Anyone who starts an interior design project will come across the delicate subject of colours. Colour has the incredible power to change the perception of a space but can also have a strong impact on our mood and the way we feel in a room.
We love to say that colours are to the designer what spices are to the cook. They give the flavour and make things interesting. Approaching colour can be quite an overwhelming process and choosing the colours that match your style and address your psychological needs can be a tricky journey.
We wanted to write this little introductory guide to colour to help you understand how they can affect your moods but also how to best use them to transform your interior.
Intro to the psychology of colours
Colour can have a massive impact on our mood, so picking the right colour for our interior should be something that is consciously thought through and shouldn’t be a purely aesthetic choice. When designing a home, a colour palette is arguably one of the most important and simplest tools at our disposal to enhance positive emotion and increase wellbeing.
In fact, colour has the power to truly create psychological changes within us. Studies on colour psychology have shown that each colour has specific effects that can influence us on all levels (emotional, mental and physical). Every colour also affects how we think, how we feel, and how we behave.
In her ‘Little book of Colour”, Karen Haller explains how we can relate to colour in 3 different ways:
Personal colour associations which are largely conscious associations that we make with specific hues.
Cultural or symbolic meanings that are deeply imbedded beliefs born from our own culture and experiences.
Psychological meaning which is the unconscious influence that colour has on our behaviour without us necessarily being aware of it.
In the design process, we always try to consciously use colour with the purpose of enhancing people’s wellbeing and improving behaviours.
There are 4 common psychological primary colours, each triggering specific observable behaviour.
Red triggers physical responses, raises our heart rate and can activate a fight or flight response.
Yellow triggers emotional responses and impacts the nervous system. It’s one of the strongest psychological colours.
Blue triggers more mental responses and has an affect on our intellect.
Green is the colour of balance & harmony and sits between the other 3, balancing between the mind and the body.
All colours are derived from these primary colours. The composition & chromatic intensity of each colour can therefore have a different effect on our mood, sometimes stimulating, sometimes soothing us.
Match your mood
As we mentioned earlier, each colour is unique and has the power to trigger different emotions. Here are the psychological effects of the most common colours:
Red - passion, enhanced metabolism
Orange - sense of Welcoming, energy
Yellow - happiness, positivity
Green - harmony, stability
Blue - peace, relaxation
Purple - luxury, romance
Black - power, elegance, edginess
White - purity, simplicity
Brown - dependability, friendliness
4 tricks to shape your space with colour
The use of colour can go a long way in transforming the perception of a room. As a general rule, the use of dark colours helps to visually narrow a space, while using a lighter colour tends to enlarge the perception of it. That said, by combining different tones together, we have the possibility to totally reshape a space.
A few easy tricks to help change your room:
Tip #1 - To make a room bigger, use dark colours on the floor and light colours on the wall. The room will instantly feel a bit more spacious.
Tip #2 - If you want to reduce the depth of a room, paint the back wall with a stronger colour. A contrasting wall will help to change your perception of depth.
Tip #3 - A high ceiling is a designer’s dream, but sometimes the ceiling feels way too high and you may want the room to feel a bit cosier. An easy way to visually lower down the ceiling is to paint it darker than the walls. Sometimes even a shade darker is enough to do the (visual) trick.
Tip # 4 - If you want to get more height in a room, the reverse logic applies. The floor and the walls should have much darker shades than the ceiling. You can also continue a painted ceiling down the walls to create the illusion of moulding that immediately creates the impression of height.
Let’s talk colour with Rob Green
To conclude this first article on colour, we invited colour specialist and co-founder of COATPaint Rob Green to share a few words on colour trends and how to pick the right paint for your home.
1- Have you seen colour trends change this year with the pandemic and the drastic lifestyle changes many people have had to adapt to?
Absolutely, as we all spend more time at home we’re getting more sensitive to our interior environment and the mood it sparks. You used to walk into the ‘dull room’ and walk out without thinking too much. Now you’re spending more time in that dull room it pushes you to do something about it, make the change that will improve your spirit and the vibe around your home. Spaces that you really love or colours that spark calmness or energy become your new favourite hiding spot. We are definitely seeing folk experiment more with colour, bolder hues and pushing for tone on tone style, with the attitude of ‘why the hell not?’ If it makes you feel good, go for it.
2- What should we expect for next year? What will be the hot colours of 2021? Do you think these trends reflect people's new psychological needs?
I think we’ll continue to see a shift away from the greys to warmer, more colourful tones, which does represent the need for joy and playfulness, or just a big hug! Deeper, richer pinks and purples offer comfort and solace, while softer neutral greens will speak to health and consciousness. Also look out for the return of knocked back pastel yellows and earthy terracottas.
3- What do you personally believe is the most important thing that people should consider when they are picking a colour palette for their home or a specific room?
Tough one. You need to ensure any colour palette works with the period of the property and also the furniture and flooring that’s already in the room. Re-use, recycle, don’t waste! You don’t need to spend thousands on a huge makeover, a coat of paint can do the trick if it’s sympathetic to your style. I would say that a really important point that is often forgotten when pulling a palette together is the trim, don’t forget it! A space can be transformed by painting the skirting board in the same colour, the radiator too, but it often gets left in a yellowing white. Don’t be scared by giving your woodwork a spot of colour...you can always paint it white again, but I guarantee you won’t!
4- What is the best way to choose a colour for a room and make sure it will work with the actual space and lighting?
Try it out, there is no better way. You know your style and the way the light falls in your room with artificial lighting and furniture. Use a peel-and-stick swatch to get an idea of the real colour in various different areas around the room, it’s incredible how much light can change a colour altogether Plus no messy tester pots and waste, perfect.
Need help bringing more colour to your interior?
Book a colour consultation with our team.