Readers often write to ask us the name of a particular paint color they've seen in one of the homes featured in the magazine. Usually, if we know the color, it will either be mentioned in the article or listed in the Directory at the back of the issue. But there's a hidden catch: Even if you have the color name and trot off to the paint store and find the chip, it might look substantially different from the photo on the page. That's because cameras don't always see color the way the human eye does, and on top of that, colors in magazines are often tweaked in the printing process to achieve a better image overall.
So if you fall in love with a color from our pages and don't find it mentioned, the best tip is often just to compare chips directly to the photo itself. (To save yourself a lot of time at the rack in the store, pick up the full paint palette for that manufacturer--you can usually buy one for $15 or so.) If that doesn't quite do it, most paint stores and home centers can custom-mix a color by taking a computer "reading" directly from the photo or object you want to match.
Final caveat: Before you commit, buy the smallest sample you can at first (a quart, usually) and test it, because you still might find it looks different when you get it home in the light of the room you plan to use it in. You can put sample patches on the wall, or get some plain white poster board and paint 2-ft squares you can move around to different walls at different times of day to test. I lived with 2-ft-sq patches of paint on my walls for months when I was picking a color for my kitchen. It amused my friends that it took so long, but what can I say, I'm picky (and lazy). And I'm very happy with what I eventually chose (Ralph Lauren, Raffia).