Meanings and Feelings of Color
Now let’s look at the meanings of color so that you can match the color with the function of the room.
Tobi Fairley/Nancy Nolan Photography Source.
BLUE. Do you feel serene? What things in nature are blue? A placid lake or a clear blue sky usually call you to sit and enjoy, right? Well, rooms with a primary color of blue tend to invite our minds to relax and sit awhile. The color in this photo was compared to a robin’s egg. You can always compare colors to the natural world to determine if that color is something you can handle every time you walk into a room. Also, notice that the sofa is a tinted blue. A color that has been muted by adding white or gray can look and feel more expensive.
GREEN. What is green in nature? Grass and foliage. What does green mean to you? I think of growth and renewal. I also think of energy which is fitting since green can stimulate conversation and fun.
PURPLE. Think royalty with purple. It is a sign of wealth and power. In the room above it is paired with another royal color, gold. It is dramatic and connotes a combination of sorrow and passion. A muted purple is beautiful in little girls rooms and vanities and suggests refinement. The darker shade of purple can tire the eyes, so use this color with care.
RED. This bold color encourages passionate feelings of love or hate. In nature, a hot fire, blood and roses wear the color well and represent much of the powerful feelings associated with the color. This color demands attention and adds life to a room. This color, too, needs to be used with discretion.
YELLOW. I always think of a warm ray of sunshine when I think of yellow. I personally love the color yellow. It is a bright and cheerful color that infuses energy into a room. Paired with gray, like in this picture, it is balanced and beautiful. There is a innocent happiness, light and intellectualism in the color. But a dull yellow can be associated with sickness, aging, and cowardice, so you may want to avoid decorating an entire room this way.
ORANGE. This is a fearless color that asserts youthfulness and spontaneity. In nature we see it in the burnt orange of the fall leaves and in the fruit it was named for. This color stimulates breathing, immunity brain activity. It is also used to signify caution. In the photo above you can see that orange was paired with its complementary color, blue.
GRAY. Think of a rock. It is nondescript, yet it carries weight and looks beautiful with other colors. Gray is a popular color that looks smart, sleek and goes with nearly all colors. It is a color of peace, longevity and wisdom. Nearly all the walls in my house are gray. It is a popular neutral color right now.
Heavenly, clean, innocent. We see this color in nature through clouds, snow, and lamb fleece. It is a light and airy color that reflects light well and gives a sense of sterility. This color is also a neutral color that highlights other colors well. Right now most kitchens are white, but it isn’t boring when pops of color bring life and hardware gets to take the spotlight too.
BROWN. This is an earthy color that reminds us of dirt, trees, and Mother Earth. It is color that elicits feelings of coziness and safety. It is a color that invites us to sit, rest and be content. I chose tan and brown for my living room for this very reason. It is the room I want to snuggle into a blanket and read a good book in.
BLACK. The contrast with the black and white in this photo is stunning. Black is associated with dignity and sophistication. Notice that most professionals where black–the fact that is slims the body is only one reason. =) There is mystery with black and in western cultures it is associated with death and negativity. For the home, black adds glamour and formality to a room. Black, like white, are classic colors that will always have a place in interiors.
So what now?
Now that you understand the basics of the color wheel, you can choose colors with confidence and make educated decisions about what other colors to use rather than guessing if the colors look good together.
Let’s use a real world example to help you.
Let’s say you want to paint your kitchen walls. Your cabinets are white, so you are wanting to add some subtle color to the room. Immediately you know that you don’t want to use highly saturated, bold colors. You know that the color you choose will be tinted. You decide that blue is the color you want, so you go to the paint store knowing that you want to look at the blues. When you get there you look at the blues that are almost white because you already know you don’t want the color to be too loud. You have a picture of the white of your cabinets and check to see if they will look alright together. Then you buy a paint sample and take a swatch of the chosen color and a few others, just to take a look.
Once you are at home you will paint the sample on the wall (three coats deep) and watch that color throughout the day since the color will change as the natural light in the room will change. Your chosen color will look different morning, mid-day and evening, so make sure you like it all day. Try to paint it near the cabinets and other dominant colors in the room so that you can see how they look together. It is also important to consider the accessories and dishes that you already have. If you starting over, consider what types of decor you want in the room and pick a color that will coordinate with those items. Let your color choices inspire each other. For example, I chose the wall colors of much of my house based off of a painting that I loved. Most people don’t have the budget to buy new everything when they decide to change colors, so always take stock of what you have and what you can buy…a.k.a. have a plan before making a paint color commitment.
Tip: If you like to change wall colors often, invest in neutral decor that will go with just about everything. If you like neutral walls, you can add color to the room through your dishes and decor. I tend to go for neutral walls and add color with decor, but either way works. I just don’t like to paint often!
Here is your to-do list:
- Pick a room you want to add color too–this can either be with paint, wallpaper, window treatments, flooring, furniture, or decor.
- What is the function of the room? Is it where you gather, where you eat or where you get clean? The function will help you determine suitable colors.
- Now pick a color that will help create the feelings you want to feel in that room. It doesn’t have to be an exact color yet, so just go with the hue (name of the color.) For example: you know you want to use yellow.
- Now decide what value of the color you want. Do you want a lightened version of yellow? Do you want a darker version of yellow?
- Now decide on the saturation. This is done by just looking at the different colors and considering other colors that you want to combine it with.
- Now it is time to pick your secondary color, the color you will use 30% of the time. This is where it can be really helpful to see what colors are analogous, complementary or split complementary to the color you chose. This is also when you could use the color palette tools that I linked. This color will likely be seen in the curtains, furniture or home decor, but it can be on the walls through paint and wallpaper.
- Now all you have left is to pick your accent color. This is the color you will use 10% of the time. It will stand out, but it will not certainly not overbear the other colors in the room. This color can add interest and life to the room.
- Now you have a color scheme to be proud of.
Tip: Use a piece of art that you love or a picture from Instagram or Pinterest that resonates with you as inspiration for picking your colors. Using color psychology is not the only place to start.
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to learn more about anything in particular. Please leave a comment. I love to hear from you!