Home decorators often opt for neutral colors because they feel that the cream/beige family is safe and they don't know what others to choose.
"There are so many choices that a 'perfect color' is out there for everyone," says Catherine Stein, president of The Color Council, New York, a color and trend styling service for the home furnishings industry. "People no longer need to follow design dictates. With this freedom comes responsibility to know what resonates positively for you.
"Color preferences start early," adds Stein. "You form emotional impressions with a hue because of the associations you have with it." If you remember the fragrance of cookies baking in a yellow kitchen, you will respond positively to golden hues.
"It's not totally about the color, but about how much -- and how -- it will show," says interior designer Mindy Greenberg, whose company is the New York-based Encore Decor. "Are you covering a wall with fabric or wallpaper in a saturated color and placing an imposing armoire in front of it?"
"Remember to view a sample as you will see it -- from eight to 10 feet away," recommends Greenberg, a guest on cable TV's "Decorating Cents."
How else can you tone down a color? "Select a fabric or wallpaper in a lighter tone of the lively color, or in neutrals. Adding cream or beige to a space with intense color helps soften it," notes Greenberg.
Red raises your blood pressure and appetite, says Stein. Is it possible to use this stimulating hue to achieve a calming ambiance? "People have physiological reactions to colors. Some people naturally operate in a hyper state, where this response is comfortable," she notes. "For them, the familiar feeling can be stabilizing."