be a great choice for your row house.  I know what a challenge it can be when your light source is only 2 sided.  Some of my favorite grey's would be Drift of Mist SW9166, Agreeable Gray SW7029, Knitting Needles SW7672 0r Skyline Steel SW1015.  These are lovely, slightly warmer in tone and will unify your open concept living space.  Good luck


My husband and I have been arguing over the Front Door paint color for some time. We have a red brick rowhome with a white door, white door frame, black shutters, and white windows. I wanted a yellow front door and he thought that was too bold. We compromised on a blue door. We were looking for a cross between a dark blue and bright blue and settled on the Sherwin Williams' Naval blue. What's your take on it? Should I try to get him to go for a bolder blue. I have the paint already and the painters come next week so it's crunch time. Thanks - Lost Door in Alexandria

Oh, the eternal struggle of the front door!! I know how daunting the choice it can be.  My thoughts are this - your doorway is the entry point of your home - so why not use the opportunity to showcase a fabulous color!  And Naval is a fabulous color by the way.  What I like best about this particular blue is that its a bit brighter than the standard navy.  Based on the criteria that you were looking for (cross between a dark blue and bright blue) I think you and your hubby made a fabulous choice!  Nicely done.

Hi! I'm looking for a soft gray with no green undertones for a teen daughters bedroom. The accents will be turquoise/yellow. I'm considering SW passive, but afraid it might be a bit too dark. I don't want a gray that goes lavender. Any suggestions?

Hello!  I surely can help with this.  I like your consideration of Passive, its really pretty - but since you are not looking for a grey that goes lavender, you might want to try Skyline Steel SW1015, Repose Gray SW7015 or Light French Gray SW0055 (one of my all time favorites, from our Historic Colors collection)  These greys are just slightly warm, but will pair well with yellow and turquoise.  Good luck!

We have a couple of those large grey buckets of SW Duration paint leftover from the painting of our Hardie siding. They have been sitting in the garage for a couple of years - are they not usable now? Should I dispose of them through my county's hazardous waste program and just get new paint if I need to touch up? BTW I was really happy with the coverage and durability. Thanks.

We are glad you're happy with Duration's coverage and durability. Regarding your question about storing/disposing, after you finish your project, leftover paint should be sealed and stored in an area that will protect it from damage, freezing and temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. As for disposing, there are two options: 

For latex paint: it can be dried with absorbent materials such as cat box filler, shredded newspaper or sawdust. Never throw it away liquid paints in the trash. Once dried, dispose of it as solid waste. Note, California does not permit the treatment of latex paint waste including air drying. 

For solvent-based paint: save it for a household hazardous wastes collection program or contact your local/state government environmental protection agency for guidance.  

When in doubt, states with PaintCare programs will collect, properly dispose or help in the recycling efforts of leftover paints. 


I have a question about concrete sealing, which I realize is not a painting question. I'd like to reseal our concrete sidewalk and porch. Last summer I sealed with a solvent based sealer, and now I'd like to use a water based sealer. Is this a good idea? Thanks.

In general, you can put water based sealers on top of solvent based sealers, but you can never put solvent based sealers over water based as the solvents can eat or soften the existing water based sealer.  Always check the technical data for recommendations before mixing sealers that might not be compatible.

Hello, we are renovating our home & will be using hardiplank on the exterior - we have used semi-opaque exterior woodstain products one previous homes with cedar or other wood with excellent results, can we use the same on hardiplank for a more interesting look that weathers well, or is regular house paint the only option? Also, we have a more modern "dwell" vibe for this renovation, do you have any color recommendations or examples that we could consider, we would be interested in some color pop that will bring interest but not become tiresome. Thank you!!

Hi. We recommend following all James Hardie directions for painting its substrates. Use high quality waterborne 100% acrylic exterior paints (follow the paint manufacturer's application and maintenance instructions for James Hardie primed siding.)

With that, our recommendations are: 

HardiePlank® (Field Applied Primer and Finish)

1ct: S-W Loxon Concrete & Masonry Primer Sealer

2cts:S-W Emerald Exterior, Resilience Exterior or SuperPaint Exterior Latex

HardiePlank® (Pre- Primed) 

2cts:S-W Emerald Exterior, Resilience Exterior or SuperPaint Exterior Latex

If pH is 10 or above pre-prime with Loxon Concrete & Masonry Primer Sealer

1ct: S-W Loxon Concrete & Masonry Primer Sealer

2cts:S-W Emerald Exterior, Resilience Exterior or SuperPaint Exterior Latex

Regarding colors that add pop that don’t become tiresome, charcoals like Roycroft Pewter SW2848 or natural, brick reds like Roycroft Copper Red SW 2839 work well. Another option that adds depth is Bunglehouse Blue SW 0048.


I have one room in my house that is long and narrow, with a bank of windows on one long wall that goes up two stories (chalet windows). The windows are great as they open up light to the outdoors BUT the room is very narrow in comparison to the length of the room, so it appears out of proportion, and the bank of windows kind of leaps forward in your attention and makes it seem even narrower. How you do paint such a wall with lots of windows, but you want that wall to recede away from you (feel like it is pushed back) to open up the room and make it feel more proportional? Do you paint it a light color vs. dark color or cool or warm colors? And do you paint the window sashes a different color or the same color as the paint on the walls? I want to balance the room and have the focus be outside the room (the view from the windows) but to combat the out of proportion dimensions of the room.

These are great questions and I hope I can help with your interesting...but challenging room. First, having windows of that height is both amazing and difficult.  To your point, all the natural light is fabulous, but you are struggling with the tunnel effect.  In the past I've worked on projects where we painted a dark color on the window wall, in an effort to increase the visual depth of field in the room.  The darker color helped to lead the eye "outside" past the windows to enjoy the view.  Not sure what is opposite the bank of windows - maybe a fireplace or a large expanse of wall?  Have you ever considered putting a grouping of mirrors on the opposite wall to refract the light coming in from the windows?  This can be a really easy way to balance out the light in a narrow space.  As for the dark vs. light - I think you want to make sure to choose a color that coordinates with your furnishings, but also has a little depth, meaning your narrow room will be flooded with light, so choosing a color that is too light can run the risk of looking washed out, whereas a darker hue might "stand-up" to all that natural light.  Warm vs. cool can be a challenge as well.  If your light is coming in from the North or East, the light can be cooler or bluer in tone.  Opposite of that, Southern or Western exposure can be warmer or yellow in tone.  Depending on your light source, you might want to adjust for they tonal differences.  I hope I was helpful here - there were lots of great questions!

The center bedroom in our cape cod doesn't get much natural light. Currently, it's painted a light lavender shade that somehow makes the room feel even darker. Can you recommend some colors that might brighten things up a bit? Hubby is averse to white - and we'll eventually have it be our nursery. We'll keep all the trim white.

How about a soft blue/green.  Sea Salt SW6204 or Rainwashed SW6211 or even Aloof Gray SW6197 (slightly grey green) would be nice choice with white trim.  These are no fail colors for bedrooms - which could easily transition to a gender neutral nursery!

I second the Ethan Allen choice. Our couch and large club chair are very heavy and sturdy. She would need the two linebackers to help her move the furniture to vacuum.

Haha. Love this. Thanks for posting.

What's a great very pale gray that will go with a slate colored kitchen floor?

Light French Gray SW 0055 is a great option for a colored slate floor.

Hi -- What are your thoughts on the trend toward painting trim the same color as the wall? I am putting my home on the market in 24 months and I plan to repaint my dining & formal living rooms to a neutral. Should I embrace this trend or will it be played out by then? The dining room has a chair rail, both have crown molding and 8-foot ceilings. Thx!

I love this question, and thanks for asking it.  So, here is my opinion on the painted wall/painted trim trend.  I personally love it.  LOVE IT.  I think it creates really high drama within a room and has a timeless appeal. Now, I would also say, select one room to try it first before committing to the entire home - (a dining room is perfect choice btw). Since you are planning on listing your home in 24 months, select a color that will coordinate with the neutrals in the rest of your home - but maybe take the trim and wall a few shades darker to accentuate the drama of the room.  You might be happy with using this technique in one room to create special appeal, so you won't get tired of it long term.  A den is another great room to try this in!

I just bought a charcoal couch and chairs that are a pattern (white with grey and a pop of royal blue). Pairing them all with a white shag rug on dark hickory floors that have a touch of grey to them. The furniture store said I should paint the living room a pale grey. Would I want a warm grey (one of the colors listed above) or a cool grey? Adjoining dining room is painted a slate blue. Thanks!

Your room is going to be lovely.  I generally recommend a warm or neutral grey vs a cool grey.  Here's why - cool grey's can sometimes change color on the wall and appear really blue.  Check out Repose Gray SW 7015!

I am looking for a light blue paint color for my whole apartment. A beautiful light blue. I want it to be very clear - not muddy. No turquoise in it - very blue. I will have navy accessories. It should not be so light that it is not obviously blue.

I would recommend one of the below. However, before you fully commit, try painting a corner of the room and leave it for a day or two. By doing this, you will differences in the color during the day and night.

Sleepy Hollow SW9145

Billowy Breeze SW9055

Balmy SW6512

Hi Sue. I'm moving out of the DC area later this year and am looking for paint ideas for my new home. I'm not afraid of color but I'm also not thrilled with how all new homes have the same "gray" look about them. I want something fresh and new - any suggestions? FWIW, my real estate agent has suggested I stay away from painting every room of the new house a different color, which is what I did in the old place. Thanks.

Ha!  Every room in my house is a different color - go figure!!! And, I just painted my dining room black (above the wainscot and I have to tell you - its FABULOUS).  Back to you.  You are very insightful when it comes to grey.  We've been seeing grey in design for 5-6 years now, and the trend is starting to shift to warmer neutrals.  I am NOT suggesting the beige is coming back, but we are seeing neutrals in balance - meaning grey, and taupe and cream and ecru together to create a beautiful, harmonious palette.  Here is my rule of thumb for brining color into the home.  Stick with odd numbers - 3, 5 or 7 colors plus trim in a coordinated palette (meaning select colors of the same value - for example 5 colors in the middle of the strip) or choose colors on the same strip in varying shades for variety.  As for trends, I am loving the resurgence of dark colors.  Berry's, charcoals, deep greens - I think the impact in a room can be stunning, and quite frankly, we have been in a neutral universe for the last 5 years - so its fun to get back to color!  Hope this helps!

As always, paint is our most favorite topic to discuss. Thanks for all your wonderful ideas. Next week: tune in for Kortney and Dave Wilson of HGTV Masters of Flip   - who will be with us in advance of their Capital Home Show at the Dulles Expo Center on Sept 22-24. See you next week, same time, same place. Thanks again Sue.

AH MAZ ING questions!  I wish I had more time to answer the rest.  Thanks so much for spending time with Sherwin-Williams this past hour and remember you can find always find inspiration and product information on our website - or one of our 4400 neighborhood stores!  

In This Chat
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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Sue Wadden
Sue Wadden is Sherwin-Williams director of color marketing for The Paint Stores Group.
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