Sure you can always paint over, but that doesn't make picking the color that you'll see everyday any easier. I've seen more people agonize over the perfect wall color than the perfect sofa, despite the fact that the former is significantly less expensive. It's harder to visualize, and that's scary. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ease the process.
• Don't ignore your floor color! Don't. It's probably the most common rookie mistake, and the one that is the least forgiving. When we see a color in a magazine, we tend to overlook the second largest surface, the floor, and focus on the walls. However, floors, regardless of material, have a color, and within each variety there are many variations. For example, a wood floor is not just "wood color." It's honey-colored, or cherry, or ebony, or limed, etc...A wall color will only look good in your home if it relates well to the floor color. So hold paint samples right next to the floor, not just in the middle of the wall. Red walls will look totally different next to cherry stained floors than they will next to limed oak ones.
• Let your art lead you. This is a decorator fail safe. Have you tried it? It feels like cheating. Line up all the art you'd like to hang in your room, pick out a color, and find a paint swatch to match. Bam, done. You'll feel like a pro. The same principal can be applied to rugs and accent textiles. Choosing one of the more subtle accent colors in the rug will bring a fresh dimension to whole space.
• Coordinate with your upholstery. Like your floor, a large sofa will throw off a room if it clashes with the walls. If you try to compensate for a sofa that you're not crazy about by picking a wall color that you love but that doesn't go with it, you'll be disappointed. Don't add wrong to wrong. Pick a color that compliments what you have, and both the overall room and the upholstered piece in question will look better for it.
• Make up for a lack of architectural character with saturated colors. A typical dark, low ceiling, wall-to-wall carpeted basement apartment will look infinitely more chic and cheerful painted something dramatic, like charcoal gray, than it will a pale sunny yellow...which will only add to the gloom because it's out of place. If you have a space with great bones and great light, it will be difficult to go wrong with any color, and light colors will let those details shine. However, when you have the opposite, go dark. It's counter-intuitive, but it lends a blah space a strong presence. You can always lighten the mood with bright accent pieces and good lighting.
Re-edited from a post originally published 7.5.12 - AB