To use your fabric as a starting point, take a fabric swatch (from a sofa or draperies) to the paint store. Look for paint chips that pull out the different hues in the fabric. The paint color doesn't have to match the fabric exactly -- in fact, if the wall color is slightly lighter or slightly darker than the color in the fabric, the results will seem "evolved" but harmonious.
The major exception is when the wall color and draperies match exactly. This approach enlarges the sense of space in the room by creating an unbroken envelope of color while softening the walls with dimension and depth.
To match a solid-color fabric exactly, take a swatch to the paint store or home improvement center; there, a spectrometer, which measures heat and light to determine color, can translate the fabric hue into a formula for matching paint. This only works on solid fabric, however. Any variations in tone will prevent the machine from reading the color.
Choosing a darker tone for the walls makes light-color upholstery pop by contrast, creating a more dramatic environment. If the draperies match the paint or are close to the same shade, the walls and draperies work together to form a consistent background, against which the sofa stands out as the focal point. If you choose a lighter value for the draperies, then the darker wall color will draw more attention to the windows.
As you narrow your choices, remember that a paint chip is only a general indication of how a color may look on the walls. Always test the color on the wall, or on a large piece of poster board, then view it in daylight and at night to see if the color is right.
Conversely, if you're considering neutrals, particularly for a large room, test a hue that's one or two shades stronger than the one you really like. Neutrals tend to become too bland in large spaces, so deeper tones will help punch up the room's personality.
Keep in mind your walls' texture too. Rough surfaces, such as stucco or brick, do not reflect as much light as smooth walls, so they'll look darker than smooth walls painted the same color.
Continued on page 3: Pick a Color You Love