How to Choose the Best Paint Color for Staging

27 Sep How to Choose the Best Paint Color for Staging

As a Stager, one of the questions I’m asked most often is what paint color to use on walls. My answer is in three parts.

  1. The easy answer is…something neutral and light in color.
  1. The caveat is…you should keep in mind the floor and trim color, which will dictate the undertone the wall color should have.
  1. The final thought is…lighting. The look of the paint will be affected by the lightbulbs you use.

Let’s explore these in more detail.

  1. Neutral and light in color

Choose a color that will go with nearly anyone’s décor. Stay away from any dated colors (example, peanut butter beige) or taste-specific colors that match your décor, but not others’ décor (dark colors, sunshine yellow, fire engine red, pastels, etcetera).

It’s often said that “light and bright sells a home.” This refers to natural light coming in the (squeaky clean) windows, proper lighting with maximum wattage, and light paint colors on the walls. The light paint color will bounce light rather than absorb it, and the house will feel clean and larger, as well. “Light and bright” really does entice buyers.

  1. Undertones

Each color can have versions of itself with different undertones. For example, there are cool greys, like Navy battleships and warm greys, like the color of hippos. Cherries picked from a tree are a cool red color while tomatoes are a warm red.

Basically, cool colors have more blue, green, or purple undertones while warm colors have more orange, yellow, or red undertones. For some, it’s easy to see the underlying nuances of color, but for most, it’s challenging.

If you’ve ever walked into a room that didn’t “feel right” in terms of color combinations, it’s often the case that paint and/or floor colors were incongruent due to cool and warm undertones conflicting.

In choosing a wall paint color, if your floor and trim color have warm undertones, for example, most wood floors, slate, terra cotta tile, etcetera, go with a wall color that is warm or neutral (in this case, neutral means it plays well with either cool or warm).

If your floor and trim color have cool undertones, for example, weathered or white-washed wood floors or some natural concrete floors, etcetera, choose a wall color that is cool or neutral.

Examples of my favorite Sherwin-Williams paint colors to recommend are:


Realist Beige (cool)
Canvas Tan (neutral)
Accessible Beige (warm)


Agreeable Gray (warm)
Alpaca (cool)


Wool Skein (warm)
Creamy (warm)


Snowbound (warm, yet clean white)
Alabaster (neutral)

  1. Lighting

This hint is mostly for after the walls are painted because these can be swapped out. The more natural light you have coming into the house, the better, and lightbulbs will do the rest of the “brightening.”

You’ve already painted with a light paint color, so the walls will look clean and crisp. However, the paint can take on a different look depending on which lightbulbs you choose. Daylight or bright white bulbs have a cool cast, and soft white bulbs cast a warmer, cozy glow.

Cool paint plus cool light can have an institutional feel, like a hospital, which is not inviting to buyers. It’s better to use soft white bulbs at the maximum wattage recommended for each receptacle.

Warm paint plus cool light can look okay, but so can warm paint plus warm light. Therefore, I almost always recommend soft white bulbs to clients. Exceptions to this rule are in the laundry room, garage, and sometimes small bathrooms.

Bonus Hint: Uniformity

I often get asked if the whole house should be the same color. The short answer is yes, because it’s more turnkey. There are exceptions to this. For instance, if bathrooms or secondary bedrooms are already a neutral color that’s in good shape and that blends well with the new wall color, it’s usually okay to skip painting those rooms.

I’m also asked about accent walls. In decorating your dwelling, painted accent walls are the bomb-dot-com, as are wallpapered accent walls. However, when selling a home, they are too taste-specific. You’ll appeal to a wider range of buyers if you go with a light, neutral, uniform color throughout the whole house.

What about the 5th wall, a.k.a. Ceilings? The trend is to have them painted the same color as the walls, although if you already have white ceilings, there’s no need to spend the money repainting them.

In closing…

Savvy sellers understand that painting by these three rules (plus the bonus hint) will make the house both appealing to the widest range of buyers as well as turnkey.

Buyers want turnkey and fresh, neutral paint fits the bill for most any buyer. Gone will be the buyer objection to the time and cost of painting the house from colors that were dated and/or taste-specific to something that’s fresh, updated and neutral enough to go with their furniture and décor.

If walls could talk, huh? They’d probably say “I was pleasing to the sellers at one time, but the buyers can’t stand me. I can tell by the way they look at me. Please paint me! And if the color selection is too overwhelming, call a professional stager.”

Need help with your talking walls? Call Imagine Gurus. We would be honored to help you Imagine the Possibilities! 210-774-7373, [email protected], or online at

Photo Credit: Sherwin Williams