I don't really consider myself a dreamer, and neither should you. I'm actually not even a little teeny tiny bit a fan of the Beetles. But both of these facts are completely unrelated to my point (I'll get around to the reason for the title in a few paragraphs). As I'm nearing the end of my rope in the Paint Selection Nightmare of 2012, I did what anyone of our generation does... I Googled. Certainly someone else out there somewhere has had trouble choosing a neutral paint. Maybe they wrote about it. Maybe there's an online instruction manual that I don't know about. Maybe there's a tip that everyone else on the planet knows but me! At least it seemed that way since I'd been through 101 paint colors without finding ONE that I thought would suffice. So this Googling turned out to be a rather productive event and I walked away feeling surprisingly more confident about things (paint-related, at least ;).
I thought just in case any of you are having (or may have in the future) paint-choosing/decorating difficulties, I would share the good information I found. First of all, there are a multitude of pages offering tips on choosing paint colors like this one which specifically talks about choosing a "greige" color. Since I am looking for neutral paint, I did focus on advice for choosing neutrals. Mostly I was trying to figure out what it is that I'm seemingly so unaware of which is rendering me incapable of picking/finding the right color. In that search I also found this HGTV page that was a little less useful for my purpose, but I thought it was good advice anyway. It discusses the very important 60-30-10 rule that is extremely helpful when decorating, especially if you've never decorated a room/house before OR if you have and aren't happy with how it turned out.
The page that I found most helpful, that actually gave me the revelation of what-the-heck is wrong and why I can't pick a color, was this one. It's a blog post written by a professional decorator on choosing a neutral paint color. She actually uses her own living room as an example, but the one piece of advice that did it for me was to always lean toward a cool neutral vs. a warm neutral. Her explanation was that a warm neutral is warm because it has red, orange or yellow undertones and those colors can come out and clash with other colors in your room. On the contrary, a cooler neutral usually has gray undertones and not really anything clashes with gray. This was profound for me as it completely explains why I keep hating the colors that seem like they should be right. I tend to like cooler colors across the board anyway, whether it's clothes, accessories, makeup, flowers, furniture, or decor. It makes sense then that the warm colors are just not speaking to me. In theory they should be what I'm looking for. After all, my goal was to warm up the space, but my natural inclination is not at all toward those colors. Multiple times I have taken a group of colors and started pouring over them with a vision in mind of a light, warm beige. When I begin weeding them out though, I always end up with a handful of colors that I really love, but do not match the vision I started with at all. Furthermore, every time I would select a color because it looked like a nice warm color it would strike me as too orange, too pink, or too yellow (aaaaand there they are, the warm colors I don't really care for). Oye- so in short, the colors I like aren't warm, and the warm colors I don't like. It's kind of a pickle when you want to warm up a space! Add this on top of the lighting issues. Now you're starting to understand the crazy.
What I gleaned is that I do really need to choose a cooler neutral because I will probably never feel settled with a warm one. Truth is, our walls are currently a very light blue (a color called "Chilly Morning" if I recall correctly), so even a cool neutral is going to be warmer than what we have... therefore warming up the space.
And to make myself feel even better (is that possible right now?) I discovered that even Decor Chick had the same exact issue - really, read her post. You'll think you're having deja vu. Look at her walls. They're covered in paint swatches. She has even more than I do! She was also looking for a neutral, and was considering not one but two of the same colors, Balanced Beige and Windsor Greige, that I am considering (she ended up with Balanced Beige in case you're wondering/don't feel like reading the rest of her blog to find out). Alas, I'm not the only one!