The Psychology Of Color

The science behind the use of color can make all the difference in your design.

A Colorful Home


The psychology of color, as it relates to the powers of persuasion, has long been leveraged by marketing and branding firms.

It’s not an accident that Starbucks has a green logo, which represents sustainability and health. Nor is it a matter of chance that companies like Dell, Facebook and American Express have chosen blue, which represents trust, reliability and strength. Would you buy a Harley Davidson if the logo was pink? Probably not (pink represents youth and fashion.)

Of course, a person’s reaction to color depends on their own experiences, personal and cultural, and these are not always universal. On the whole, however, you can leverage psychology when designing the color scheme for your home. And don’t worry: you won’t need a Ph.D to get it done.


How Does Color Psychology Work?

Most people—though by no means all—view colors within two main categories: warm and cool. Reds and oranges are warm, while blues and greens are cool. This is true because of the association of those colors with real things. The warm colors are associated with heat and sun; the cold colors with water and sky.

lanai chair red

!nspire Lanai Accent Chair in Red


The effects of color can cause a physical reaction. For example, reds tend to stimulate our senses and can raise blood pressure, while greens can calm a person and lower heart rates. We react differently when exposed to certain colors and that reaction, conscious or not, can often be more impactful than the visual effect of looking at the colors.


The Impact Of Color In The Home

When designing your color scheme, you should keep in mind the basic psychology around colors. They go beyond aesthetics and can impact your living space more than you might be outwardly aware.

For example, bright yellow is associated with mental stimulation and alertness, so using it in a home office or study nook might be beneficial. How it will look is another consideration, but remember that color contributions in a space need not always to be as dramatic as several walls of canary yellow to achieve the effect.

Accents, pillows, artwork and smaller furnishing can be used to incorporate colors that create the right mood.

Speaking of mood, there is a room of your home where color can make a big impression: the bedroom. Warm colors are effective for creating a sensual space—though you need to be wary of being too intense with overly bright shades of red, orange or yellow—while cold blues and purples can have a negative impact in that particular arena. Something to consider when you’re decorating the boudoir…

Color can even influence how others view you, in the context of your home.

While whites and shades close to it can give the impression of light, cleanliness, and a general positive feeling, somber colors like charcoal or black can be negative.

That said, dark shades also connote elegance, so the other aspect to consider is how you mix your colors and in what proportions you use intense colors, relative to lighter ones.

Consider these three ottomans in the context of the more muted wall and floor tones. How do they make you feel when you look at each one?


!nspire Alyssa Cocktail Ottomans and Pillows


A Basic Primer

Red—this color should be used sparingly in most spaces, particularly in bathrooms or bedrooms.

Orange—is a social color to use in communal spaces. It has the happiness of red but is toned down and less ‘aggressive’.

Yellow—is an energizing color that’s great for a kitchen, craft room or workout room.

Green—is a harmonizing color. It’s perfect for spaces where a natural calmness is needed.

Blue—is a serene color best reserved for spaces where social activity is less. The bathroom, for example. Balanced with neutrals though, blue is a wonderful accent color that can create the perfect mood in the bedroom.

White—is purity. White walls and accents, or those mixed with warmer tones to create an eggshell or cream color, are the perfect canvas for other colors to be added in, depending on the use of the space.

Brown / earth tones—are natural and elemental. With these colors, you can balance out brighter shades, creating a comfortable, nurturing space.

What colors do you feel most comfortable with in your home?