We can all agree that painting a room gray just feels good. It’s reliable. It goes with everything. What could possibly go wrong, right? According to Orlando Soria, the designer and host behind HGTV’s new series, Unspouse My House, plenty. 

“I have a go-to paint color—Horizon by Benjamin Moore,” says Soria. The dusky hue has made an appearance in countless of his projects. It has never failed him…until it did. “I had a client who wanted their living room and dining room walls that color, but we weren’t able to swatch it on the space before we did it,” he remembers. Once the walls dried, Soria realized they had a problem on their hands. “The clients were like, ‘Um, why did you choose this blue color?” He spotted the culprit right away: The yellow undertones of the warm white ceiling were reflecting onto the walls and altering the gray. 

Design by Orlando Soria for Homepolish, Photos by Tessa Neustadt photo by james and carol lee

Design by Orlando Soria for Homepolish, Photos by Tessa Neustadt photo by cody board

“People don’t realize, color is all about perception—what you put next to it,” he explains. “You can make a color that truly has zero blue in it look blue by putting yellow next to it—it’s the contrast. Your eye is playing tricks on you.” 

“People don’t realize, color is all about perception—what you put next to it.”

Fortunately, Soria wasn’t a fan of the ceiling color to begin with. He saw it as a happy excuse to start fresh with a bright white. Though, in general, the design pro recommends not repainting your ceilings if you can avoid it. “It’ll save you a ton of money. Plus, painters don’t typically like painting ceilings,” he says. 

All colors, even the ones you think are “safe,” need a point of contrast. A gray wall without white trim, as Soria points out, will just look white. “There’s nothing there to tell you that it’s gray,” he says. Moral of the story: Always test your swatches! 

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