Colour psychology: which colours work for you?

Thursday, January 10, 2013
Rose-Marie Hillier
Colour psychology: which colours work for you?
Photography: Getty Images.
If you've found yourself becoming depressed, restless or agitated in your home, or maybe you've noticed no-one seems to be able to relax (especially the four year old), then it could be time to review your colour choices.

Colour is an emotive decorating tool, it can lift, lighten, refresh or dramatise a room: at its best it can make you feel sexy, at its worst it can make you feel sick. So before you begin decorating, work out which colours make you feel good and then explore them in combinations for every one of your rooms.

It might come as a surprise to learn that we don't only see colour, we feel it. Each colour in the spectrum vibrates with a different wavelength. This vibration is actually the energy we get from a colour and is absorbed through our body, skin and eyes. Everyone needs to experience the highs and lows colour creates for their sense of well-being.

Colour affects mood

While our health is based on our body receiving a balanced flow of energy, everyone's need for colour energy varies from person to person. When my gym announced it was changing the carpet on the aerobics floor, I didn't give it much thought. After the carpet was installed, I turned up one morning for an aerobics class and was amazed to find how flat I felt standing there. I was truly puzzled as to why I felt drained of energy and why my class performance was sluggish. That's when I realised it must have been the colour of the carpet: so powerful an element is colour that it can drastically affect mood, attitude and yes, even energy levels. The pastel-coloured carpet had been replaced with a dark navy blue, a colour typically used to create a peaceful mood and promote restfulness, and was not a good choice for a room meant to motivate a high level of activity. My body's reactions certainly confirmed this.

Colour affects personality

It's a good idea not to let trends dictate your every colour move. If you choose colours that don't really reflect who you are – following fashion rather than instinct – your individual spirit and energy will never surface in your home and, frankly, your decorating scheme will fall flat.

How do you want to feel

One of the biggest mistakes people make when choosing a colour scheme is to go tonal – that is, using shades and tints of only one colour throughout the house – because in no time at all you'll become restless, even cranky. We need to have the stimulation of a variety of tones and a rise and fall in light and shade to create a balanced scheme.

What colour is right for you

Red
Powerful and passionate, this is a big colour with lots of energy and when it takes the lead it can make a dramatic personality statement. Even a splash of red does wonders for the spirits, can get the pulse racing (not a good choice for the elderly) and even in small doses can make you a bit hyper. To be avoided in little kids' bedrooms.

Pink
This is a soothing colour claimed to be the protective colour of spiritual and unconditional love (and has been therapeutically used in prisons to successfully calm inmates). If you need nurturing, think about pink for your bedroom, though it makes a wonderful accent colour in a living room, too. Don't write pink off as too girly – there are lots of offbeat shades which are right on trend.

Orange
There is more energy in a room painted in a warm colour such as orange. If you are a creative type, you'll crave it. It's associated with humour and wit and if you don't have the confidence to use red, go for orange. Orange is also said to stimulate appetite, which makes it an ideal accent colour for a dining room or kitchen.

Yellow
If you are a social butterfly and have a sunny disposition, yellow is your colour. Note that not every shade of yellow is especially flattering; some look downright dirty under fluorescent light.

Purple
Calming, spiritual, reflective, purple is the colour of meditation and contemplation. If you are prone to excessive daydreaming, forget it for any room other than one intended for relaxation. It's a fab night-time colour and purple's deeper cousin, aubergine, is particularly dramatic in a bedroom.

Green
This is the most balanced of all colours and if you need healing or comforting, or want to create a tranquil atmosphere in your home, green is your colour. Combine with plenty of textured surfaces to add movement and interest.

Blue
Restful, peaceful, the colour of honesty and devotion, blue lowers the heart rate, so use it wherever you want to chill out: the bedroom is a good place to try it. Being a water colour, it's also perfect for the bathroom.

Turquoise
Turquoise promotes a feeling of well-being and is also reviving and invigorating, which makes it ideal for anywhere you want to relax or cool down, such as a spa or bathroom.

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