Thursday, June 2, 2011

on color and mood...

via Janet Bloem's my.opera

Colors can be very influential concerning our mood because of what they represent historically and because of how they actually result in certain changes in our brain activity.

How colours can affect us based on their positive and negative attributes and how this can help us in deciding upon colour schemes for interiors, will be discussed, taking each color in turn below.  Remember, the remarks made here are general statements.  Colors and how we respond to them is a very subjective thing as well.  A certain hue can evoke different reactions simply by manipulating its tone or intensity.  Also, this post does not take into consideration the effects of simultaneous contrast - what happens when you put two hues (colors) together.  That said, read on. 

This is a reference post for me, based on what I have learned in my studies in interior design, but I thought it could be useful or interesting for others too.

The colour red consists of predominantly the longest wavelengths of light that we can see and is the most powerful colour in the spectrum.  Historically, red has been linked to royalty and military power and is associated with blood, courage, fire, sacrifice, wealth, power, sex, love, passion and sin. It is also a colour that has come to signify warning or danger.  Based on these associations one can see how red can evoke a positive or equally negative mood when brought into a space, so it must be used with care.  Certain tones of this colour can evoke aggressiveness, agitation or claustrophobic feelings.  It has even been associated with increased incidences of headaches.  It should no be used in rooms where calmness is required or where there is already too much action, but could be used in spaces where you wish to keep people moving.  The right tones can evoke feelings of warmth and coziness since red is a warm colour.  It can also be appropriate in ceremonial or state rooms since it reminds us of royalty and power. 

Orange is a warm, vibrant colour.  One thinks of autumn leaves, the setting sun or citrus fruits.  It has been linked to concepts such as safety, health and vitality, joy and change.  Orange has been found to stimulate activity and appetite.  It has also been found to encourage sociability and creativity.  It is a good colour choice for children, exercise rooms, workspaces of people in creative fields, restaurants and dining rooms.  As it is a cheerful colour, it works well with public housing projects or social centers.  However, there is also a negative side to orange.  As mentioned, it represents change, which is not always a positive thing and orange has been described as annoying.  It should not be used in rooms where relaxation is important.  Since it stimulates appetite and activity, it should not be used around “excessive” personality types.  Orange has also been linked to nausea.

Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. It is associated with the sun, warmth and citrus fruits.  Yellow is extrovert and has been linked to feelings of self-esteem and personal power.  It will advance from surrounding colors and instill optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts.  It has such a strong link to creativity that is not a good choice for people who suffer from mental disorders, as the line between creativeness and madness is sometimes a fine one.  Yellow has also been associated with fear and sickness; think about most caution signs, quarantine or jaundice.  It should also be avoided in customer service departments, doctors’ waiting rooms or airports because these are places where people have been known to become upset, worried or fearful.  Nevertheless, yellow is mentally stimulating, has been linked to encouragement of memory and communication and is generally a happy colour.  It is a good choice for welcome areas, childrens’ rooms, studies and work rooms, store fronts and sales areas. It is also a good choice for kitchens, although greenish shades of yellow should be avoided. 

The colour green is abundant in the natural world.  It is associated with nature. It is a clean, healthy colour and implies friendliness and cooperation, making it a good choice for charities, non-for profit organizations or children’s rooms.  It represents balance and harmony and it has been found to offer a sense of self-control, renewal ad relaxation. So it could be good for spas or recovery sections of hospitals and clinics where people need to be calm and relaxed in order to heal. It could equally work well in a home’s bathroom or bedroom.  However, these qualities would make it not appropriate for a room where an official, serious air is required, like a boardroom or corporate manager’s office. On the same note, green is associated with some negative concepts.  It is the colour of money and can be associated with greed and jealousy.  Certain green tones can give off an institutional, uncaring vibe. 

It is a tranquil and serene colour.  It is seen as reasonable, calm, confident and trustworthy.  After all it is a constant in our lives – it is the colour of the ocean and the sky.  Blue encourages calm, sedation and intuition. It is a good choice for any room where people need to calm down or cool off, such as sick rooms, rest rooms, bedrooms, airports, dentist’s waiting rooms, complaints departments or in the interiors of houses in hot climates.  Deep, royal blues are a good choice for ceremonial rooms.  There is another not so appealing side to blue.  It is a cool colour and could encourage antisocial behaviour, isolation and could make people feel colder than they actually are.  It is not a good choice for people who suffer from depression or sadness.  It is not a good choice for rooms where activity is important, such as a gym or playroom. 

Purple combines the coolness of blue and the warmth and excitement of red.  It has a sense of mystic and royal qualities; imagine a sense of greatness, leadership, respect and on by the same token, spirituality, emotional balance, inspiration and wonder.  Purple is also frequently a favourite colour among teenage girls, so it could be a good choice for a young lady’s bedroom.  Artists and philosophers respond well to this colour also, probably because it encourages original and sound ideas.  Purple is appropriate for creative types, especially ones who work in solitude and seek inspiration from within, such as composers, painters, and poets and also for people who are self employed.  Purple is also a good choice for meditation rooms, healing centers, spiritual rooms or buildings.  Since purple displays some royal qualities it is also a good choice for the work spaces of executives or any ceremonial room.  Because purple encourages reflection and introspection, it might not be a great choice for young children or someone suffering from a mental disorder.  Social centers, restaurants and hospitals, should avoid purple.  

Black is a very powerful colour (or lack there of).  It has a sense of darkness and mystery but can also be sophisticated and glamourous.  It all depends on how it’s done.  Black can bring out and emphasize the beauty of its surrounding colours or objects.  However, one must be careful about using black on a large scale.  It can be oppressive and depressing.  But if done right, it can be amazingly dramatic and surprisingly comfortable. 

White is a pure honest colour.  It is associated with spirituality, health and hygiene.  Using white creates a sense of openness and brightness.  We see a lot of it today, typical of ultra modern interiors and the increasingly popular Scandinavian styles. When white is used properly, you can get a clean, bright feeling room but still maintain a sense of coziness.  But when used incorrectly and over done, the room can have a sterile, clinical, empty and frankly, boring feel about it. 

Grey is a colour that is associated with old age and can bring to mind concepts such as wisdom, intelligence and calmness or negatively, over use and nearing the end.  It is also a colour associated with stone and metal and can call to mind feelings of strength, durability and quality or inflexibility. Overuse of grey can be oppressive and hinder personality to shine through.  It is a colour that blends in and conforms, which is why it has been such a popular colour with uniforms. Overuse of grey should be avoided in business, especially sales departments, rooms where children, the elderly and people suffering from mental illness will be spending time. However, it is one of those colours that when used correctly can really bring out the beauty in it’s surroundings.  It is a really great accent colour.  


  1. Great read....but what about Pink?

  2. Hi Abby. Thanks for the comment and it's nice to meet you =) You are totally right about Pink. Conventionally there are 7 colors in the spectrum - Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. But technically, there are an infinite amount since blends of these 7 colors are endless. But since I mentioned white, black and grey, Pink definitely deserves a mention. And because pink is such a wonderful color I will write Pink its own post at some point today and keep you posted. For now, I am off to read your blog =)

  3. @ Abby: delivered as promised =)

  4. to read your writings on pink! xoxo :)

  5. great post, Holly. This is my first visit over, new follower. Color brings out such emotion, doesn't it? What amazes me is that each culture embraces color differently, and so much of it must be learned... and I'm heading over to your pink post...

  6. Hi Anne-Marie! Thank you for your comment. I found your blog (and website) some weeks ago and I am huge admirer and fan! See you 'round the blogosphere =)