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Tackling the fear of selecting paint colors

Picking a paint color is probably the most difficult - and often most terrifying - design choice for a room. But, it won't be so daunting if you follow a few guidelines and remember that paint is the easiest and least expensive selection to correct.

First, determine the overall atmosphere that's desired. For instance, if you want a mellow and muted feeling, work with the background color of the main fabric selection. The color need not be exact, but a shade darker or lighter in that range will work. Keep the ceiling and trim color a few tones lighter than the walls so everything will blend rather than contrast.

If you are looking for a high-impact look, colors should contrast strongly. Pick a bold, bright color from the main fabric. Powerful colors will undoubtedly make a dramatic statement. Keep the ceiling and trim white or a light hue to maintain the definition of the main color.

Then purchase only a quart of your chosen color from a reputable paint store. This merchant should have knowledgeable sales help for further assistance, and most stores have computer-aided blending for an exact color match to your fabric. Paint a white board, about 12 by 30 inches, to be used as a movable color swatch. Mark the swatch with the color information from the can for your records. View the color from all angles of the room. And because natural and artificial light will affect the color, look at the swatch from all angles in day and evening light as well as under incandescent light.

If the first quart doesn't work, buy another quart or have the first can re-tinted. Paint and label a new "swatch". Once you find the ideal color, invest in the gallons of paint needed for the room and go for it!

Then, if your initial reaction to the freshly painted room is one of disappointment, dismay or even disgust, remember that you are viewing an overwhelming amount of color in an empty room. The fear of being overpowered by color will subside once the window treatments, furniture, and accessories are placed. It takes all of these elements to produce a beautifully decorated room.

Published in Design NJ - Summer 2001 issue, updated 12/09.

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