Ask Maria: Every Colour in my Living Room Looks Green! Help!

Since I finally had the brilliant idea to ask for clean vs. dirty dilemmas or issues where ya’ll think the lighting might be the problem, here’s a great question I received along with this lovely room from a reader:

Thank you for your post. I finally understand why my family room wall looks green no matter which color I paint. I tried 5 different colors and they all look green. Some of the colors I tried were BM revere pewter, grey owl, and most recently white dove Oc-17.

Any suggestion you could give will be very helpful.

Before – reader photo

This is her family room and if you look at the TV wall you can see that it does indeed have a green cast. In this go-aound, she painted her walls 1/2 strength BM Revere Pewter which would be more in the realm of BM Edgecomb grey.

And because we know that it’s a Green Grey, that’s why it looks green.

As you can see in the photo with Edgecomb Gray on the wall (scroll down a couple of images) taken in good natural light, the fireplace has lots of purple in it which means that the correct undertone in this case would be one with a Violet Gray.

You should also know that Off-White walls often look green in low light areas (or in the summer when you get the reflection of the green outside)  because whites reflect surrounding colours.

When the wall is painted Off-White (BM White Dove), we end up with a wall that simply looks primed (below), not finished, because we have a few different colours in the fireplace but none of them are white.

Off-White, BM White Dove OC 17

And, although the stone has some variety in colour, the OVERALL READ of this tile is more pink/purple than green or blue which is why all the other colours look like blue or green and don’t relate.

When I sent her a note asking for clarification she said:

I’m also looking at painting just the “green” wall (my husband and I named it that way after painting it 5 times) with Balboa Mist OC-27 which has a red under stone thinking that red and green makes it more grey:) I’m kind of running out of ideas and your expert opinion would be very helpful.
She’s right that BM Balboa Mist (which has a Violet undertone and not Green) could be a possibility but not for the reasons she’s stated above.
It’s easier than that. It’s just about finding a colour that RELATES to the existing stone.

If you are looking at a small sample of ANYTHING, it’s much harder to see the neutral undertone until you get several larger samples, or if you have a small swatch of fabric, buy a half yard if you’re not sure how it will read in the end.

Here’s the same wall photoshopped in BM Edgecomb which is a Green Grey, and BM Abalone which is a Violet Grey.

Could the final colour be a lighter Violet Grey? Yes, however I chose to photoshop BM Abalone in to the room so that you could see how well the new Violet undertone wall colour actually relates to the fireplace.

Since the original room has a cognac sectional with purple cushions, this colour would probably work very well!

Violet Grey is not used nearly as often as Green Grey or Blue Greys, however in the right environment, they are just beautiful!

Sims Hilditch

Sims Hilditch (scroll through this designers portfolio it’s just gorgeous 

So even if there is a lot of green reflection from the landscape on the wall, if my dear reader paints her wall in the correct undertone to relate to her fireplace, Violet Gray, rather than adding even more green with a Green Gray, it will relate well and not bother her.

How do we avoid making this mistake? It’s easy if you compare the different undertones of gray to the tile with large sample boards. Since there are only three possible undertones of grey, Green, Violet and Blue,  it’s simple to do a process of elimination when you have large samples.

Blue Gray would be easily eliminated as this stone is clearly not cool blue, but it’s common to get tricked by Green Gray and Violet Gray because they can both read like what is often vaguely called “brown gray” or “warm gray” in lay terms.

It’s much more precise and useful you see, to distinguish your “warm grays” into two clear undertones, Green or Violet. By comparing how each relates to the stone with large samples it would be easy to see that the stone has an overall Violet undertone and not Green. The only way to know for sure is to compare.

The secret to getting colour to do what you want can be summed up in one word: comparison.

It’s laced into every training exercise in my 3 day live training. It’s way more important, than anything else.

Understanding where to place the colour when you are going through the process of choosing or specifying colours and most importantly constantly comparing, will have YOU be the boss of the colour, instead of the colour bossing you around and surprising you when you least expect it.

If you have an Ask Maria question that has not been covered on the blog, lighting or clean vs. dirty, email me with photos here.

PS. I’m getting close to 10,000 followers on Instagram, I would love it if you’d follow me here, next week I’ll post a giveaway.

Related posts:

How to Fix Your White Room (If it Turned Green) Before and After

5 Reasons You Hate your Paint Colour (It’s Not the Lighting)

How to Choose Paint Colours that Work with your Lighting

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  1. So grateful I found your blog a few years back Maria! You saved me from DISASTER when remodeling my house. I’m just a color enthusiast, but plan on taking your 3 day course sometimes in the future! You nailed with that photoshop of the abalone wall. It’s perfect! Your recent blog about the moody bedroom saved me too! I have medium violet grey walls in my bedroom and was trying to use a cream coverlet with other dark elements. A deep teal velvet quilt solved my problem of hating the color of my bedroom!

  2. How do I make my bedroom stand out with a wow look every time I walk into the room ? Everything is the same color I want and do need Bedroom drapes I’m honestly having a hard time choosing colors and style

    • Hi Lisa, The only way to give you accurate advice is if I saw photos, email your photos to [email protected] and we can let you know what eDesign package that could help you the most! It could be as simple as adding contrast with white or cream, or the right duvet. Usually the bedding is the best place to begin. Hope that helps! Maria

  3. The violet grey Abalone is perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. I bet it would look nice with a sage green. And I want to check out how it would look next to Quiet Moments…my home’s color.

  4. The Abalone does look better than the other options however to me I still see green towards the left bottom of the wall where the sun is shining.

  5. Maria, when looking at the Benjamin Moore website, I was that Edgecomb Gray and Elmira White are listed as similar colors. You mentioned the Edgecomb Gray as being a green gray, so then is Elmira White also green undertoned?

  6. I love that you highlighted a purple undertone. My go to neutral is taupe with a purple undertone. I have 5000K lighting and no yellow undertones in my decor. Blue greens, smoky purples and deep wine reds are my colors. The only problem is when other people want to know the color and I have to explain how it will turn pink or muddy if you don’t have the right lighting or have yellow beige in your furnishings or accessories.

  7. OMG a thousand times, OMG.

    I’ve looked again at my recently painted walls in my living room with disgust and frustration, because what I wanted to be neutral is green!!! Argh. It’s possible that the outdoor landscape is reflecting into what I thought was an off white with yellow undertones is turning it green. But, is it possible that my lime green chairs in the same room might be casting off that color? Hmmm. Maybe I should cover those chairs with a blanket and see if it makes a diff. Anyway, what an inspiration to find your site. I dread repainting and I can’t bear to do it myself. So, you’ve given me much to think about.