• Go through magazines and pull out pages with color schemes you like, rooms you could live in. Look at specific items, such as pillows or sunglasses. Put together 15 to 20 pages in each category you're working on--your kitchen, bathroom, etc. When I consult with people who've done this, I see patterns: all contemporary, all arty with curves, warm colors, cool colors, lots of accessories, or a few. [Couples can do the magazine exercise together or separately and then compare.]
• Choose colors you look good in. [It will make you feel great.] And let your kids pick the colors for their rooms. Any 2-year-old can choose between two colors. Older children get inhibited--the "pink is for girls" thing.
• Imprint yourself on your home, but respect the nature of the house. My New Jersey home requires a more conservative style [than I would normally do,] because the house is traditional. My New York home is a city high-rise, much more modern.
• Vary the depth and intensity of your color scheme by mixing a hue with black, white, or its contrasting color (the color opposite on the color wheel). Be sure to apply test spots before you commit to a whole room.
• Remember the seasons, and do little things to adjust your rooms to cold weather or summer heat. Simple changes, such as re-covering throw pillows in a different fabric, can make a room feel more cozy and warm or more cool and refreshing.
• When the painting is finished, always--always--keep a touch-up reservoir. Label it so you'll know exactly where you've used it, especially if you have several similar shades. Vacation homes can take a beating with so much foot traffic, luggage, kids' toys, etc. Plan to take an hour or two a couple of times a year and go through the house touching up. It's easy if you have the paint on hand, neatly marked. Your house will look fresh for many years.