How to Choose the Best Wall Color for Your Open Floor Plan

Kristin Luna
Written by Kristin Luna
Updated December 22, 2021
An open floor dining and living area
Photo: KOTO / Adobe Stock

Pick wall colors that will turn your neighbors green with envy

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Picking what paint colors you’ll use in each room is the best part of any house project. And for an open floor plan, paint is a great way to make a big space feel even bigger—or, consequently, break up a large continuous wall in a cavernous room into more digestible vignettes or usable living spaces. 

Stumped on what color to paint your open floor plan? Follow these tips to nail your wall color selection.

1. Start From the Inside

When you have an open floor plan, it can be hard to figure out just where to begin. Start by choosing colors for the most central part of the area you’re painting, which is often the kitchen or dining room, then work your way out to the more exterior walls. Having a starting point that is also a major focal point in your home will guide the interior design direction of the rest of your open floor plan.

2. Go With One General Color Scheme 

Painting the entire interior of your house can be daunting, and an open floor plan helps simplify things by giving you an excuse to stick with one color scheme. A hodgepodge of hues on the color wheel confuses the senses and removes the cohesion that a well-organized home endeavors to be. Using different shades of blue, blushes of pink, or the landscape-inspired sandstone palette of the desert are great anchors to an overall plan. 

3. Choose Shades Lighter Than You Think You Want

Choosing interior paint colors can feel daunting when the world is your oyster and there are so many color options on the market. Whereas in a smaller, blockier room you might choose to go with simple white walls to make the room appear larger, with an open floor plan, paint color options are endless and an excuse to get playful. 

Would your open floor plan look better based on a neutral color like a creamy off-white or an agreeable grey? Or should you spice things up with a soothing blue or sunny yellow? No matter which route you take, remember this: Paint always goes on darker than it appears on the paint chip, so narrow in on a color card you like then back up a shade or two in the lighter direction. 

4. Always Paint Samples First

A gray painted open floor living room
Photo: 4595886 / Adobe Stock

Like with any change to your house, you’ll want to make sure you can live with a paint color before you fully commit. Before your paint project is slated to begin, paint a large swatch in different colors on the wall in the room you plan to makeover, then see how it jives for a few days (or weeks) before you make your final decision on a paint color. 

Painting a 4-by-4-foot swatch is a good way to gauge how the color will live in the space, as well as witness how the light reflects the color at different times of the day. Light reflection from the lawn or tones that might transfer from your carpet or hardwood floors are uncertainties that can be easily cleared up by painting a small sample.

Bonus: If you have any kind of trim, you’ll also be able to see how the color looks on a wall in your open floor plan against any windows, baseboards, or crown molding before you paint the entire room.

5. Stick to the Same Color With the Trim

If your open floor plan has trim, you’ll want to paint it the same color as the walls. This not only creates uniformity, but it breaks up the room into a larger universe regardless of actual size. Framing in walls with a vastly different trim color only serves to compartmentalize the color and space. Creating a cohesive schema that merges the trim and wall color automatically replicates a big sky-type feel to the room by removing barriers to your visual cognition. 

6. Paint Your Ceilings While You’re At It

While your wall colors may be the first thing visitors notice, we all forget about ceilings and the impact they have on an environment. Painting ceilings is a great way to complement the wall colors you’ve chosen for your open floor plan.

Or you could go in an entirely different direction and choose an experimental ceiling color like black or purple to dramatically change the visual appeal of the room. Grape jelly or jet black as ceiling choices can counterintuitively remove the mind from the other dimensions of the room. Pay attention to how commercial spaces like restaurants and bars paint their ceilings and use it as a lesson in how to open up a room. 

7. Pick the Right Sheen

A traditional open floor living room with terracotta painted walls
Photo: pics721 / Adobe Stock

Picking the right paint sheen (the amount of light the paint reflects or absorbs) matters for many reasons, mainly durability and ease of cleaning but also how easy it is to apply. Low-luster paints, for example, hide wall imperfections quite well, but they're not as easy to clean when stained or marred by everyday wear and tear as a high-gloss paint. 

While both eggshell and satin sheens are considered luxurious due to their rich nature and the amount of light they reflect, if you have kids or pets, you’ll want to choose a satin or semi-gloss, which hides scuffs and dings and is a scrub-able surface. Eggshell and flat paints will require a repaint if they’re damaged, so in highly trafficked areas it’s smart to choose a higher sheen like semi-gloss or gloss for your longer-term maintenance plan.  

8. Add an Accent Wall

Just because you have an open floor plan doesn’t mean you have to err on the safe side when it comes to paint colors. Even if the base color palette for your room is neutral, adding in an accent color is a great way to implement a splash of color while not closing off the room by darkening it. It’s also a safer route for the homeowner who is on the fence about committing to color—if you wind up liking it as an accent, you may want to paint the other walls the same color down the line.

For an accent wall, pick a side of the room that gets a lot of natural light. An accent wall can be any color you desire, especially if the rest of the room is neutral, but many homeowners gravitate toward bold colors like a rich eggplant purple, forest green, deep navy blue, or even black if you’re really feeling brave. A stark contrast to the paint color of the other walls in the room is almost always a good decision. You can also level up by adding a wallpaper accent or texture to the wall as a way to bring even more whimsy, character, and depth into a space.

9. Don’t Like It? Change It

The great thing about paint is that it’s never permanent, and it’s a relatively low-cost home renovation project that completely alters the room (and your mood). So if you’re not in love with the paint color you choose after a month or two, it’s easy enough to change, particularly if you are doing a DIY paint job or you only painted a single room and not the whole house.

Not feeling comfortable in your painting ability? Find a painting contractor near you to help you paint the walls of your open floor plan.

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