How many times have you been traveling or looking through a home decorating magazine and seen an amazing color that you’d love to use on your walls? Did you jump in and do it or did fear hold you back?

The selection of paint color for our walls, the largest area of color in our homes, is the decorating challenge that causes the most angst for my clients. This decision may be less daunting if a few rules of thumb are followed.

While painting is one of the first things we ‘install’ or do in a redecorating project, it is always one of the last things we select. Since wall color needs to be guided by the color of the floor (the second largest area of color in any room), cabinetry, art and the fabrics in the room, it is usually a mistake to paint before selecting these design components because it can limit choices. Remember that printing and materials limit fabrics and flooring to about 250 different colors. However, paint can be mixed in literally thousands of different shades. It’s much easier to match a paint to a fabric than a fabric to an existing shade of paint of the wall.

The first step in the color selection is to gather the small paint chips from your paint store. Or, your decorator can bring a full set of larger paint chips to your home to begin the process. When the possibilities have been narrowed to 3 or 4, it’s time to apply them to your walls for a real visual test—the most important step in the decision process. The samples should be painted about 3’ wide and extend all the way down to the base trim, ideally on walls that get good natural light. It only costs a few dollars to get a small paint sample from paint or hardware stores and it’s the best few dollars you can spend.

If there is a particularly dark corner in the room, it is a good idea to paint a smaller square of each color there to see whether that area looks too dark at night. Apply two coats to each of the squares so that the existing wall color doesn’t bleed through. After the paint is dry, study your squares in morning, afternoon and evening light. Take your time….you will live with this decision for quite a while.

After you’ve made your decision, you must then decide upon the finish of the paint. The general rule of thumb is that the rougher the texture of the wall, the flatter the paint surface needs to be. The greater the sheen, the more obvious any blemished will appear. My personal favorite finish is eggshell. I find it to be the perfect balance between easy cleaning and subtle light reflection.

Monochromatic color schemes in a room tend to provide a more serene ambience, while a room with highly contrasting colors will create energy and a sense of excitement. Accent walls are a simple way to add a splash of color without committing to a whole room of a strong hue. Ideally, accent walls will start and end at inside corners or another area where the transition is subtle.

And don’t forget the 5th wall, your ceiling. There is no rule that says all ceilings have to be white. Especially if you have crown molding, consider a shade for your ceiling that is just a step or two lighter than your walls. If you are a little more daring, choose a color from a different palette altogether. I recommend choosing light shades for the ceiling since colors that are viewed horizontally are much darker than those viewed vertically. Lighter colors tend to have a feeling of moving away, so lighter colors can make the ceiling look taller. The color of your walls will say a lot about how the room will feel, so be sure it’s a color than makes you happy and smile every time you walk into your Resort at Home!