The psychology of colour in your home

Posted 12 August 2016 by Helen Christie

Decorating a room in your home? WhatHouse? has a guide to popular colours and finds out what they really represent...

Colour, to an extent, is full of contradictions. Red means danger and love – avoid and embrace; black is sexy and evil – we want and don’t want; yellow is joyful and cowardly – yay and nay. In short, colour is exactly what it means to you at the moment. 

Taylor Wimpey has put together some tips and advice to help you decide what colour scheme to go for in your home...

Blue

Blue bedroomBlue is a colour that’s supposed to represent peace, stability, calmness, confidence, tranquillity, sincerity, affection and integrity.

Perhaps more than any other colour, blue is a colour that refuses to be pinned down. ‘Out of the blue’ is unexpected, ‘blue-blooded’ is aristocratic, ‘blue comedy’ is socially taboo and ‘feeling blue’ is feeling sad or unhappy.

Blue is supposed to be calming and relaxing, bringing down blood pressure and slowing the heart rate. It’s a colour that is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms.

Brown

Brown says friendly, outdoors, nostalgic, earthy, natural, practical, reliable and perhaps conservative. It’s also a much more subtle and changeable colour than British people think.

The Japanese, who are very precise about colour, don’t have a word for ‘brown’. They have a variety of phrases, the most-used being ‘chairo’, which is literally ‘tea colour’.

Brown has a homely association with food and drink, from bread, dark meat and chocolate to coffee, tea and beer.

Most shades qualify as neutrals, and look particularly good in a woody kitchen or living room. Add colour to liven things up, or keep it brown to calm things down – without getting into a dark brown depression.

Black

Black is the colour of sophistication, power, mystery, formality, art and style, and also evil and death, which makes its use dangerous as well as glamorous. Interestingly, black also implies weight. People will think a black box weighs more than a white one.

In the house, it’s modern, sophisticated strong and, in bedrooms in particular, can be masculine.

Used sparingly in any room, including the living room, it can be a monochrome masterpiece. Avoid a completely black room.

Green

Green roomWe associate green with life, growth, the environment, healing, money (‘greenbacks’ are banknotes in the United States), safety, relaxation and freshness. But it isn’t all safe. Green is also the colour of absinthe, ‘the green fairy’, one of the world’s most controversial drinks.

When you look through night vision goggles, you’ll see green. That’s because the colours on the screens are deliberately chosen to make green pictures, because our eyes are most sensitive to green light.

Green brings the outside in to a home, so it’s good in the kitchen and the conservatory.

Grey

There’s something very timeless about grey. It’s stable, secure, strong and authoritative, as well as neutral, intellectual (think of detective Poirot’s ‘little grey cells’), futuristic and technical.

If you shine it up it, grey becomes silver, which has a whole new layer of meaning, involving jewellery and wealth and power, plus the moon and movement and mystery.

Grey can be combined with colour in any room, at any time, but seems to come into its own in the kitchen or as a neutral carpet throughout a small house or apartment.

Pink

Pink​Pink is romance, compassion, faithfulness, beauty, love, youth, friendship and sensitivity. In fact, it has such a reputation for discouraging aggression that some sports teams use it to paint the visiting team’s changing room.

Marrakesh in Morocco is sometimes called the ‘Rose City’ because of its salmon-pink coloured buildings and the red clay of its earth.

The bedroom is the first choice for pink. Make it subtle for a couple or bright as you like for a small child.

Purple

Purple is a colour that demands to be noticed; the colour of royalty, luxury, dignity, wisdom, spirituality, passion, vision and magic.

Purple fact: It was the colour of the first ever synthetic chemical dye, discovered by accident by 18-year-old English scientist William Henry Perkins in 1856.

Purple is an under-used colour in the modern home, which is a shame. Use its lighter shades to give romanticism to a bedroom, its darker ones to give style to a dining room.

Red

Red roomRed is an exploding colour, implying danger, passion, daring, romance, style, excitement, urgency, appetite and energy. 

In Britain, it’s also a very traditional colour, being the central part of the Union Jack and also an iconic colour for pillar boxes, phone booths and London buses.

Red raises a room’s energy level. It works brightly in the kitchen and in its darker shades in the living room, dining room (restaurants use red a lot) and outside – a smart front door.

White

White stands for freshness, hope, goodness, light, purity, simplicity, cleanliness and coolness.

The colour has come to be associated with weddings in the west, but that’s comparatively recent. It was Queen Victoria who gradually popularised the colour when she married Prince Albert in 1840. Before her, any colour was fine for a wedding dress, even black.

Too much white can be cold, but used correctly it’s refreshing in the bedroom, enlightening in the living room and downright essential in the modern bathroom. The bathroom is the place with the mirrors, of course, so combine white with the colour that suits you best.

Yellow

Yes, yellow is the happiest colour in the spectrum. It’s joyful, cheerful, friendly and warm, but also sometimes advising caution (like a yellow card in football) or donating cowardice.

It is supposed to stimulate thought and emotion, activate the memory and encourage conversation. Perhaps because of its association with the powerful sun, it was the colour of emperors in Chinese history.

Yellow is an awakening colour. Use it in the kitchen, particularly if you have your breakfast there, and in rooms that get the sun in the morning.

Whatever colour you choose to decorate your home with, make sure you choose something that reflects your personality and that brings out the best of your home.

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