The easiest place to start is with a fabric. It could be your existing draperies or upholstered furniture, any fabric that inspires you. If you are starting from scratch, pick a "statement fabric" – that is, a fabric you love for its wonderful color or pattern (or both!). Then, you can pick your color scheme directly from this fabric with confidence that your colors will go together.
In any room, the simplest things to change are the paint and the carpet. But perhaps you are starting with those items and don't yet have all the other furnishings you will ultimately acquire. If you are moving into a new home, you may have to pick the carpet and paint before you even start shopping for furniture. If this is the case, start with the carpet, since paint can be matched to virtually any color.
You will have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a neutral shade of carpet that will blend with future purchases. Beige, camel, gray, taupe, and even colors like terra cotta and sage green can work well as a backdrop for your furnishings.
When shopping for carpet, place samples on the floor and try looking at them in different types of lighting. If you are matching fabrics to carpets, it is especially important to view the samples as a group from a distance, which will provide a much a better idea of how the finished room will actually look.
Try to vary the carpet styles in your home where you have natural breaks. You could carpet the upstairs differently from the first floor. Plush cut pile in the bedrooms, a berber in the family room.
Paint lends refreshing variety to your rooms. Feel free to paint a different color in every room of your home and let your carpet or all white woodwork be the constant that makes the spaces flow. Select colors with an awareness of how they look together. If you can see one room from the next, look for colors that will complement and coordinate with each other. It will also help if they are a similar "weight"; that is, relatively light colors, like peach and yellow, or mid-tones that are neither too light nor too dark.
Color is the best bargain around. Opulent hues like emerald green or sapphire blue cost the same as generic white and beige, whether you are choosing paint or carpet. So, if you are on a budget, remember, color is free – there's no extra charge!