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When my husband and I moved into our first house last year, I imagined sitcomlike weekends spent painting the rooms together, complete with boom box and cute overalls. Then I got pregnant unexpectedly. All bets were off. I could barely stand to eat a meal let alone hard labor (because if you’ve ever painted something, you know it’s work). I just wanted the task checked off so I could go back to bed-rotting in peace. In an act of desperation, I used Thumbtack to hire a crew of local painters and got in touch with cult-favorite Backdrop to figure out colors. (Full transparency: Backdrop gifted me some, but I also bought $500 worth on my own and would do it again.) The plan was to get the whole house done in one go and I’d never have to think about it again. Of course, things never go entirely as planned—see: surprise pregnancy. Here are four things I didn’t consider that you probably should, plus one decision I’m still benefiting from today.

You’ll Go Overboard on Samples No Matter What

Drive-Thru Safari Paint, Backdrop.

You’d probably expect more from a design editor; however, I went into this without a clear direction. I wanted to browse a bunch of paint shades, see what called to me, then build a complementary palette from my favorites. One appeal of Backdrop is its curated 82 hues, which you can filter by color and sort light to dark on its site; I figured I’d be able to narrow down my choices pretty easily. Well, reader, I ended up ordering 20 swatches. But imagine if I was faced with the thousands of shades available at the hardware store! Luckily, Backdrop does stickers. Rather than a heavy box of sample pots, I received a slim envelope, plus there were no drips or brush cleaning to worry about. 

One Swatch Is Never Enough

My ultimate cast of colors: a taupe-y neutral in the living room and hallways, a soft blue in the dining room, vibrant green in the sunroom, and Backdrop’s purest white on the majority of the molding and ceilings. (Not shown in this story but equally lovely: moody teal in the powder room, a soothing sage green in our bedroom, a more saturated version on the wainscoting in our single full bath, and a cool gray in the guest room.)

After a full day of checking in at various times to see how the sample stickers looked in different light, I had a couple top contenders for each space. The hard part was choosing a winner from there—I craved the ability to see how the colors would look on every wall at once, or against the white trim and in the center of a windowless stretch. Turns out, all that was required was a pair of scissors. I simply cut each swatch into quarters and scattered them around the room. Highly recommend!

Check in With Your Painters

Novelty Wave Paint, Backdrop; Klöverbad Wallpaper, Svenskt Tenn.

After I walked the painters through how I wanted each color applied—green everywhere (even the ceiling!) in the sunroom, turquoise on just the trim in the dining room, etc.—I was so confident that I left the house only to return when they were finished the following day (pregnancy and paint fumes aren’t a good mix). I texted back and forth with the painters a few times from my parents’ place, but I honestly never thought to ask for progress pics. If I had, I would’ve caught simple misunderstandings over things like matching the dining room door to the now-blue molding. They were easy fixes, but noticing those issues so late required the painters to come back a third day for a few hours.

There’s a Right and a Wrong Paint Finish for Bathrooms

Although a bathroom is indeed an interior space, standard interior paint isn’t going to cut it. I learned this the hard way, when the ceiling above our shower started peeling a few months in. Backdrop rightly recommends its semigloss finish for bathrooms, which better stands up to constant moisture and humidity…I just didn’t read the fine print. Blame it on pregnancy brain.

What I Got Right: Saving Leftover Paint

Morning Ritual and Supermoon Paint, Backdrop; Cherry Candleholders, Lostine; Space Baby Art Print by Katie Benn, Etsy.

I followed the sage advice to keep any extra paint in case we needed to make touch-ups down the road. But I’ve found the leftovers more helpful for on-a-whim DIY projects, from zhuzhing up a thrift store picture frame to updating a Facebook Marketplace desk (just make sure you use a water-based sealer on top). I’m saving the couple bucks I’d have to spend on a sample pot, plus I only need to venture down to the basement versus driving to the hardware store. A full year after our big paint project, the same Backdrop colors are still in rotation. I just shake the cans to remix and they’re good as new.