Modern research has shown that when our eyes connect with a color, our brains release different chemicals that impact us on a physical and emotional level.
For instance, being in a red room will increase your heart rate and stimulate chemicals associated with aggression and high energy, while the color yellow stimulates serotonin (the feel-good chemical) in our brains.
Color therapy has been practiced in traditional healing professions for many years, but marketers and businesses more recently have also used color to shift human moods.
It is no coincidence that many fast food restaurants use red liberally, or that Volkswagen uses yellow to induce a happy-go-lucky image. We see greens and blues in yoga studios, and some prisons house aggressive inmates in pink rooms for its calming and energy draining effects.
Once we learn a bit about the attributes of each color, we can use that information to promote the atmosphere we want in the different rooms of our homes. Here are some ideas.
The Color Qualities
Photo by TM LVName
Red is associated with high energy and power. It is the color our eyes are drawn to first in a room, so a little can go a long way. Red signals courage, ambition and strength. It promotes alertness and speed, and connects us to our physical self.
Red may help instill confidence, get us going when we need to be active or task-oriented, and can help as an appetite stimulant.
When there is too much red present, or if someone is sensitive to reds, they may experience feelings of irritation, anger or hostility. Often, red is best suited as an accent color instead of the primary color in decor.
Orange is a warm, inviting, and joyful color. It invokes feelings of sociability, enjoyable connection, and happiness. It has an emotionally strong presence, and promotes extroverted behavior – a fantastic color to use in gathering spaces to promote interaction and relationship building.
Because orange contains red, it can also be overused. Too much orange (or an orange that is too bright or intense) can create overwhelming, irritating or frustrating feelings.
Yellow is the color of optimism, brightness, cheery attitude and mental clarity. It promotes creative, clear, upbeat thinking and decision making. Yellow can be helpful in easing depression and encouraging laughter.
Studies have shown that over-exposure to yellow, especially intense and deep yellows, can increase irritability, crying, hyperactivity, and can shorten tempers in babies and children (as well as adults).
Green is a tremendously pleasing color. It has many positive qualities — invoking renewal, balance, refreshment and peace — which provides a calming influence and stress reducer. An excellent way to bring green into your home spaces is with indoor houseplants or herb gardens.
While there is not a strongly negative aspect to too much green, it can promote laziness and lack of initiative if overused.
Blue promotes rest and calm and is a very popular color (the majority of people will respond that their favorite color is blue). Blue can be very effective to help ward off insomnia and promote a deep relaxing sleep. It can help balance hyperactivity in children, and promotes imagination and intuitive thinking.
While blue can often be tolerated in higher amounts than other colors, it is a cool color, and too much blue can shift into feelings of apathy, pessimism, or separation from others. Balancing blues with a warmer, more relational color is a great idea for gathering spaces in a home.
Violet is often the favorite color of adolescent girls, it stimulates the problem solving areas in our brain, and it promotes creativity, intuition and artistic ability. In design, violet communicates richness and sophistication.
Overuse of violet may result in feelings of insecurity or suppression of emotions.
Your Personal Color Chart
Photo by TM LVCapture Queen
Before bringing color into your home, do a little personal assessment of how color impacts you. Sometimes a color may generally impact people one way, but for you, it brings out entirely different moods, feelings or emotions.
Write out each color on a sheet of paper (perhaps use a set of crayons or colored pencils to shade in a space of color on the page) and write down any words that come to mind. Don’t analyze it, just let it come out stream of consciousness.
After jotting down your knee-jerk feelings about each color, review it and see if you feel drawn to certain colors — or resistant to others. Use this as a guide as you think about ways to bring color into your world.
How do others in your family respond to color? Have your spouse and older children do this exercise — it might remind you how unique (and similar) we all are, and how important it is to be sensitive to everyone in our household.
Put It To Work
There are countless ways to weave color intentionally into your surroundings, from completely redoing a room’s decor, to adding subtle but effective accent colors to a space. Take a look at the following examples and conduct your own “case studies” to put color to work in your home.
1. Eating Spaces
Room: Dining room
Who uses the space: The whole family, all throughout the day.
Desired effect: I’d like this space to promote conversation, feel enjoyable and relaxed (but not overly serene), and encourage appetite and family connection.
Current elements in the room: In our home, the dining room is painted a light butter yellow, with the lower half and the walls a white wainscoting. Large windows open to our backyard with lots of trees in view. Some casual family photos hang on the largest wall.
Ideas: I like the yellow for the warmth and upbeat feel. I may want to accentuate the nature colors from the backyard view with window treatments that reflect greens and browns- invigorating and grounding colors. Bringing in deep orange accents would add warmth, encourage conversation and stimulate appetite. Wall decor, chair upholstery, candles on decorative shelves, fresh flowers, placemats, napkins, vases with colored water, and a centerpiece are all areas that could be used to bring in color.
2. Work/Study Area
Who uses the space: Since my children are still too young to use a formal study area, my husband and I primarily share this space.
Desired effect: I often need to be stimulated when I work (lest I doze off for a nap). It would be nice to have a space that energized me, drew out creative thought, and kept my mind alert.
Current elements in the room: This room is sparse with hardwood floors and no area rug, and with light blue/green paint.
Ideas: Greens are fantastic for adding a refreshing feel and for keeping the mind focused and relaxed. I’d like to see layers of greens as the main color scheme and punctuate the room with accents of violet. Too much purple can feel overwhelming for me, but small pops of rich, saturated violet color draw out creative thought and balance an overly analytical mind. Perhaps a vase with a bunch of dried lavender stems, a beautiful fabric runner for my desk, an area rug, or covering some books on the shelf in a violet paper.
What about you? What colors are you drawn to? How have you brought color intentionally into your home?