Psychology and Applications of Color in Interior Design

When it comes to choosing colors for your home, think about how a color makes you feel, what the color represents, and the mood that the color evokes. Color in interior design has a significant impact on us both mentally and physically. Below are various examples of how color, or the lack of color, may be effectively used to express ideas and elicit feelings through design.

Using Neutral Tones & Color in Interior Design

Subtract color to calm things down – Add color to liven things up. Use light shades of color to make a feature pop forward – Use dark shades to make a feature recede. Keep in mind that for each of the colors, there is a wide range of associated perceptions and moods depending on the hue (intensity), tint, or tone of the color. A hot pink bedroom, for example, would elicit a very different feeling than a pale pink bedroom. Also, color can convey a different feeling or meaning depending on ones culture, gender, or age.

The Neutrals

Though various hues of bold, bright color or soft pastel tones can go in and out of style, the neutral colors never fade from glory. Neutrals are flexible and can be used as a foundation for colored accents and accessories. White, black, brown, tan, gray, and sometimes even certain shades of green are considered neutral colors. They work well with any color.

White

White represents reverence, purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, birth, goodness, sterility, and marriage, to mention a few. Strangely enough, white is the color that our eyes perceive when all colors are combined – the mixing of all colors. White reflects light. Although a color may look white, it is not pure white – it has other colors in small quantities. Technically speaking, white, like black, is not really a color. Whites and blacks are “shades”. Search for white table lamps.

A white dominated color scheme could appear too stark or sterile for some while bold and dramatic to others. Successfully developing a white dominated theme that is inviting typically requires the blending of several shades of white along with different textures.  Search for white wall mirrors.

Photo Source: HGTV

When white is used as the primary color scheme, it is the shapes, textures, surfaces, and shadows that give the space definition and appeal. White is popular in decorating and in fashion because it is light, neutral, and goes with everything. However, it also shows dirt and is therefore generally more difficult to keep clean than other colors.

Black

In general, black is associated with sophistication, strength, sexiness, power, wealth, death, fear, the unknown, and such. Black velvet and black leather are a few materials that come to mind. Although people refer to back as a color, it is technically a shade. Black can add a sense of depth to a space – which gives a space a greater sense of richness or drama. If you have a bland looking room, a bit of black may be what it needs. Some designers will insist on having some element of black in a space. Search for black table lamps.

Other Neutrals

Gray can be warm or cool and recedes quietly into the background. It is a very popular neutral tone today! Light shades of cool gray impart a silvery and crisp feel. It is sturdy and solid, much like a rock. Gray represents wisdom and long life.


Beige gives way to other colors that long to be the star. Yet, it stands beautifully on its own – in the same way a mostly all white space does. It joins people together and is dependable and unchanging, much like the desert or seaside sands. Like blue, beige is a very popular color in coastal or tropical style decor.

Brown is strong, the color of nature and of earth. Brown yields to contentment and gives strength. Perfect for the living room, it envelopes one in a private shelter.

The Colors

Blue

When asked their favorite color, blue is the number one answer than most people give. Why is this ocean-tinted hue so popular? Probably because it evokes a feeling of peace and tranquility – and who couldn’t use a little peace right about now? Blue is calm and harmonious; blue is waves and running water; blue is a clear sky bursting with sunshine. A perfect color for your bedroom as it will center you as you prepare for slumber.  Search for blue table lamps.

Green

Green represents nature, freshness, renewal, and a sense of healing. Many things in nature, from trees to gardens, are green and bursting forth with life. Green encourages a new beginning and will make you feel alive on days when you would rather stay in bed. It has long been associated with wealth and money, as well as healing and stability. It is typically perceived as a relaxing and calming color. Dark green is considered to be masculine, conservative, and to imply wealth.

Source: House Beautiful

Green is most popular decorating color today. Some of the most common hues of green are true greens, pale greens (green mixed with white), blue-greens, yellow-greens (sometimes referred to as chartreuse), and dark greens (green mixed with black or brown).

Red

Regal red has often been hailed as the color of power and passion – and associated with love, sex, hate, violence, blood. Exposure to the color red has been proven to increase heart rate and stimulate metabolism. Red makes a person feel confident and powerful and has been linked with passion and love since time began. Beware that red can also cause tension and anxiety if exposed for too long. For this reason, large amounts of strong colors like red are not typically desirable for spaces where people gather and stay for long periods of time – such as living room or family room.

Restaurateurs have long known that red is an excellent color for a dining area as it literally stimulates the appetite. Red for your kitchen might provide too much temptation, but for the dining room, you will score big. Because red is such a strong color, use it sparingly. Red is regularly used as a minor accent color by some designers to give a space more pizazz.

Yellow

Yellow is associated with intelligence and mental agility. We learn at a young age that the sun is yellow and it gives us warmth, thus yellow is associated with warmth and life. Yellow is happiness and can stimulate conversation and clear your thoughts. Yet, a deep yellow may be associated with caution or a warning. It is a strong color that captures our attention.

Orange

Orange has its own way of getting people to talk; it reduces self-consciousness and gives one the confidence to express their thoughts. Orange can be uplifting, reminding you of celebrations, or it can be warm and relaxing like the coming of fall. Strong hues of orange should to used in small doses.

Pink

Pink has increased in popularity when it comes to an accent. Pink represents youth, joy, and gentleness. Pink is the color of love and kindness, compassion and comfort. Associated with femininity, pink is playful and innocent and encourages understanding. Maybe we should paint our prisons pink! This color is popular in bedrooms or bathrooms for the most part.

Purple

Purple is often associated with royalty, spirituality, encouraging you to connect with your fellow man and deepen your humanity. Deep purple is an energizing color, while lavender is a calming color

Finishes & Textures – Glossy or Matte?

Finishes also have an effect on perception. Glossy finishes bring animation to a room because the light will reflect crisply off of the surface. A crystal chandelier is a perfect example of a home accessory that adds lots of sparkle and shine. However, if a space is overly glossy, it can feel sterile. Below, the gorgeous, glossy Modern kitchen cabinets are set against a matte finished floor – to keep the space from being too reflective.  I might also add a long runner floor rug in the aisle to give a bit more warmth and comfort.

Photo Source: HomeDesignLover

A matte finish expresses a quieter tone or softer mood as the light is diffused in many directions. Matte and glossy finishes are common finish choices for flooring, kitchen cabinets, and lighting accessories.

So – get your color-game on and choose as you feel; or how you want to feel.

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