Decide what mood you want the room to embody. Different colors, tones, and saturations will naturally lend themselves to a certain persona. For example, if green is your hue of choice, a soft sage will project serenity and calm, while a seafoam shade will give the room a relaxed, cottage feel. A dark olive green will imbue a classic, reserved look; conversely, a zingy apple green will project trendy vibrancy.
Choosing Paint Colors: Bold versus Subtle
"Think of paint as a complementary background instead of what knocks you down upon entering a room. I want fabrics and furniture to be the stars and the wall color to quietly tie it all together. Save those bold colors for a small accent like the back of a built-in or for reviving an old accent chair."
Choosing Paint Colors: Test Hues
"Always remember to test paint colors before diving in. Paint large sample swatches by the window, next to trim, in the darkest corner, in the lightest corner. Let the samples dry, and give them a second coat so you can accurately assess the color."
Choosing Paint Color: Testing Tips
"Be sure to test your paint in the lightest and the darkest areas in each room to get the best understanding of how the room will look. Paint colors will look darker on the walls than they do in the can.
Choosing Paint Colors: Experiment
"With a few chips you love in hand, make your way to less-saturated colors. You'll likely find that a muted version -- one that looks almost too muted on a chip -- will work best on your walls."
To translate a feel-good color into one that looks good on the wall, ask at the paint store about the color's light reflectance value (LRV). "The higher the LRV, the more light will bounce around the room. The lower the LRV, the more the color will absorb light, which will make the room seem moody,” says Kelly Berg, San Francisco-area color consultant.
Putting It Together: Contrasting Colors
"A little healthy tension is good. It’s a snoozefest to have beige on beige in a room. Instead, I like to inject a bit of surprise in my color schemes. If you don’t have an eye for it, find a fabric or art with an interesting mix of colors and use that as your guide."
Putting It Together: Instincts
Trust your gut and the work you put into picking a palette. That blue wall or patterned chair will jump out at you when it’s the only thing in a room, but it will calm down after all the furniture and accessories are arranged. A room needs to be finished for it to make sense.
Don't sweat slight color variations between fabrics and walls. "The best rooms are slightly off -- stronger, lighter, softer, just not a spot-on match to a swatch," says Sasha Emerson, a Los Angeles designer.
Putting It Together: Accessorize with Color
"Everyone thinks of walls when they think of color. But using color in accessories -- rugs, pillows, art -- makes an amazing impression without going crazy on the walls."
Neutrals: Mix It Up
"Neutrals get more exciting when you mix textures and materials. Contrast adds spice to a potentially boring color palette."
Neutral colors act as peacemakers -- they help bold colors and patterns get along. The neutral creamy tones of the rug used in this room balance the Kelly green walls, striped drapes, and paisley chair.
Neutrals: Warm Up White
White brightens whatever it's with, but it can also be harsh. Try off-white instead. "When you put a warm white next to a color, it will still look bright and crisp."
Tips & Tricks: The Experts
"When in doubt, call in an expert! It’s a misconception that a designer is just too expensive; most will do hourly color consultations. Better to get it done right the first time than have to redo mistakes."
Tips & Tricks: Myth Busting
"People are nervous to put dark colors in small rooms. But they don't make the room seem smaller, they just make them darker. Use mercury glass and mirrored lamps to make the room less cavelike."
Tips & Tricks: Keep Hallways Neutral
"Think of hallways as palate cleansers -- the sorbet that's served before diving in to the next course. Keeping them neutral allows you to branch into any color in rooms that flow off them."
Tips & Tricks: Furniture Variations
"Break up a room of matchy-matchy wood furniture with one painted piece. It doesn't have to be a bold color. I like to combine natural wood tones with black."
Tips & Tricks: Small Rooms
"In a small room, keep walls the same color as the primary upholstered furniture. The room will seem twice the size."
"The era of the bright-white ceiling is over," says Elaine Griffin, an interior designer in New York City. Paint the ceiling a shade lighter than the walls to visually raise it and avoid a jarring stop-start effect. Go a shade darker to bring it down and add coziness.
Tips & Tricks: Paint a Disguise
Tips & Tricks: Picture This
Get out the digital camera. It's amazing how a photo can point out problem spots. Add colorful accessories, take a photo, and assess the scene.