There's a lot more than just buying a few gallons of paint when it comes to repainting your home.

So you've just gone out and refurnished your living room, or put new cabinets in your kitchen, or bought a brand-new bedroom suite.

The smell of newness permeates your home, but something isn't right, something still is missing.

It's the walls, of course. They're still the same color as when you signed your mortgage papers back during the Clinton administration, only a bit grungier.

But how to fix them up?

Figuring out what to do involves more than digging out what's left in that can you were saving for "touch-ups." Homeowners need to look at entire rooms before making up their minds.

"It depends on whether you're keeping the furniture or if you're starting from scratch," said Bill Bartron, owner and head designer at BW Design Group in Wilmington. "If you've picked a drapery fabric or a particular carpet, then that's how you build upon a room.

"Typically, you'll want to pull one of the base colors or a tone of the color from the rug or upholstery. It can contrast or it can complement. It depends on how bold or how subtle you want the room to be.

"You can only buy so many carpets or colors in drapes, but there are millions of colors of paint," he said.

You have to take a different approach if starting with a bare room, said Ruth Pernick of H. Feinberg's, a 122-year-old Wilmington home design company.

"You have to get a feeling of how you're going to use the room," she said. "Once you have the ambiance of what the room will be, you'll know what you need."

People moving into a new home should take their time in deciding what to do with each room, said Jeff West of Jeff West Home in Rehoboth.

"I think people need time, a clean palette," he said. "You should live in a home for a while to see what kind of light you get and to get a feel for the house before you paint."

While trends in home decorating have come and gone, today most people opt for more subtle earth tones that enhance living rooms or bedrooms.

"I think soft, clean traditional color palettes that are not too strong or too funky are best," West said. "You can do that with pillows or things you can take away. That's a lot easier than repainting a room. If you want to have fun with colors, do it with things that can be changed up."

Pernick recommends carefully checking various paint swatches and then applying a sample to a wall.

"Paint really makes a major difference in a room," she said. "You should put various samples on the wall and look at them under all situations.

"Start with your favorite colors, colors you can live with. Do samples because what paint looks like depends on whether its daylight or night or on reflections from outside."

When it comes to ceilings, West feels the homeowner can toss the paint bucket and instead use interesting wallpaper.

"I've wallpapered ceilings in soft, tonal colors," he said. "It's interesting to look up and see that, with a complementing color on the walls."

When painting ceilings, Pernick recommends always using a flat variation of the wall color.

"What I like to do is take the same color as what's on the wall and make it lighter to get just a soft feel of the paint that's on the wall."

And when it comes to buying supplies, it's a good idea to buy the best paint possible.

"It all comes down to durability and coverage," Bartron said. "You can paint a wall three times using a cheap paint, or you can paint it once using a good paint."

"Paint quality is definitely important," West said. "It's always better to invest the extra money in a paint that covers well. The pigments are better and the quality of the paint is better. It's like buying a piece of clothing that's made out of a better fabric. It'll stand up to wear and tear, it looks better and it's just better all around."

And with 21st century technology, deciding on what to do and what colors to use is even easier. Major paint companies, such as Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore offer programs on their websites that allow homeowners to take a photograph of a room and then overlay it with the colors they're thinking about using.

"They're all doing user-friendly templates, so you can feel very confident about what you're doing," Pernick said. "It's a wonderful idea."