Painting Closet Interiors: Everything You Need to Know

Published April 1, 2018
walk in closet with shelve system

Most closets are painted either white or neutral color in a light tone, but you don't have to stick with that approach. There are several reasons why you may want to try a different approach when painting the inside of a closet.

Light Colors vs. Dark Colors

Most designers prefer to paint the interior of closets either a white or a light neutral color. This is because a white or neutral paint color will provide a certain amount of reflective light, which can be particularly beneficial in a closet.

A typical closet has one overhead light. If your closet is filled to capacity, much of the direct lighting will be obscured by clothing, baskets, boxes and other items. Using a dark color on the walls will diminish the effects of the overhead closet light, making it harder for you to clearly see the items stored inside.

Exceptions to Color Rules for Closet Paint

There are a few exceptions to the standard of painting the interior of closets white or a neutral color.

Open Closet

A closet without door becomes part of the room décor. This type of closet treatment is generally found in rooms where the items contained within the closet are used on a regular basis, leading the resident to choose to do away with the doors. In this situation, the closet interior tends to look best when the color matches the rest of the room. That helps avoid making the open closet a focal point in the space. If you're concerned that the room color will make the closet too dark, try a lighter shade or two on the paint color chart.

Accent Wall

Creating an accent wall is an interesting paint trend. This whimsical choice can be a fun way to transform an otherwise mundane closet into a fun space with a splash of color that greets you each time you open the closet door.

Closet desk

Closet Nook

A double closet is often relegated to become an office, craft or reading nook. Closets used in this way can be highlighted with a colorful accent wall that coordinates with the room's décor.

Wallpapered Room

If the room's walls are wallpapered, you may want to carry the main color of the wallpaper into your closet. This could be a good reason to veer away from using white or neutral paint in the closet.

Choosing the Right Paint Finish for a Closet

While flat paint is the type most commonly used on walls, it is not always the best option for closets. There are a few times when you may need to trade in the flat paint for a different type.

Flat Paint

Yellow walk-in closet

Most closets painted white or neutral colors are a flat finish paint since the light colors will reflect a sufficient amount of light.

Satin Finish Paint

The satin finish is a highly durable paint that resists things like scuff marks. It's a grade between flat and semi-gloss paints. It can be a good choice for closets that get heavy traffic and hold sizeable items, such as sporting goods and home decor.

Semi-Gloss Paints

Some designers use a semi-gloss for closet interiors to provide greater reflective light. This can help brighten up a dimly lit closet.

High-Gloss Paints

A high gloss paint is the most reflective and durable paint finish, so you may prefer it for frequently used closets that need maximum brightness.

Special Considerations

Some colors and closets warrant a semi-gloss or high gloss finish. Examples include:

  • Dark colors: A dark flat paint color won't help to reflect light inside your closet. If you use a semi-gloss, though, it will be a bit more reflective.
  • Kitchen pantry: This closet is used often, so you need to use a durable paint in this space. While you can use a white or neutral color, the most common choice is the room color. No matter what color you choose, use a semi-gloss paint for easy cleanups and durability.
  • Mud room: The mud room closet is going to suffer from all types of abuse, such as cleaning equipment, boots, tools and other items being moved in and out. Most designers recommend using a lighter color in this often-crowded room to help make the most of the available light. Use a semi-gloss or high gloss paint to stand up to this kind of wear.

Decide on Color and Finish

There are many painting options for a closet. You can narrow your choices by considering how often it will be used and what will be stored inside the closet.

Painting Closet Interiors: Everything You Need to Know