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.
A colour for every room
Once we understand how colour works, we can apply it to various rooms to elicit and reflect the mood we desire. “They paint prisons pink to calm people down,” jokes Peter Fallico, host of HGTV Canada's Home To Go, before getting down to which rooms in the home merit which colours.
- Bathroom: “People want to see crispness in a bathroom,” says Peter, “to get that spa feel.” For coolness in the bathroom, aquas, blues and greens work well, but anything in the peachy/rose range flatters the skin, adds Leatrice.
- Bedroom: Leatrice used periwinkle blue in her own bedroom, a colour that offers a little bit of excitement but remains for the most part tranquil. Peter suggests a soft yellow, something that is at once safe and warming, and vibrant enough to get a person out of bed in the morning.
- Dining room: If you want to get people salivating, Leatrice suggests trying colours from apricot, rosy orange and peach to terra cotta, wine and cranberry. Even the colours sound appetizing!
- Home office: Since this is a room where concentration is required, Leatrice suggests something restful to the eyes such as teal, a colour that combines green's outdoor inspiration with blue's dependability. Peter moves a little further into the green family with celadon –“It's alive, it's perky,” he says – or pear, which is motivating.
- Living room: “You need something calming, a colour that you can be around a long time with,” says Peter, suggesting tan or sable, either of which looks beautiful against wood tones. If the room is used for television, Leatrice prefers a green.
- Kitchen: “A bright sunny yellow will keep the kitchen alive and fresh,” says Peter. Leatrice agrees: “Yellow is just cheerful and fun, even if you spend little time cooking.”
Whatever colour you choose, make sure you like it. “Orange may be a trend colour, but if it doesn't say pleasant things to you you're not going to be comfortable,” says Leatrice. “Choose a colour based on your emotional response to it.”