There are many books on the subject, but color cannot be explained in words alone. The best books have large photographs of each stylish room, swatches showing the colors used to create the look and a detailed explanation of how to duplicate it.
Nothing will replace seeing the actual color in a room to know if it works. But books can help you eliminate the colors that won't work.
Here is a sampling of books loaded with color combinations:
-- "Choosing Colors," by Kevin McCloud (Watson-Guptill Publications, $35). An expert on architecture and design, McCloud proves that the right hues can turn an ordinary white box into a designer's showcase. This 192-page hardback is well organized and brimming with 700 colors grouped into dozens of palettes inspired by ancient tiles from the Middle East, French porcelains from the 18th century, modern advertising and car exteriors.
-- "The Style Sourcebook: The Definitive Illustrated Directory of Fabrics, Wallpapers, Paints, Flooring, Tiles," by Judith Miller (Firefly Books, $60). Miller is an interior designer and antiques expert who has written books about furniture restoration, style history and modern homes.
This 416-page hardback has more than 2,300 swatches divided into eras. Do you fancy florals from the early 20th century? Turn to those pages to see reproductions of wallpapers with images of yellow roses, brown thistle and pink tulips, along with their modern-day manufacturers, sizes and prices. There also is a nice chapter about the history and use of paint.
-- "The Color Answer Book," by Leatrice Eiseman (Capital Books, $30). Eiseman responds to more than 100 frequently asked questions and some not so common, such as "Can color memories and perceptions be passed on through our DNA?" (She thinks it's possible.)
-- "Kitchens & Baths," the latest in a book series about paint, by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle (Clarkson Potter, $20). This practical 176-page paperback displays more than 50 do-it-yourself projects.
-- "The Paint Effects Bible: 100 Recipes for Faux Finishes," by Kerry Skinner (Firefly Books, $30). Skinner walks readers through the process of making something fake look real. The 256-page, spiral-bound book shows how to make a surface appear textured, metallic, wooden, even like snakeskin.\
-- "Color in the Garden," by Nori and Sandra Pope, Penelope Hobhouse and photographer Clive Nichols (SOMA Books, $25). The 160-page paperback has 300 luscious photographs that explain the authors' point of view that gardens look best when they are bursting in blues, greens, yellows, oranges, reds, plums, pinks, peaches and white.
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