One of the most difficult decorating tasks is choosing a color scheme. Once this is done all the other pieces of the decorating “puzzle” fall into place. But many of us struggle with where to begin. Do we just pick a color we like and paint the walls? Or do we choose something safe like white or beige and just live with it? The answer to both of those questions is yes and no. You definitely want to choose a color you like and maybe that color is white or beige. But it is important to choose the “right” color. Let’s see if we can make this process a little easier.
To begin, it is important to know a little about the psychology of color. There have been thousands of studies done over the years on how color affects our moods and our behavior; all too lengthy to discuss here. Even the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui assigns a color to each of five elements, which are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. They feel that the combination of the element and color create a reaction to one’s surroundings. With a little understanding of the impact color has on people you will be able to choose a color scheme that will help you create the perfect space for your family and those who visit your home.
The Color Spectrum
Color is broken up into warm colors of red, orange, gold and yellow; cool colors of blue, green and purple and neutral colors of tan and brown. And, although they are not truly a color, black and white are important in any decorating scheme.
The color red is associated with passion, power, heat and anger. It can act as a stimulant so is a popular color for a dining room as it stimulates the appetite and the conversation. This same stimulating effect may not be what you want on your living room walls if you are looking for a peaceful spot to relax, entertain or read. Instead, use red in your accessories and upholstery and choose a more relaxing wall color such as sage or tan.
Blue has always been one of the most popular color choices in home decorating. It is found to have a calming affect on most people. For this reason it is often found in bedrooms for both children and adults. If you are looking for a calm and relaxing living room, choosing the right shade of blue can help you accomplish this. A bright blue with red undertones may not be what you are looking for. But a soft blue with a grey undertone can appear neutral and calming and be a backdrop for upholstery of almost any color.
Green remains a popular color choice in all home décor. It is thought to invoke feelings of tranquility and self-control. As with all colors, choosing the right shade and hue is important. If you are decorating your living room in a tropical theme, for example, a green with a yellow undertone such as lime green or grass green may be right for you. If a calmer and more relaxed feel is what you are seeking, look to the colors of sage and moss. And for a traditional room a hunter or emerald green will work perfectly with the red and blue often found in this color scheme.
Yellow is a difficult color to use. While it can brighten up a dark room it has also been found to increase anxiety in the elderly and the very young. On the other hand, it encourages conversation so is an excellent choice for a living room. Choosing the right intensity is the key to success when using yellow. A deep Tuscan gold looks wonderful next to all your dark woodwork. A creamy white with yellow undertones is more appealing than a stark white wall.
Neutrals such as brown, gray and tan represent wholesomeness and stability. They are associated with the colors of earth and anything natural. During difficult economic times these colors become very popular. Because of the range of color it can be difficult to choose a neutral. The lightest gray can appear almost white and tan can have pink, yellow or gray undertones. A dark brown can have the appearance of a deep moss green. For these reasons, it is important to try many samples before choosing a color.
White is the most common wall color found in most homes. It represents cleanliness and gives a fresh appearance. But if you have tried to match your wall color to your white trim you know that white comes in many, many shades. Held up next to each other white samples can appear gray, yellow or pink. If white walls are what you desire in your living room, be sure to match the color to any existing trim such as door surrounds, baseboards and window trim.
As you can see, color affects all of us in different ways. The only factor you need to keep in mind is how color makes you and your family feel. If a bright red wall in your living room makes everyone happy and stimulated, then go for it. If dark brown walls create the moody effect you are looking for, then paint away. There are no “rules” in decorating. If it works for you, then it works. But having a little knowledge of how color can change the look and feel of your home might help you make the right choice and avoid costly mistakes down the road.