Technically they're called "hues," not colors, but I don't care and I'm not going to split hairs here. I want to tell you about how I choose a paint color. Whether it's walls, furniture, picture frames, ceilings, doors, trim, outdoor things...this is how I do it.
It begins with my handy paint chip book from Benjamin Moore. Benjamin Moore paints are the best. Their water-based paints contain low to zero VOCs, which are Volatile Organic Compounds. This means it's safe for my clients to hang out in the room as soon as the paint has dried to the touch, which takes about an hour or two. It's also safe for the painter as he or she is working. These are high quality paints–you don't need to repaint for years, and it still looks great. And they are self priming, which means that if you or your contractor are experienced painters, you only have to do one coat. The money you spend (the cheapest type is around $30 a gallon) is well spent.
So, on to choosing a color! Let's talk walls because that's usually what we're painting. I try to choose paint colors during the time of day when the light is at it's strongest in whatever room I'm painting. I ask my client what they want to do in the room. Do they want to watch TV, read books, eat, relax, sleep, work, socialize? How do they want to feel in the room? Neutral colors, light colors, and those with more gray in them are soothing and calming. Bold colors are energizing. Next I find out what is their favorite color or group of colors. What is their favorite type of architecture or do they have a theme for their home? Is there a cultural influence that may be a deciding factor in the choice of color? Is there a piece of furniture in the room that necessitates a certain color choice so that we don't clash? Once I have these answers, I can go to a group of "hues," let's say green, in my paint chip book. I look at all the greens and the green-blues and green-grays too.
Once a client can agree on a strip of greens to choose from, I hold it up on each wall of the room. One wall will almost always look grayer than the rest. The spot with the most sun will look brighter. The color has to work with the amount of light coming into the room, and the way that light affects each wall. In a darker room, it has to have enough gray in it to look like the same color is gracing all the walls. In a brighter room, a bold color will look more even, but could be overpowering. What I can tell you is that most people enjoy neutral colors. Even if it's a softer version of the bold color they thought they wanted so badly. It's just more relaxing to be in a space where the color isn't distracting you from your activity; it's the backdrop. I'm going to end by saying that I love dark colors. They make small spaces look bigger. And I also love metallic paints. They are yummy and fun and Benjamin Moore does not make them, but I don't care.