If color doesn't seem like it's worthy of concern, think back to the puke-green walls of your junior high school cafeteria. Get the point? Color makes an immediate and lasting visual impact, and gives off an array of mood-changing associations.

As soon as you've evaluated your apartment and settled on a style, you should choose a color scheme that both complements the space and suits your personal preferences. By understanding the qualities of primary and secondary colors, you'll get a better idea of what shades will work best.

Primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue.
Secondary colors: Orange, Green, and Violet.

  • Red - Bright and bold, red suggests vitality and aggressiveness. It's a great accent color, making cold, open rooms seem more inviting and intimate. Deep, subtle shades of red such as burgundy and maroon are perfect for living rooms.

    At its worst, red is: Too dramatic
    Complementary color: Green

  • Yellow - Stimulating, sunny and cheerful, yellow is associated with intellect, power and creative energy. Bright yellows bring warmth and light into dark rooms, and pale yellows make small rooms seem larger. It's also a great kitchen color.

    At its worst, yellow is: Disruptive
    Complementary color: Violet

  • Blue - Blue denotes harmony, peace, steadfastness and loyalty. While it's appropriate for any room, blue is an excellent bedroom color because it makes one feel comforted and serene. It can also soften rooms that are over-bright.

    At its worst, blue is: Cold
    Complementary color: Orange

  • Orange - Orange combines the energy of red with the intellectual associations of yellow. Dominant and lively, it's a fun choice for bathrooms and work areas. Peachy oranges have a delicate effect, while brownish oranges (like terra cotta) give off warm, cozy vibes.

    At its worst, orange is: Non-relaxing
    Complementary color: Blue

  • Green - The color of nature, green is refreshing and pleasing to the eye. It makes dim apartments seem more vibrant by bringing a garden-like atmosphere indoors. With its varying shades, green works in just about any room.

    At its worst, green is: Dull
    Complementary color: Red

  • Violet - Strong and majestic, violet is a powerful accent color. Pastel violets take on the characteristics of red or blue depending on which is more prominent in the shade. (Lilac, for example, takes on blue's characteristics, while lavender takes on red's qualities.)

    At its worst, violet is: Overpowering
    Complementary color: Yellow

To balance out the splashy colors above, add neutral earth tones and strong, sleek shades of black and gray. Another universal color is white, which, in its various incarnations (off-white, beige, and eggshell), provides a can't-go-wrong foundation for any room.

If you're lucky enough to have more than one room, try doing a different color scheme for each (e.g., a forest green and burgundy living room, a baby blue and white bathroom, a violet and gray bedroom, etc.).

A few last color guidelines:

  • Deep "warm" colors give a room an intimate, cozy feel. They are: red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, and yellow.

  • Light "cool" colors make a room seem more spacious and elegant. They are: green, blue-green, blue, and blue-violet. White also has this effect.

  • Even if you have all-white walls (many landlords and dorm managers won't allow residents to paint), you can easily convey color schemes through curtains, pillows, lamps, candles, blankets, area rugs, etc.

  • Avoid puke-green at all costs. Unless you actually liked the '70s.