Creating Mood with Color and Paint

Picking the right color is easier when you understand how it affects mood.
Picking the right color is easier when you understand how it affects mood.
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Color affects mood. Everyone is susceptible to the influence of color, but often unconsciously. When you design your home's interior, you can use this subtle psychology of color to your advantage. Your choices don't have to be loud or garish either. Even subtle shifts in shade can make a big difference.

Color in Decor

Yellow can be upbeat, but it can also be overpowering.
Yellow can be upbeat, but it can also be overpowering.
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Human beings interpret color on different levels of consciousness. There's a visceral component and a cultural one, too. If you grew up in the Western hemisphere, your perceptions of color will be slightly different from those of someone who grew up in China or Japan.

Let's explore the psychological properties of a few popular Western design colors.

Calming to Neutral Colors

If you're searching for colors and paint that will promote a contemplative mood, consider the options below.

  • Blue - Blue is serene, calming and cool. When you use it exclusively in your décor, it can appear unfriendly, but when you have subtle blue shades on your walls and orange or yellow for a pop of color in textiles or wall art, the effect is welcoming but restful. Blue is also considered a good color for a study or den because its soothing effects may help you concentrate. If you're studying for that big exam, go blue.
  • Purple - Along with lavender, violet and other like shades, purple is an interesting cross between blue and red. Unfortunately, it can reflect the negative elements of both. The shade you choose is important. Because purple is dynamic and can be an aggressive design choice, stay with lighter shades and prefer bluer purples over those that tend toward the red end of the spectrum. A popular color for dreamy bedrooms, purple is an acquired taste and one that can easily come across as staged and artificial. If you're passionate about a purple bedroom, choose light lavender with purple and cream accent pieces. We love the look, but only in moderation.
  • Brown - A classic that's always a hit with men, brown is a bold color that almost never looks garish. Because it's a natural color in many woods and stones, brown is easy to work with, especially in rustic design. Since it's so prominent in nature, brown is also restful and contemplative. To create a wholesome but interesting look, use browns with plaids and checks. Oranges, yellows and blues are great accent colors to use with brown, too. In a den, family room or office, warm brown curtains or carpeting will help you get cozy and decompress from a busy day.

Vivid Colors

Color has the power to transform a room.
Color has the power to transform a room.
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If you want to inject some energy into the atmosphere, these colors are worthy of consideration.

  • Red - Warm and energetic, red can be an overpowering color in design when it's used too prominently. Red is dynamic and exciting on a single focus wall or in art or accent pieces. If you love modern design, have a lust for life, enjoy lively conversation and a passionate atmosphere, rely on red, but tone it down with a cooler color like blue or green.
  • Yellow - Considered happy and upbeat, yellow can be a design challenge. A little of it can energize a room, while too much can make the space seem harsh and grating. Yellow can inspire strong responses either for or against the hue. It's also hard to tune out. If you're using yellow, treat it like red and employ it as an accent with cooler colors, or in the palest sorbet shades. Babies may cry more around yellow, so avoid using it too conspicuously in a nursery or playroom.
  • Green - Humans have an affinity for green because it's so common in nature. It's a popular color in interior design, too, so much that some designers consider it a new neutral. Naturally calming, green works well in rooms where people go to relax and unwind. Green is luscious in a family room, media room, kitchen or den.
  • Orange - Warm, flamboyant and often associated with a retro look, orange is that kinetic cross between red and yellow that you'll either embrace or loathe. It isn't restful, subtle or neutral, but it is energetic. Avoid leading with orange in your décor. Use it as an accent in a sun lover's oasis like a lanai, sunroom, screened deck or southern-facing family room.

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