The idea that colors affect our emotions has been around for years. You may have heard that fast food restaurants use red in their branding because it stimulates appetite, or that police departments paint holding cells pink to calm prisoners down. The actual research on color and emotion is fairly mixed, and many of these effects of direct color exposure are only temporary. But we do each have associations with specific colors based on our life experiences and cultural norms, and these associations can impact the way colors make us feel. Keep these guidelines in mind as you select colors for your home, so you don’t create an environment that brings everybody down.
1. Warm colors are stimulating – Research has shown that exposure to the color red increases heart rate, and its neighbors on the warm end of the spectrum - orange and yellow - are also associated with alertness and activity. Use these colors in spaces where you want to feel energized and encourage conversation. Some negative feelings like agitation and even anger can be associated with warm colors, however, so use lighter shades of them on the walls or sprinkle them throughout the space as an accent.
2. Cool colors are soothing – Blue is associated with calmness and tranquility, which makes it perfect for rooms where relaxation is important. But the color blue is kind of like alcohol: a little calms you down but a lot can make you depressed. Darker shades of blue can actually make you feel blue, so use them in small doses or mix them in with warmer shades for a balanced color scheme.
The other cool shades in the spectrum – green and purple – are also identified as calming colors but without the iciness of blue. Green can be a relaxing choice because of its associations with nature, and it is also thought to be the easiest for our eyes to perceive. Purple has the same calming properties as blue but with the addition of a little warmth, which makes it a pleasant color for interiors.
3. The right colors might help sell your house – If you are putting your house on the market you can use the associations we have with certain colors to appeal to buyers. A recent study conducted by Zillow analyzed room colors of homes that sold around the country, and found some interesting results. Homes with rooms painted in blues and cool neutrals sold for more than expected, and having these shades on the exterior had profitable correlations as well (read all the details here). This may be because a blue is the most often reported favorite color by Americans, so it makes people feel good to see used it in a home. It could also be that blues and neutrals are popular colors for decorating right now, so homes painted in these shades have an updated appearance.
The bottom line is that color preferences are very personal, so you should surround yourself with ones that make you feel good. Keep in mind that other people may have different associations with certain shades, so try to come to a consensus with the people who share your space. If you can’t commit to your favorite colors on the wall, you can still get a mood boost by using them in smaller doses on furniture, artwork, and accessories. And if you are selling your home, it’s probably wisest to go with shades that appeal to the majority of buyers.
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