I love the color. I love wearing it…slathering the walls of my home with it…surrounding myself with it. You could definitely say I’m not afraid of it. But even though I love color so much, my house is decorated with only 3 main colors-creams, rusts, and greens. That’s it…just 3 colors. Maybe there are different variations on these, but basically, that’s it.

My dear mother loved the color too. In fact, she painted every room in the house a different color! The family room had classic 1970s rust shag carpet; the dining room had pale blue wallpaper with a Grecian theme; the living room had dark deep brown paint; one of the bedrooms was bright maroon; and the kitchen, oh the kitchen, was wallpapered in large golden pop-art flowers with matching curtains with little fuzzy balls hanging from them. They decorated in the 1970s and there it stayed frozen in time. It was at home.

I promised myself that I would never do that. You’d think with only 3 main colors, it’d be easy to pick a color for my walls. Oh, no. My husband thinks I’m crazy about the pains I go through to pick out just the right paint color for my project de jour. He doesn’t realize that I can actually “see” the color in my head, and I’m determined to find the exact same color.

I’ve had the poor guy behind the Home Depot paint counter color-matching everything from a pillow for that certain wheat color to a suede jacket in the perfect buttercream color. In fact, as I write this, I have 7 color samples in my bedroom drawer from my bedroom project. My husband was so patient when I was searching for my imagined color, and lived with 7 large patchwork squares on my walls for weeks.

So just how do you pick out that perfect color without losing your mind and driving your family crazy? The first thing I do is collect any and all pictures of decorated rooms that I like. I keep a folder with numerous ripped-out magazine pages (I’ve become quite good at quietly ripping pages out of waiting room magazines…my bad!). Once you have an idea of the basic color you want in that head of yours, it’s time to collect color samples from the paint store. If you have an inspiration fabric or pillows that you want to match, bring that with you to the store. Be sure to collect from different paint stores too. You’d think beige would be beige, right? But it’s amazing how different brands of paint have totally different paint colors. So visit different stores and collect a large variety of swatches. If the store only offers those minuscule swatches, take four of each color, cut out the color you like, and tape four together to get a larger swatch. (Be sure you write the brand, store, and color name on the back.)

I like taping those swatches to the wall.  Live with them for a while. Move them around to a different part of the room that gets different lighting. The colors will change in different areas and different times of the day.

OK, now it’s time to buy those samples. Paint samples range from $2-3. We’re all about being frugal, but you’ll save lots of time and dollars if you test your color first before you buy a whole gallon. Paint is expensive! Paint large squares on the wall, and again, live with it for a while. I also painted the same color in different parts of my room so the light would affect it differently.

If you’re deciding on more than one color — for instance, I have an accent wall in a pretty olive green in my bedroom — try to stick with either all warm or cool colors. What’s the difference? Warm colors are based on yellows, oranges, browns, yellowish greens, and orangish reds. Cool colors are based on blues, greens, pinks, purples, blue-greens, magentas, and blue-based reds.

Can you see the difference in this chart? I am naturally attracted to warm colors, but you may love the cool colors. Go with what your heart and head tell you, and you’ll be happy you did.

After you paint, be sure to save your swatches so you can access them at a later time. I bought a pocket business card holder on sale, and store all my house color swatches in there. That way, I can easily grab the colors in case I need to match the color.

Soon we’ll brainstorm on what to do with those 7 tiny paint samples! If you have any feedback on what you do with samples, please comment!