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PSYCHOLOGY OF COLOR IN INTERIORS
April 2021

The colour you paint the rooms in your home can have a powerful effect on how your home makes you feel. This is very much at the heart of colour psychology and why, when choosing interior paint colours, the focus should be on the kind of atmosphere we are trying to create.

Get the colour right and improve your mood

American colour company Pantone has chosen Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, an “optimistic” hue of yellow, as its colours of the year for 2021. The power of colour to evoke emotion is very much behind Pantone’s choice of colours this year. They believe that the pairing of shades will help people “fortify themselves with energy, clarity and hope” at a time of increasing uncertainty.

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By shifting the way, we think about our living spaces from how they look to how they make us feel; we can dramatically improve our day-to-day lives and enhance our wellbeing. And colour has a big part to play! For many choosing the right shade can be a challenge. Here are five steps to follow for picking the right colour and making sure your rooms not only look great but make you feel great too.

How do you want to feel in the space?

When picking a colour to enhance a room’s atmosphere, your starting point needs to be how you want the room to make you feel.

Your personality will have a big part to play here. For example, are you someone who likes to entertain a lot, who prefers company to spending time alone? Then you’ll likely prefer a vibrant and energised space. Or do you need quiet time, preferring peace and quiet? Then you’ll be looking to create a calm and relaxing room.

Colour choice is subjective, and this is the enjoyable part of design. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. When it comes to picking colour, you need to go with your gut. Believe it or not, your gut instinct to colour selection is the best indication of how you will feel once it’s up on the wall, so don’t ignore it.

What will the room be used for?

Let how you plan to use each room influence your colour selection. The colour you choose to decorate your bedroom, for example, can play a part in the quality of your sleep, so it’s crucial to select your colour palette carefully.

Warm colours will create a stimulating effect, while cooler colours, such as blues, pale greens and greys, will produce a more calming and relaxing atmosphere.

Good colour choices to benefit sleep are soft, muted shades. Darker tones such as deep plums or rich burgundies can create a luxurious and cosy environment creating more of a cocoon-like effect. Try to stay away from high-energy colours like bright greens, intense reds, or bold, vibrant shades. Keep the colour for your woodwork and windows the same to create a more unified colour scheme.

Take orientation into account

The rooms orientation will have a role to play in your choice of colour too. A north-facing room, for example, will lend itself well to warmer moodier colours and less so to crisp whites or cool greys. A south-facing room, however, can take a broader range of shades.

A common mistake is painting a north-facing room yellow to brighten it. Yellows are tricky as they often react poorly in the light that comes with the Irish climate and can look cold. Instead, opting for a more neutral shade with a little hint of green or earthy tone will make the room feel much warmer and inviting.

And be careful not to choose a colour because it looked great in a friend’s house. The same colour will look completely different in different light conditions. The colour might not work if your room’s orientation is not the same.

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What time of day will the room be used most?

Think about the time of day you are most likely to be spending time in the room. This is important as it will determine whether the room is mostly lit with natural or artificial light. This will impact how your paint colour looks.

Always test the colour in the room you plan to use it, to see how it reacts with the light. For naturally-lit rooms, steer clear of any shade with a hint of pink or peach in it. These tones are tough to live with. This is particularly true with neutral shades – magnolia is a classic example – as their warmer tones tend to clash with everything.

Instead, choose a shade with a slight hint of green in it as this has a neutralising effect, meaning most colours will combine well with it. The green also means it will react well in the light that comes with the Irish climate, which tends to be very soft and in other rooms with little natural light.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Denise O’Connor

Managing Director Optimise Design, B.Arch. RIAI RIBA
& Senator’s Expert Design Consultant

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