Using color to decorate can sometimes be intimidating, especially when you've never done it before. As someone who grew up in a home with white walls and beige carpet, I used to think adding color to a room meant covering it with artwork.
Through school, I had studied art and the psychology of color, but I had never seen color applied well in a home until I met my husband's family. I want to offer you a few tips that I've seen applied by my mother-in-law that I thought were impressive:
1) The lightness or darkness of a color can visually affect how big or small the room seems.
If you have a large room that you want to seem smaller and more cozy, use darker colors. Lighter colors will open up a small room.
2) A light sunny yellow is a great shade if you don't want to go neutral but don't want too bright either.
Psychologically, we associate this color with happiness and warmth (smiley face, sunlight, etc.)
3) Red can be used as an attention-grabbing color.
You can have one focal wall painted red and the others painted a more neutral color. Your eyes will automatically go to the red wall first. It's a great way to showcase artwork and possibly distract from any negative aspects of the other walls. I've also seen were the upper part of a room was painted red, bringing your eyes up as opposed to the darker color on the lower half of the room.
4) Don't forget about textures.
One of the best effects I've seen done in multiple houses is clouds on the ceiling. This can be done by sponging both light blue and white into cloud patterns. There are more detailed books with photos that I suggest you research before attempting it, but it looks very nice.
There are also kits that if you want to do a sponged combination of two or three colors. You don't have to have a lot of painting experience and the process is very forgiving if you make a mistake.
5) Try it out first.
When you're thinking of changing a color of a room, get a small sample square. Post it on the wall to check different lighting conditions. You may love the color during the day but find you dislike it when it gets dark. Better to find it out in the early stages than have to live with it or paint it back.
6) If possible, plan your whole house even if you're not painting it all at the same time.
Do a little planning to see if you have a set of colors you'd like to carry through your whole house. It doesn't have to be the exact same in every room, but houses look nicer if they have common colors spread out as opposed to unpredictable colors in each room.
7) Don't forget about floors, furniture, and accessories.
Walls obviously aren't the only place you find color. Similar decisions can be made with your flooring (wood tones, stone or carpet), furniture (the colors of your couch, for instance), and accessories (curtains, rugs, artwork, etc.). You want a room to fit your personality and daily life. It doesn't have to look like a magazine cover, but it can be what you want it to be for you and your family.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you, and I encourage you to give them a try.