Step 1: Get to Know Yourself
When decorating your home, start the same way a designer would by thinking about the colors and styles you and your family like most.
One easy way to discover your true color & style preferences is to create your own style file. To do this simply go through your favorite magazines and pull out pages, pictures and magazine covers with colors that appeal to you. Just go with your first impression and make quick decisions. You'll have time to evaluate your choices later.
Once you have a stack of images to go through see if there are similar colors in the pictures. Are there many bright colors? Mostly neutrals? Predominately cool blues and greens? You will probably find that several of your pictures include similar colors and styles.
The images you react positively to can also reveal not just the colors you like but can also give you clues as to the mood that draws you in. More on mood in a moment.
Discovering what it is you like about a variety of images can inspire you to take a great idea right out of the pages of your favorite magazines and into your home.
Step 2: Get to Know Your Space
Whether you are beginning with a home full of possessions or one empty room, you need to look closely at both the permanent features and personal items that will remain in the space.
Forget about what is in the room now and imagine the feel and functionality you want for the room. If you have a clear vision as you think about each of the different elements you own you will be able to make decision about the items you already own. So decide if you want to keep it long-term, keep it for now or lose it. Once you know what you are working with you can work to incorporate them seamlessly into your overall color scheme.
I usually recommend narrowing down your options to a color family or two. By narrowing your focus you will be able to put your energy into finding just the perfect hue in that color family.
In order to decide you need to take into consideration the elements in the room that aren't going to change. For instance the color will need to work well with the color of the flooring or carpet. It will need to complement any furnishings that are in the room or that you plan to purchase. It will also need to harmonize with the colors in adjoining rooms.
While there are many things to consider the good news is that all of them can help you to hone in on the perfect color by quickly ruling out some color families that you know won't work.
Also keep in mind that the color you paint your wall is a backdrop for the room and does not need to match anything exactly so don't worry about finding the exact yellow of the little square in your upholstery fabric and in fact it is often more appealing if it doesn't match exactly but rather harmonizes with the elements in the room
Step 3: Find Your Inspiration
You may already have an idea of the colors you want to include in your scheme. If not, then you can look around for something to inspire a fabulous color combination.
Many people suggest that the way to do this is to find a nature photo or piece of art but there are so many places to look for inspiration.
Step 4: Get in the Mood
Before you decide on the exact color you need to define the type of look you ultimately want to create and the mood you want to set.
Sometimes this is easy. For instance if you're painting your daughter's room and she insist on pink and you insist on her being able to sleep you are well on your way to finding your perfect paint color because you know the color family (pink) and have defined the mood (restful, tranquil, dreamy) you want to create. Jump on the fast track and go right to Step 3!
If however you aren't sure what color you want then start by thinking about the mood or feeling you want to create in the room. Is it a family room that you want to feel warm and welcoming? Is it a kitchen that wakes you up in the morning and energizes you for preparing a meal at the end of long day?
For every room you decorate you are setting the stage for the activities and interactions that make up your life. So if you don't already have a vision of the finished room close your eyes and see yourself or your family in the room, imagine how you want it to feel and capture that with the colors you select.
Step 5: Discover Your Scheme
Once you have determined the look and feeling you want to create and understand a bit about how color can help you to create that mood you can start to think about which color families will work in your room.
A color family is the most general term for describing colors. Most people think in terms of Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, Pink, Purple, Brown, Gray, White or Black when it comes to broad definitions of color.
But describing a color exactly requires more than just the general color family. It comes down to identifying three basic characteristics. They are: the color family along with the lightness or darkness, and the brightness or dullness of a color. This may sound difficult but it isn't. If you've ever described something as dark bluish gray or bright tomato red you've hit upon all three without even knowing it.
Step 6: Find Your Color
Selecting the Perfect Tint, Tone or Shade
I recommend three trips to the paint store when selecting your color. One to get all of the swatches that you think might work, the next time to buy some paint to sample and finally a trip to pick up the paint for the project.
I know that for many the only trip to the paint store is to decide on the color and purchase the paint all at one time but considering a rather high percentage of the paint sold is purchased to replace a color that someone didn't like the first time. Add to that all of the people that say they don't really love the color but didn't have the energy, time or money to redo it and I'd say the chances aren't very good your going to be happy with the outcome if this is your approach.
Okay that being said once you've got a color family or two in mind it's time for your first trip to the paint store.
The good news is that rather than feeling overwhelmed with hundreds of choices you have already narrowed your focus to one or maybe two areas.
Take along any reference fabrics or pictures that might help you but this is NOT the place to try to find the exact color. What you want to do is pick up a range of swatches in your color family that are close to what you have in mind to take home.
For example if you have decide on green pick up some swatches that in the paint store look slightly more blue than the color you have in mind and some that are slightly more yellow. Also some that are darker, lighter, brighter or more muted than what you have in mind. You might be amazed at home different the colors will look in your home so don't try to narrow your selection too much while your at the paint store. It is much better to do that at home.
Don't worry about taking too many color swatches. That's what they are there for and better to take a few extra colors than have to make an extra trip back to the store.
TIP: Don't match color in the store even if they have an area with special lighting. The lightening in your home is never the same and you must look at the color in the actual room if you want to get it right.
Step 7: Get your color