How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Apartment Complex

June 5, 2019

Nobody wants to live in a drab, depressing apartment. But unlike a house, renters aren't in charge of what color goes on the walls.

As the owner of the complex, it is up to you to decide what look you want for your units. Do you keep it safe and beige or take a risk and try something more colorful?

The colors you choose may not seem important but they will have a huge impact on how your renters feel about the rooms. So read on before you start rolling.

Choosing Colors for Your Apartment Complex

When choosing paint colors for your apartment complex you want to follow a few basic rules. It's a little different than just painting one house or room, you're in charge of potentially dozens of units.

Always Do the Practice Test

The most basic rule in painting, whether it be a house, apartment, bathroom, or even a doghouse, is to test color samples. It may take a little extra time but it can save you money in the long run.

Pick out a few colors you think will look good and buy sample cans. You want to find a wall that is exposed to full and partial sunlight so you can get a good look at how the sample colors appear in different lighting. 

Paint a 1x1 area on each wall of the room with each sample and observe it at different times of the day. Bring in a lamp or two and see how it looks with artificial light. You'd be surprised how drastically different one color can look in different conditions.

This test will also show you if you'll need to do more than one coat or if the previous color bleeds through. Different brands have different coverages and this will help you decide if you need to choose a higher quality coat.

Color Choices

There's something to be said about bold paint colors. They can completely change how the room feels. But this isn't always a good thing when you're painting for an entire apartment complex.

Most people are comfortable with a basic off white color. It won't amaze anyone but it also won't upset tenants. You know you're trying to keep as many people as possible happy, so going with the safe choice is never a bad idea.

If you have a theme for your complex you can work that in. It would make sense for a tropical themed complex to have bright blues or yellows.

In the end, you can choose whatever color you want, but if people have the choice to go elsewhere, they will. It may feel boring but neutral colors never hurt anyone.

Accent Walls

Accent walls are great ways to add some color to a room. You can choose a wall with a prominent feature, like a fireplace or such to really make it pop. Otherwise, just pick the wall you want to get the most attention.

The color you chose should either compliment or contrast the color of the rest of the room, for that, you need to consult a color wheel. Or with technology, today, upload a picture of the room into a virtual painter.

While you're accenting, keep in mind that you can utilize the trim. A bright white on the trim looks great and frames the room.

This can be a risky move though. Your idea of good accent colors or wall may not impress a potential tenant.

Color Temperatures

Living spaces like common rooms can benefit from lighter colors. Light and cool colors make a room feel bigger than it is. Windows give the same effect by letting in natural light. Light colors like whites, beiges, and grays are neutral and do a fine job. 

Doing this can help if your units are on the smaller side by making them feel more open. Small, dark rooms can feel oppressive to be in and that shouldn't be what your tenants feel in the living room.

On the flip side, dark and warm colors are a good idea for bedrooms. They can actually make a room feel smaller and cozy.


Besides color, you also have to take the finish into account. There are several to choose from: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. The finish determines the end result as far as sheen and durability.

High and semi-gloss are easier to clean and are durable. They work well in the kitchen where grease and food may end up splattering.

Satin looks good and is pretty durable. You can use this in rooms you know kids will be playing in like bedrooms or living rooms.

Eggshell has a sheen like an egg, so not much at all. It's good for covering marks and does well in dining areas.

Flat paint has no shine and is not very durable. It covers very well so you need less to paint a room. But it is meant for places you know won't be damaged, so you may want to avoid using it.

Exterior Paints

For the outside, you follow the same rules essentially. But the choices you make here are potentially more important. The colors you choose for the exterior walls will be the first thing everybody who drives by your apartment complex will see.

So once again the safest choice is to stick with a neutral color and avoid patterns. Definitely take the time to choose complementary colors for the trim though. Just because you chose a neutral color doesn't mean it has to look boring.

Darker colors can work well if you use a lighter color for the trim, otherwise, the building will look foreboding. The issue with dark colors is how they fade much more noticeably than light colors.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your exterior color sets the mood for the entire complex. Bright pastels scream "retirement home" while dark brown can make the buildings look like summer camp cabins.

Colors Matter

Paint colors are one of the most important parts of your apartment complex and should be decided on carefully. But when you figure out what you want we can do the work. Contact us for any help you may need.

The Author | Melissa Petrusse
Melissa Petrusse, President, Petrusse-Norris Painting - Licensed Painting/Decorating Contractor and Color-Expert. Please feel free to reach out to Melissa with any painting project questions, as she is happy to be of service. Simply fill out the Contact Form found on our Contact Page, as Melissa personally receives each request. View More Post from Melissa Petrusse