Color Psychology


Think back on some of your fondest memories. Everything seems so vivid. You most likely remember feelings, specific music playing in the background, maybe current events that happened around the same time, as well as colors. You may remember the color of clothes those around you were wearing, the color of a vehicle that passed by, the old hideous shade of green your friend’s house used to be before they painted over it, or the bright stripes of the snake that nearly bit you before your mom ran out and rescued you. All those colors you distinctly remember are part of what made you act (or react) the way you did, whether it was consciously or subconsciously. Human cognition is tied to many external factors, and color plays a more significant role than a lot of people are aware of, which is useful when considering how you choose to outfit your home.


You may have been in a situation where you entered a room, and it stirred up visceral emotions that you couldn’t quite put a finger on, but you know it made you feel a certain way. This is your brain interpreting environmental stimuli and making judgments on how to act, an innate ability that all living creatures possess. It’s beneficial for survival to be able to pick up on cues to form a quick response on the next course of action, whether it’s to run from danger, be wary and stay away, eat those particular berries, or be at ease. Now, you may not have been in any danger stepping into someone’s house, but you could’ve been uneasy or uncomfortable. Of course, it could be many variables, but colors may have been the reason behind it. Consider this: can you think of the colors of a hospital?

I’m sure white is most prevailing, but some rooms are painted strategically to cater to a calmer atmosphere. Usual experiences inside hospitals are not pleasant, and panic or fear can be a predominant emotion. To help offset this, you may notice a lot of unsaturated/pastel colors, specifically shades of blue, pink or green. These colors aid in tranquility, being content in your surroundings and instilling trust. You most likely won’t run across anywhere in a hospital painted bright red or yellow, as these provoke caution, create urgency and can make patients uncomfortable. This is why school buses are painted yellow, and fire trucks are red; these need to draw attention and be easily noticed.

User interface designers are using this always to think about how to approach what the end-user will see and interact with. Most people would tend to agree that red is used for a few number of reasons, such as meaning danger, urgent, or to stop. It’s not a coincidence that a stop sign or red light indicates what you should be doing. If you pulled up an app on your phone and it consisted of a large red button, you’re conditioned to be careful about pressing it and know that it’s probably a safety feature. “Whatever you do, don’t push that button!”

So why is this necessary and how does it translate to the design of your house, you say? It’s about how you want to feel. You have rooms in your home for a reason because they serve different purposes. In your kitchen, you want to be creative and induce an appetite, so it’s good to have some exciting colors like red, orange and yellow.


Red will help enhance your metabolism, orange will engage your creativity, and yellow will make you happy. Keep in mind that excessive use of any of these can have detrimental effects, so best used as accents. If you saturate your entire kitchen in red, you may begin to pick up on the sense of danger instinctually. With many mechanical devices and sharp objects in a kitchen, the last thing you want to feel is fear. In the case of too much orange, it combines traits from both red and yellow and may be too much of a distraction. You could find yourself on edge or uneasy and not able to concentrate.

With yellow, over-stimulation could be disturbing to some and is known to provoke babies to cry more often. Therefore, you certainly wouldn’t want to get overly excited about filling your newborn’s room with that shade of bright yellow you found at Sherwin Williams.

If you were to use a subtler yellow, and less of it, you’ll wind up with a happier kid, and thus a happier you. Now, you may be thinking, “Is there anywhere in my house I would want flashy, bright colors?” Well, perhaps you have a game room, or anywhere used for entertaining. This is where you’d want to keep it energetic and lively, so time to bust out the reds and yellows. But again, best to keep it tasteful and not overwhelming unless you’re actively attempting to create an art exhibit.

Let’s move on to where people spend a lot of their time: the living room and gathering spaces. If you look forward to kicking back and relaxing at the end of a long workday, you may find comfort in shades of blue or violet mixed with wood or neutral grey tones. When it comes to tranquility, nothing can top blue.

Psychologists have reported that it is the color of the mind and affects us mentally, as opposed to physical reactions exacerbated by others, such as red. You want to clear your mind after everything you had to deal with that day, and blue will do precisely that. As with purple, you’ll find yourself in a state of meditation, aiding massively in your desire to calm down. An added benefit is outwardly appearing inherently luxurious, as purple is a color of royalty and wealth. Let’s say you don’t have much room to work with, so you want to capitalize on what you do have.

A mixture of purples and contemporary, clean character wood will achieve this look. Once again, be conscious of excessive use, as it will create the exact opposite effect of luxury the fastest of any colors when overdone. Furthermore, violet is the shortest wavelength in the color spectrum before you get into the ultraviolet, therefore peaking your awareness, sometimes into levels of spirituality. Given that, if you’ve designated a room for meditation or exercising, such as yoga, consider purple for heightened introspection. 


Now down to business… and I’m not talking about the office. Let’s talk bathrooms. Cleanliness is of utmost importance when talking about this part of our house, and while physically maintaining it and keeping it sanitary, we can assist in upholding the psychological cleansing with colors like green, orange and of course white. Green represents the idea of freshness, orange makes minds think of things like citrus and sunshine, and white gives the concept of sterility, purity, and hygiene. Neutral earth tones are always a safe bet, as anything that is reminiscent of nature will trigger comforting thoughts. Again, we are a species bred from the outdoors; thus we are soothed by environmental colors. 

Last but not least, a room we all cherish: the bedroom. There are a few things in life that everyone needs, and sleep is one of them. It’s our sanctuary; a place where we go to reset and refresh. Here’s where shades of green can be essential, as it symbolizes peace and rest. Given our planet is mostly blue and green, these colors represent nature and take less adjustment for our eyes. It’s innate for us to feel at home when immersed in an environment of green and allows us to grow and feel fresh.

Additionally, this is a room where pink or red may be a right decision, as they can be provocative, nurturing, show signs of love and sexuality. Everyone knows maintaining a relationship is an ongoing process of nurturing each other and being passionate, so consider these warming colors if you and your significant other want to continue cultivating a strong bond. Though, just like all other colors, it shouldn’t be too much. Psychologically, too much pink in a bedroom can be emasculating, and this is an area where equality is most important. You want to make choices that will cater to both parties, so be sure everyone is happy with the final decision.

So you’re ready to add some color to your life now, right? Of course, everyone has their tastes and finds comfort in some colors that others may not. The psychology of colors can give some insight as to why this is, and help guide your decisions if you don’t even know where to start in your home decor. Think deeply about what particular emotions you want to manifest in each area and see that you have the power to make it so. Choose wisely!


by: Brock Slowinski