Changing the color scheme of a room is a brilliant way to change the energy of your home. The colors in a room can seriously influence mood. Changing your home’s color mood can be done with major, dramatic choices, like painting whole walls and rooms, but also with elegant subtlety, like choosing accent pieces of furniture, or hanging thematically hued paintings on the wall. Compliment neutral wall color with colorful rugs and drapes, or tone down strong bright shades with earth tones.
However, you decorate, choosing your color mood is an important decision! Color can have a profound effect on psychology, influencing mood whether you realize it or not. This holds true even for the clothes we wear and the objects we interact with. For example, one study of historical hockey game data found that teams wearing black jerseys were more likely to be penalized than other teams!
Different colors make you feel different ways, and it’s important to consider this when choosing colors in your home—after all, that’s what you’ll be surrounded by for significant portions of your days and nights. It’s important to choose colors that bring you positive feelings, and don’t feel negative, disruptive, or irritating.
Here’s a guide to help you choose the best shades for your home, to help boost your mood, stay positive, get productive, relax, and influence your own mood in the direction you need.
Red is an intense color associated with passion and excitement. It has an undeniably stimulating energy that incites conversation, sparks a connection, and pumps your heart rate and even the metabolism. There’s a reason that it’s a color associated with power and determination– red is an adrenaline-boosting hue that reminds us of anger, war, and dominance. Not only is it a color chosen by politicians, the color red on uniforms has even been shown to boost the performance of athletes dating back to WWII, and in matches as important as the Olympics.
Red is also associated with love, lust, and romance. Women wearing red are perceived as more attractive by men. This is perhaps because red is biologically associated with strength, stamina, and vivaciousness—a color of robust health, rather than sickly paleness. It may also be because people are socialized to associate the color red with stop signs and traffic lights, causing observers to pay more attention to anyone wearing the hue.
Because red attracts attention and stimulates the blood, it can be a great color for a living room, especially if you are the kind of person who frequently hosts parties and gatherings. Red can spur conversation and connection, so if a dining room—rather than a living room—is where you host your parties, consider the color red for your dining room walls, instead. If you can’t commit to a full red wall, perhaps adding some bedroom wall stickers, wall art or accessories will give you the desired effect.
If romance is what you’re looking for, to spice up your relationship (or bachelor/bachelorette lifestyle), try painting your bedroom walls a shade of red. Be careful with red in the bedroom, though: it can be so stimulating and aggressive that it might be too intense for bedtime. Try painting just the wall behind or across from your bed and see how it shifts the mood.
Orange is the color of enlightenment, which is why it is worn by monks all over the world. It is an exciting, expressive color that encourages emotional release and enthusiasm. Like red, orange is an attention-grabber. That’s why they use the color on things like traffic cones that need to be noticed: orange begs to be noticed. If orange is your favorite color, it is likely that you are a positive and extroverted person with a zest for life and a love for adventure.
Orange is a bold, bright hue that improves confidence and reduces self-consciousness, so it can be a great accent wall in a studio or exercise room. Its vivacious spirit will help adults feel youthful, and provide friendly and appropriate energy for kids’ bedrooms and playrooms. It is known to be uplifting and cheerful enough to help people through times of loss, grief, and despair, encouraging its onlookers to always look on the bright side.
Despite its eternal cheer, or perhaps because of it, orange can be an overwhelming color, so be wary of painting entire rooms orange. Try accent walls or furniture choices in an otherwise neutral room. Even a pop of color in a painting or a small orange rug can do wonders for the energy levels of a room!
If you’re in need of a bright, happy color, reminiscent of sunshine and butter, daisies and sunflowers, yellow is the hue for you. Yellow is joyful, energizing, and uplifting, a cheery choice for any room of your house—or even the house itself! It comes with many of the same attention-grabbing tendencies as red and orange, but provokes less aggression than red, and is somewhat easier on the eyes and less obnoxious than orange. Yellow is a fantastic choice for an entryway or kitchen, where guests and residents alike can feel welcomed and warmed from the moment they enter your home.
Still, like orange, yellow shouldn’t be overused. Something about the color in huge quantities shifts from cheerful to annoying. In yellow rooms, people lose their tempers. Babies cry and adults argue. Subtler shades of yellow that lean towards beige and eggshell hues are easier on the eyes. Like orange, bright yellow is often best as an accent color for a single wall, furniture, or wall art.
Perhaps there is something primal about green that brings humans peace, reminding us of nature and lush, forest landscapes. Green is relaxing and calming and provides steadiness, stability, and balance. Just as people experience emotional release and ease when stepping into nature after spending time in man-made landscapes, green rooms feel similarly healthy and peaceful.
Though green is a calming and restful hue, it also promotes growth and freshness. It is a fantastic choice for creatives, helping to nurture talent and be productive in a firm and honest way, true to self and true to your art. Plus, green (especially darker shades) is associated with money, so it can help encourage dreamy artists to find a path towards financial and material success.
Anywhere in the house, green is warm and embracing. In living rooms, it promotes unity and comfort, and in bedrooms, it feels calm and secure and is sometimes believed to encourage fertility. In kitchens, the color green encourages nourishment, refreshment, and digestion, slowing the metabolism and balancing the body.
Though green is a much more comfortable shade than red, orange, or yellow, and suitable for painting whole rooms, you don’t have to go all out to feel its nurturing effect. Green bed sheets might do the trick, or dish sets with varied shades of green, or even a centerpiece serving tray.
If green is calming because it reminds us of our ancestral instincts towards the life of agriculture and forestation, blue goes even deeper than that. Water, the first human necessity after air, is a deep and intuitive need. The color blue evokes this feeling, the conceptual relief and groundedness of living near the rivers and oceans and bodies of water that fuel civilizations.
Blue is one of the most calming and relaxing colors you can decorate a home with. It’s a highly recommended hue for nurseries and children’s rooms for this reason, as it promotes restful sleep and encourages happy and peaceful dreams. Of course, adults need sleep and dreams too, so blue is a great choice for people struggling with insomnia or anyone who wants more meditation time in their lives.
Different shades of blue, though, can have a wide variety of psychological effects. Though all blue is calming, dark blue can cross a line into dismal or depressing and cause sadness and lethargy. For whole rooms and main colors, brighter and softer shades are better, like turquoise or aqua, which are still calming but naturally happier. Be wary of choosing cool shades of blue, however, like pastels, which can make a room seem cold or chilly, and uninviting. This might not be a problem for a room that receives a lot of sunshine and natural light during the day, but for those that don’t, it might be prudent to choose a warmer shade of blue which encourages tranquility without stifling energy.
Purple is the color of royalty and drama, a rich and luxurious hue for kings and queens. The deepest of purple shades provide sophistication and elegance to a room and are excellent choices for dining rooms or creative studios where late-night contemplation and conversation wants to be encouraged. Use shades of purple to boost confidence and feel like royalty in your own home.
Like orange, purple is considered a spiritual shade, but with greater somberness and less erratic energy. It is a pensive color that fosters connection, creativity, and emotional depth. In lighter shades like lavender, the color purple is as relaxing as blue, but in a warmer and more embracing hue.
A bright and youthful color for energy and communication, pink is a fun shade that brightens up any space. The feelings fostered by pink hues vary enormously: bright, electric shades can be a bit frenetic but provoke happiness and energy and joy. Lighter shades of pink, though, tend to feel comforting and warm, and cheerful without being manic.
Pink has become associated with femininity and girlhood, so we tend to associate feminine and “girly” traits with it, like nurturing and softness. This association is socially prescribed, though, rather than biologically ingrained, so don’t let that stop you! The euphoria and tenderness of pink are calming and uplifting for people of any gender.
In general, pink is a hue for the heart, so it encourages communication and tenderness where it is found. Pink has many of the same passionate and romantic psychological effects that red has, but with less aggression. Paint a bedroom wall pink for some romance. A pink bathroom will feel clean and smiling and encourage self-confidence. Anywhere it is found, pink soothes the heart and uplifts the soul.
Though commonly overlooked, neutrals shades like gray and brown (and of course black and white!) are essential colors for any interior decorating. You can use neutrals to add depth, tone down colors that are too energetic, or balance shades that are too soft or dreary. Neutrals tend to be warm and sophisticated, and they blend well with a variety of other shades. They can help unify other hues that might otherwise not match and create a whole new color palette by drawing the colors of a room together.
Don’t be afraid of black or white. Though many people worry that they are “boring” hues—accused, even, of “not being colors” –black and white are reliable and sturdy colors that can add quite a lot to a room when used correctly. Using either of these shades as a backdrop will help bring any accent colors you use to the forefront of a room’s attention. Black and white wall art and furniture is sure to add sophistication and modernity to any space.
COLOR IS CRUCIAL
Color psychology is important. Not only do colors affect our moods, some studies and cultures believe different colors to have effects on our physical bodies. Researchers are not currently sure how much of color psychology is innate, and how much is socially prescribed or entirely psychosomatic. It seems clear, though, that colors are psychologically relevant. But once the walls are already painted, and the art is already hung, it can be easy to ignore or overlook the profound psychological effect that color has on our moods. For this reason, the colors you choose for your living space are eternally relevant and should be selected with care.That being said – choosing the color palette of your home is a fun and exciting adventure, during which time you can discover yourself and the emotional needs that you might not have been aware you even had. Using this guide, you are free to use color as a fabulous, fun way to influence the way your space receives and embraces guests, and changes how you feel in your own home.
HOW COLORS AFFECT YOUR MOOD
- Elliot, AJ & Maier, MA. Color psychology: Effects of perceiving color on psychological functioning in humans. Annual Review of Psychology. 2013;65:95-120.
- O’Connor, Z. Colour psychology and colour Therapy: Caveat emptor. Color Research & Application. 2011;36(3):229-234.