On bright sunny days, we become happy and recharged. While sitting by the ocean, we feel relaxed and at peace. The colours associated with those feelings (yellow equals happy and blue equals relaxed) get stored in our memory and are drawn upon when selecting colours for our home.
According to colour consultant Leatrice Eiseman, author of The Color Answer Book (Capital Books, 2003) and Colors for Your Every Mood (Capital Books, 2000), many of our colour associations are attached to childhood. “If you used to bake cookies with your grandmother and her kitchen had red and white gingham curtains, that would forever be embedded in you as a pleasant memory and you would gravitate towards it.”
But, Leatrice explains, the opposite is also true. Understanding the psychology of colour helps us to choose colour that will positively impact our mood and energy.
Warm vs. cool
The colour wheel is divided into warm and cool colours. Reds, yellows and oranges are warm colours because they remind us of fire and heat and tend to excite and energize us. Blues, greens and purples are cool colours, playing on nature and the outdoors, which calm and relax us.
Within the two categories, each colour is said to further elicit different emotions.
- Red The colour of excitement, raising our blood pressure and increasing feelings of passion.
- Yellow Livens up a grey day, making us feel happy, recharged and uplifted.
- Orange As a combination of yellow and red, it has the power to elicit good cheer and happiness, as well as energy and excitement. It's also said to stimulate appetite.
- Blue “Blue is associated with dependability, constancy,” says Leatrice. “People feel serene and tranquil because that's what we associate with the sky.” It also suppresses our appetite, likely because there aren't too many blue foods.
- Green Reminiscent of the outdoors or nature; offers freshness and balance.
- Purple The colour of creativity, combining the excitement of red on one hand and the tranquility of blue on the other.
It's important to keep in mind that these colour-mood associations are general, and that there are always exceptions. Leatrice points to electric blues, which will excite more than calm, and yellow-greens such as chartreuse, which are strong and overwhelming.