Avoid these unflattering palettes in your sleeping space.
Avoid these unflattering palettes in your sleeping space.Illustration: Julia Abbonizio/Getty Images
AD It Yourself

6 Bedroom Paint Colors to Skip No Matter What

Don’t let these hues keep you up at night 

The human eye sees around a million different colors, but it only takes a few to make the mind spin when selecting bedroom paint colors. Given how much of our lives are spent in the bedroom, it’s one of the more high-stakes and high-reward parts of the home to paint. 

Even though sharing swatches in a group chat helps narrow down the infinite choices, there are paint colors you might want to completely strike from the conversation of boudoir beautification. “Since the bedroom and the bathroom are our most intimate spaces, we really have to pay attention,” says Keith Recker, the author of Deep Color: The Shades That Shape Our Souls.

Bedrooms are often seen as sanctuaries. You may love a particular hue, say an emerald green or a perky orange, but it might not work if you douse your chamber in such a vibrant color, as it can come off as distracting or too energizing. On the other hand, a foggy grey or a dirt brown might impart a drab veil, altering your mood. Of course, cultural or a personal meaning and associations, can trump the color rules, Recker notes. 

To help you along the way, AD tapped color experts and interior designers on the bedroom paint colors you should skip and how to find the right hue for you. 

1. Gloomy greys

A grey that matches a rain cloud is a no-go on a bedroom wall.

Photo: Getty Images

“When you wake up and look outside your window and see a gray day, you don’t have motivation,” says Tash Bradley, the lead color expert and interior design director of Lick, a paint and wallpaper company. “It almost makes you want to pull the duvet over your head. You don’t get any of the positive psychological traits from gray.”

That’s not to say that every grey is a bedroom no-no. Even Bradley admits that her feelings on grey in the bedroom “will split a room.” Recker suggests selecting tones that will put you in a healthy mental state, which in turn will make you feel good about yourself. One way to do that is to look at your wardrobe and select a flattering hue. Perhaps you have a favorite cashmere sweater that’s the color of a cloud and complements your blue eyes. See if you can color match it to a bedroom paint color. Keep in mind that greys with blue or even pinkish undertones can soften the space into something akin to ethereal. 

2. Electric blues and other neon hues

If you can picture the bright bedroom paint color in a kindergarten classroom, skip it.

Photo: Getty Images

Flashy neon colors, like a hyper blue, might be fun and exciting in a hotel, restaurant, or gallery, but that stimulation can be too much for many bedrooms. Nicole Hirsch of Nicole Hirsch Interiors in Wellesley, Massachusetts, never steers clients toward those tones for the bedroom, although she loves using “bold color sparingly in other rooms in the house or even in kids bedrooms once in a while.”

In that regard, other non-neon but equally bold colors could prove distracting to your time in the bedroom if they strongly correlate to an irrelevant setting, say the loud and sporty colors of your alma mater that simply fail to translate well into post-college adulthood.

3. Pepto pink and other saturated tones

Vibrant tones are too stimulating for a place where you catch zzzs. 

Photo: Getty Images

Sean Adams, the author of The Designer’s Dictionary of Color, recalls with dread times when he has selected “the perfect color” only to realize once the pink paint dried that it was as bright and obnoxious as a bottle of Pepto Bismol. Although Recker finds that saturated colors can work for the right client, “fully saturated shades on the warmer side of the spectrum are problematic because they do tend to stimulate and demand engagement.” 

Adams suggest that if you like a paint color, “go down a couple of shades” and opt for a blander, maybe even greyer, version of the hue. “It’s so counterintuitive, but on a bigger expanse, a couple shades [lighter] always makes things a little easier to manage.”

4. Yellows and oranges

Leave the citrus shades for home decor accents. 

Photo: Getty Images

As a child, Bradley’s parents allowed her to paint big swirls of yellow across her bedroom walls. But despite her deep connection and nostalgia for the color, she would avoid using it in the bedroom. “If we took that yellow and wrapped a room in it, it would be way too much,” she says. Instead, Bradley recommends using yellows (or other nostalgic but demanding colors) as accents, such as on a door or in decor. Cue the throw pillows.

Similarly, orange is another citrus to forgo. “The color is reminiscent of optimism and energy,” says interior designer Sherrell Neal of Sherrell Design Studio in Houston. “I would find it difficult to fall asleep with such an active, attention-grabbing color. Citrus fruits are delicious, but I don’t want to be reminded of them every morning when I open my eyes.”

5. Bright reds and purples

Stop-sign red is not the shade for quiet slumber.

Photo: Getty Images

Even former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, who was famous for her crimson-clad apartment, dismissed red as a choice for her bedroom. Likewise, April Gandy, the founder and principal designer of Alluring Designs Chicago, “would never recommend” saturated purples or reds as bedroom paint colors. Her clients often want to feel like they’re safely tucked away “in a sanctuary,” a vibe she says is better achieved through neutral paints with dollops of color. 

Amy Pigliacampo of Amy Pigliacampo Interiors also thinks true reds “tend to ramp up the energy level” of the room and should be out of the question “if rest and relaxation is your goal.” Instead, consider the range. “I love dark tones in a bedroom,” the Denver-based interior designer continues. “They can really make the most basic room feel sophisticated and hotel-like.”

Alternatively, if rest is not exactly your priority when it comes to spending time in a bedroom, capitalizing on the vibrant energy tied to red paint might be worthwhile. “There may be some people for whom the bedroom is a temple of sensuality,” Recker says. “Perhaps that means that a smoldering shade of red is completely, 100% appropriate and excellently coordinated with their cheetah-patterned sheets.”

6. Browns and overly earthy colors

Brown is simply boring and should not be one of the bedroom paint colors you ponder. 

Photo: Getty Images

Even though a beige room “works great” for certain people, Adams finds deep brown tones to be “rather distasteful, depressing, and difficult” to elevate in the bedroom, simply because they’re not enduring. Even when used in an office, brown is usually balanced out by other colors. The same goes for other overly earthy tones like a dark olive or a sandy tan. If you’re committed to inviting the outdoors into your bedroom, look for a taupe. Sherwin-Williams’s new Terra collection Threshold Taupe or Shiitake might be a good place to start.