PhotoThe easiest and most cost-effective way to redecorate a room is to apply a new coat of paint to the walls and trim. And while you're at it, maybe you could change that beige color to something with more personality and life.

But choosing paint colors isn't as easy as just going with your favorite hue. It might be totally out of place, or simply not work on your living room walls. This is where decorators can come in handy.

Recently, Noelle Parks, an interior design professional at Dunn-Edwards Paints, offered up some tips for selecting the perfect paint. She narrowed it down to six simple steps.

Selecting the perfect paint

Choose a color based on the desired mood of the room. High-energy red sends a very different message than mellow blue, so consider psychological responses to color. What's the ambiance? Will it be a lively dining room, a peaceful study, or a luxurious bedroom?

Warm tones evoke energy, playfulness, and action. They are ideal for places where people interact, like dining rooms or kitchens. Cool tones, including green, blue, indigo, and violet shades, create tranquil and soothing environments. Try cool tones for places of relaxation and meditation, like the bedroom.

Use neutral colors as a base that can blend with other colors. Real estate agents love neutral shades because it's easy for buyers to project themselves into such an environment. Neutral tones actually work well for certain spaces, Parks says, because they co-exist nicely with more lively shades. Crisp and elegant, white opens up spaces and provides a clean, well-designed look. Brown keeps color schemes grounded with its earthy tones and works best with an accent color. Black adds drama and is often used as an accent to embolden other tones.

Consider how lighting changes the perception of color. Colors can look one way on a swatch in a store but quite another on your wall at home, and it all has to do with lighting. That's why you should test colors under the lighting conditions at home to see how the paint will truly appear. If a room gets a lot of sun, a light, cool color may brighten up a room. If there is a lot of natural sunlight, Parks recommends painting a deeper, richer color for a serene look.

Pay attention to the details in a room. Remember that you aren't painting everything in a room the same color, so you have to consider how different colors go together. Consider the color and shade of flooring, trim, and moldings. For example, a dark floor will cry out for lighter walls.

Determine warm or cool tones based on the climate and the room's window orientation. It may seem counter-intuitive, but warmer colors usually work better in cold climates and cooler colors in warmer regions. Windows are key. A south-facing window orientation suggests a cool to neutral color preference, while a north-facing window suggests the use of a warmer color.

Put colors to the test. Before you get started, Parks suggests testing how natural and artificial light will affect the color. Try painting two by two-foot samples on different parts of the room that get different amounts of light. If you've settled on a color, create various shades of it. Live with the samples for a few days to see which hue best expresses the original vision.

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