Science has proved the connection between color and mood. At the turn of the last century, psychologist Carl Jung wrote: “Colors are the mother tongue of the subconscious.”
Above: Color brings life to a room. It can play tricks with your senses, making a room feel bigger or smaller, warmer or cooler than it really is. This bright kitchen makes your heart sing, using vivid secondary colors to bring the space to life. The brilliant contrasting and harmonious colors will act like a tonic for those using this room.
Photo courtesy of Glidden Paints; visit their website at www.gliddenpaints.com.
Above: This simplified version of the color wheel contains only “primary” (red, yellow, and blue) and “secondary” (orange, purple, and green) colors. This wheel contains three “complementary” pairs (contrasting colors that lie across from each other on the wheel) and three “analogous” pairs (harmonious colors that lie side-by-side on the wheel).
Above: Most color wheels contain 12 different colors: three primary, three secondary, and three tertiary colors. The tertiary colors are created by mixing analogous primary and secondary colors together.
Colors can encourage us to relax or to be energetic; they can make us feel happy or sad; and they can stir up old memories — good and bad. This is why it’s a mistake to ignore your “gut reaction” to certain colors: your emotional response may be linked to a memory, or it can be an intuitive knowledge of which colors will restore your spirit and which will leave you feeling upset or drained.It’s important to recognize that color affects not only how a room looks, but also how it feels. So if you hate — or even mildly dislike — the latest designer color, don’t decorate with it — or at least use it very sparingly as an accent.
Color and your emotional and physical health are strongly linked. Everyone knows of an angry and depressed teenager who has wanted to paint his bedroom black. Although teenagers do require some freedom to personalize their living space, black probably isn’t the best choice for good mental health.
Try this exercise: close your eyes and imagine yourself in a bedroom decorated entirely in black (the walls, the furniture — everything). How are you feeling? Now imagine yourself in a bedroom decorated in warm honey tones, whites and creams, lilac, peach, or pale gray. How do you feel now?
When you’re decorating, you not only have to consider which colors evoke positive feelings in you, but also whether the mood they inspire is appropriate for the particular room. For instance, you may adore red — it makes you feel passionate, energetic, and vital. But decorate your bedroom entirely in red and you may have created a place where it’s impossible to relax — much less actually sleep.
Your choice of colors will reflect your personality, and they’ll also help to create an atmosphere conducive to relaxing, working, or entertaining. Color can make a huge, echoing space seem cozy, and a small room seem spacious and inviting. Color can draw attention to a room’s good features while down-playing the less-attractive elements.
Color is one of the most important aspects to successful decorating, but few people take the time to really think about creating a harmonious home with colors that stimulate or calm, excite or create a sense of tranquility depending on the room’s function. Here’s an introduction to colors: how they can affect you, and how to use them in home decoration.
One of the basic tools used in color selection is the color wheel. The first color wheel was created by Sir Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century; since then, there have been many additions and refinements. The wheel represents the visible spectrum — the colors of the rainbow — arranged with analogous (“harmonious”) colors next to each other and contrasting (“complementary”) colors opposite one another. Most color wheels contain 12 different colors: three “primary,” three “secondary,” and three “tertiary” colors.
The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. They’re called “primary” because they are pure, original hues that can’t be created by mixing other colors together. The three secondary colors, which lie between pairs of primary colors, are created by mixing equal amounts of the pairs they lie between. The secondary colors are orange (between red and yellow), green (between yellow and blue), and purple (between blue and red). The tertiary colors are created by mixing analogous (side-by-side) primary and secondary colors together.
There are also three “neutral” or “non-colors”: white, black, and gray. You can add neutrals to any of the colors to change the shade: adding white creates pastel, black deepens the color, and gray creates a mid-tone somewhere between the two.
Here’s a simplified version of a color wheel (left): one that contains only primary and secondary colors.
First, notice that the wheel can be divided into two halves: one comprised of “warm” colors (red, orange, yellow) and one of “cool” colors (purple, blue, green). The warms are long-wavelength colors, which seem to be coming towards you. The short-wavelength cools, on the other hand, appear to recede when you look at them.
This wheel (right) contains three complementary pairs (colors that lie across from each other on the wheel): red-green, blue-orange, and yellow-purple. Using complementary colors generally creates a stimulating, dynamic effect, so be cautious about using lots of strong contrasts in a room where you want to relax — strong red and green are not the best choices for a bedroom, for instance.
Yellow: Yellow stimulates and inspires. In many cultures, it’s associated with the sun — and the sun’s warmth, energy, and regenerative powers. When the sun is shining, yellow floods a room with light; even on cloudy days, a yellow room will still glow. It’s perfect for brightening up a dark room — one without windows, for instance. In its brightest, acid-yellow form, you may need to calm it down with neutral tones (for instance, combining white walls and off-white furniture with a brilliant yellow area rug).
Photo courtesy of Homestead House. For more information about their beautiful furniture, or to find a showroom near you, visit their website at www.HomesteadHouse.com, or call1-800-HH-FURNISH.
Red: Red is a good choice for a room where you want to excite your mind and senses — like this living room. This is a good space for entertaining — there will be lots of lively conversation in this room. If you use your living room primarily for relaxing, however, you should opt for a paler shade or cooler colors.
Photo courtesy of Glidden Paints; visit their website at www.gliddenpaints.com.
Blue: Blue soothes, calms, and helps you focus. Think of blue skies or seas, and your spirit soars. From navy to indigo to cornflower to ice-blue, there’s an enormous variation in this cool color. Make sure there’s lots of light (as there is in this hallway) when you’re using blue — otherwise, the room can become uncomfortably cold.
This photo has been reprinted with permission from Modern Paint Effects by Annie Sloan (Firefly Books, 2000), a book offering inspiration to amateurs and professionals alike. Walls, floors, and furniture — painted in multi-colored stripes, plaids, and abstracts — are shown with easy-to-follow instructions. More than 200 photos illustrate different and exciting ways to use paint and color. .
Pink: Warm and romantic, pink is an ideal choice for a bedroom. Pink ranges from pale to shocking with lots of variations in between — each with its own unique “flavor.” Here, the deep pink walls, butter-yellow ceiling, orange-and-yellow curtains, and red Persian rug are cooled by the neutral floor and aqua-blue in the duvet. Above: Here, the pale pink gives a decidedly feminine look to the room. The purple bedspread adds some strong color, and is a good complement to the pink walls and window treatments. Photo courtesy of Glidden Paints; visit their website at www.gliddenpaints.com.
Pale Pink: Here, the pale pink gives a decidedly feminine look to the room. The purple bedspread adds some strong color, and is a good complement to the pink walls and window treatments. Photo courtesy of Glidden Paints; visit their website at www.gliddenpaints.com.