1. Work with what you have. It seems obvious but people still forget it. Take a look at your bed cover or sofa cushions and capitalize on a smidge of color from that fabric print.
2. Find inspiration in beloved objects. If you adore your grandmother’s vintage china, use that same color in your kitchen and give the dishes center stage. Look for a favorite fabric swatch, painting, or piece of clothing that you are always drawn to. Use that same color scheme to enhance the neutrals in your room.
3. Take a hint from mother nature. Look around outside or at photos of nature and borrow the faultless color combination of a butterfly or an ocean view. Nature proves that blues and greens can be perfect neutrals.
4. Do it by the book -- or by the wheel. If you follow color theory as illustrated by the color wheel (your art teacher had it posted up in the classroom), you will probably not make a mistake. Using complimentary colors, which are across from each other on the color wheel, or analogous colors, which are next to each other, is guaranteed to make sense. See color combo posts in the Apartment Therapy archives for ideas.
5. Decide the mood of the room using a little color theory. The value, lightness or darkness of the paint colors will make a difference in how the color combination is perceived. Paler colors will have a quieter, calmer effect and will reflect more light in the space. Darker colors will give the illusion of depth and saturation, absorbing more light; however, this does not necessarily make a room smaller. Deeper colors create a feeling of coziness and can actually make a space seem boundless.
Contrast has to do with how colors, in varying hues and tones, relate to each other. Complimentary colors will automatically contrast because they are literally opposites (red and green.) Lighter colors will contrast with darker colors. Warm colors will contrast with cool colors (yellow and blue.) The more contrast in a room, the more visual interest and energy. The lower the contrast, the more soothing the space. For example, a bedroom in a monochromatic scheme, shades of all one hue, would have less contrast and be more restful.
What inspires your color choices? What color mistakes have you lived to regret and what color risks have paid off in the end?