Explore the link between colour and emotion…
Typically, colour psychology offers fairly rigid recommendations on how to use colour in the home. “Use red in the dining room – it’s a social space so you can use this vibrant colour to stimulate conversation” or “don’t use yellow in the bedroom – it’s too energetic for your soothing sleep sanctuary”… etc, etc.
But there are lots of reasons why we don’t need to subscribe to that kind of rigidity.
As humans, we give certain meanings to certain colours. But it’s not universal. While some cultures associate white with clean lines and purity, in others, it symbolises death. So we could say, “white is the perfect living room colour!” but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Colour associations change over time too – we all know that pink used to be for boys and blue for girls!
On an individual level, people can have different associations with colours due to their personal experiences. You might know that yellow is supposed to be positive and energetic, but you can’t help but remember that very yellow, very stark, very bare room you grew up in as a child – and you never want to live in a room yellow again!
Your personality might affect the colours you associate certain emotions with too. Some people might find dark colours draining and could never imagine using them in their home, whilst others find them cocooning, perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
There’s also lots of different shades and tones of colours. Not all blues are calming and soothing, some are bright and bold, others dark and moody – and they’re just not going to create the same effect. Similarly, the direction that your room faces will have an impact. Blue in a north-facing room will end up gloomy and cold, but in a south-facing room, it feels balanced and tranquil.
So when it comes to decorating, how do you start making those colour decisions? First and foremost, think about how you want your home to feel, and what mood you want to create.
Having trouble? Take a look at our guide below for some common feelings associated with all the colours of the rainbow. Of course, if your emotions override what you’re reading, then go with your gut!
calm, clean, serene.
White is (technically) the absence of colour, the purest form of neutral. It’s associated with peace and cleanliness, and can calm us. You can find it in places like spas for that very reason.
Minimalist, scandi and Japanese-style spaces love using white. These styles typically focus on a more simplistic lifestyle, with functionality and comfort as the main aims.
White pairs well with most, if not all, colours on the spectrum. It adds a freshness to any colour scheme, balancing out darker colours and creating a crisp feel with lighter colours.
edgy, grounding, and dramatic.
Black is often associated with darkness, death and depression, but when it comes to interior design, it has a different story. When paired with other colours it’s considered a powerful and dramatic addition – not for the faint-hearted.
It’s used as a neutral in most homes, through black accessories and accents. However, if you’re feeling bolder, you can paint walls, floors or ceilings black, or use black furniture. This will create a brooding, moody feel, especially when paired with jewel tones.
Like white, you can use black with the majority of colours to create a high-contrast look. Pair with bold pinks for a glamorous, maximalist look or with beige for a highly sophisticated look.
danger, energy, adventure.
As one of the most vibrant colours, red is associated with strong emotions. A fiery hue that’s linked with love, danger and excitement, it can raise your blood pressure and even make you think someone’s more attractive.
Red is a great colour for rooms where you want to be energetic and stimulated, making it ideal for places like the home office or your art space.
Greeny blue is opposite to red on the colour wheel, so pairing these two colours would create a high contrast complementary combination. Go more tonal and combine with yellow or orange, or dial up the playful element with pink.
spirituality, warmth, joy.
Orange is a warm colour, associated with sunshine and positivity. It’s also the colour that Theravada Buddhist monks wear, so it has a connection with spirituality too.
It’s one of the more tricky colours to use in your home, but if you get it right the options are endless. Think bright and bold, spicy burnt hues or light peach tones. Orange is perfect for the heart of the home, the kitchen.
Depending on the tone of orange, it goes well with natural, neutral colours like grey, brown and beige. For a fresh, fun colour scheme, try pairing orange with turquoise and white.
energy, positivity, productivity.
You can’t find another colour that has the cheeriness of yellow. It’s the colour of sunshine, daffodils and lemons – all the things that come with spring and summer, so it’s no wonder that it’s associated with positivity.
Yellow is a versatile colour, and the spectrum is huge. From mustardy hues to bright neon shades, there are loads of ways you can bring this sunny colour into your home.
A classic choice is to pair yellow with blue, and this colour combination works across various hues. Pale yellow and powdery blue, rich mustard and navy blue, or bright yellow and lapis blue are all gorgeous pairings.
nature, growth, balance.
Green’s associations are very much focused on nature. Think plants, plants, plants. It immediately makes us feel calm and refreshed, exactly how we feel when we spend time in the natural world.
Green is easy to incorporate into your home, just through the use of plants! Any and every colour scheme or style can benefit from plants. If you love your whole room green, there’s a myriad of shades to explore – anything from forest and army green to chartreuse and emerald.
It can be soothing and invigorating – it’s all about which shades you pick. Green can go with both warm and cool tones, depending on their undertones. Pair with black and white for a delightful green pop, or combine with tonal yellow for a more restful space.
calming, soothing, cool.
photo credit right: @somethingbluehome | products: nash cushions in ink/royal, footstool (similar) | photo credit left: | products: waffle texture duvet cover set in ginger, dune cushion in ochre, monkey forest cushion
Believed to bring down blood pressure and heart rate, blue is the colour of relaxation and stability. It’s a favourite too, with a 2015 YouGov survey finding that it was the most popular colour in the world!
It’s the perfect colour for any room where you want to promote serenity. So it might be perfect for your bedroom, to help you sleep, or your living room if you want it to be a place to cocoon yourself and forget about everyone else.
Blue can be used across any interior style, from minimalism to maximalism, scandi to traditional. There are worlds of possibility when it comes to colour pairings too. Think coastal vibes with light blues and sandy beiges, sea green and teal for a rich, tonal feel, or navy blue with white for a super fresh scheme.
creativity, royalty, magic.
Did you know that Queen Elizabeth I forbid anyone except the royal family from wearing purple? In those days it was expensive and rare to obtain purple dye, which is why it’s traditionally associated with royalty. Today it still evokes feelings of drama and richness.
Like green, it can be both a warm and a cool-toned colour, depending on what undertone the purple has. It is therefore quite a versatile hue, with lots of options for beautiful colour schemes.
Go super moody with a purple that borders on grey, and pair it with creams and charcoal black. Or, if you want something a little more fun, pair lavender with a pop of tangerine orange. The possibilities are endless!
romance, kindness, playfulness.
Often associated with little girls, pink is a powerful shade that can be both masculine and feminine. It’s seen as a nurturing, caring colour that is often experienced in nature’s flowers.
Pink isn’t the easiest colour to include in your interiors. While it can go with a range of styles, it’s important to pick the right shade. And boy is there a lot to choose from! From classic rose and blush to bubblegum and magenta, there’s a lot to wrap your head around.
Pair with yellow or orange for a super vibrant, playful colour scheme – just be careful not to get too saccharine! Use as a neutral instead of white for a (ever-so-slightly) warmed-up minimalist space.
neutrality, refinement, understated.
photo credit left: @interior_renovation_ideas | products: | hamlet cushion, meridian cushion, boucle cushion, tundra throw | photo credit right: @emir_and_mummy | products: cosy cushion, berbera cushion, boho tufted throw
Grey definitely gets a bad rap. Often seen as boring, serious and depressing, it actually has positive connotations of refinement and elegance. It’s become a very popular colour for modern interiors.
It can be used as both a neutral and a main colour, depending on how much you love grey. As a light shade, it’s perfect for minimalist spaces, while darker tones are moody and ideal for traditional, maximalist and industrial styles.
For a clean and crisp design scheme, you can’t go wrong with pairing a mid-toned grey with a fresh white and pale wood. Pair with yellow for a balanced but beautiful colour combination. Perfect for bedrooms.
Ready to go? Our guide to introducing colour into your home will help you get started.