Needing initial direction for selecting color?  Describe in your mind first, how you want to feel in a room.  We all associate different colors with different feelings.  There’s a reason soft blue is a popular bedroom color.  Are you the person who needs a sense of calm and repose at night, more than a morning jolt of yellow sunshine when first opening your eyes?   Maybe you have no trouble falling asleep so calming colors are not so important.  You’d prefer the energizing effect of cheery yellows, with white and orange accents to invigorate you in the morning.  Prior to thinking about how you want to feel in your master bath, were you considering enveloping the walls in your favorite color of deep purple?  Now that you’re thinking “spa-like”, or “natural” as sensory descriptors,  will you still think that purple will achieve that spa- like feel?   Perhaps.  Or maybe you’d be happier reserving that intense royal hue for a vase of fresh orchids set in a surround of soft neutrals.  Of course, then you’ll need to fine tune exactly what hue of soft neutral you want.  But you’ve narrowed your search considerably and should be happier in the long run.

It could well be argued that the most powerful influencer of our sensory experience in the built environment is the use of color, and it is on the topic of color that we begin our series of posts about environmental psychology.  Color can, arguably, transform a space that is attractive in its own right into an optimally beautiful and supportive environment.  It can define spaces within an open floor plan.  It can imbue an interior with the owner’s personality.  It can calm, excite, invigorate, nurture, and evoke a sense of place.  It can convert even the most mundane space on the smallest budget.  Color absolutely can optimize the utility, power, beauty, and psychological impact of a space. 

Have you ever noticed that fast food restaurants often use the colors yellow and red? It’s no coincidence.  Questions have been raised as to whether or not these two hues have the tendency to increase appetite and stimulate nervous system activity.  Companies largely rely on color for their branding because of the perceived associations potential clients will make-   Conversely, some studies indicate your reaction to color could be related more to the appropriateness of the environment rather than invoking an emotional response.  While the scientific verdict about the effect of color on human action is still not crystal clear, there do exist observable, widely shared associations among broad sectors of the population-   Still, given the near universal phenomena of how strongly most individuals feel about their very personal color preferences, it remains a high priority consideration when designing interior living spaces.

Interestingly, in the home interiors industry, paint companies more easily sell paint colors with names that sensorially elicit a response to purchase-  For example, a paint named “Seafoam” would typically conjure more emotional selling appeal than the name “light green”.    So, beware buying paint based on those catchy names. That “Venetian Velvet Raspberry Glow” may be exactly what you want.  Or not!

How then does one muddle through color scheme decisions for their home, without being confused by the seemingly endless array of hues and saturation values?  Or the covert emotional tug paint color names are primarily created to sell?  One good exercise is to ask how you yourself would feel in a room painted in the general color range you’re considering.  Put a sensory or emotional name to it.