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Are Your Colors Making You Cranky?

Interior Designer Liz Dickson explores the psychology of color.

Is there a particular color that you are always drawn to? Then perhaps you've experienced just a hint of how colors can affect your emotions. Depending upon one’s age, gender, ethnic background or the local climate certain colors, or groups of colors, tend to elicit particular reactions and affect how we feel.

This, of course, translates into our homes when we are selecting the colors with which we will surround ourselves. Those colors can make us feel happy, sad, relaxed, energized and yes ... even cranky. Therefore, when selecting color for your home it is  important to choose not only those that reflect your likes and your personality but the ones that elicit the appropriate emotions suitable to the function of each room.

Colors behave in three basic ways, they are either active, passive, or neutral. Additionally, light colors are expansive and airy, making rooms seem larger and brighter while dark colors are sophisticated and warm giving large rooms a more intimate feel. When selecting color you should ask yourself what mood you want to create and then determine which color, or combination of colors, will help you achieve that mood?   

So let’s look at how particular colors can make us feel.

Red impacts a room’s energy level. It has been shown to raise blood pressure and speed respiration and heart rate, so it’s a good choice when you want to stir up excitement. In a living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression. It is usually considered too stimulating for bedrooms, but if you’re primarily using the room after dark, the lamplight will make the color appear muted, rich, and elegant. However, when there is too much red present, or if someone is sensitive to red,  it can elicit feelings of irritation, anger or hostility. Often, red is best suited as an accent color instead of the primary color in decor.

Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and evokes happiness. It’s perfect for kitchens, dining rooms, and bathrooms, where a happy color is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries, and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming. However, yellow is the color that is most fatiguing on the eyes.  Perhaps this is why babies seem to cry more in a yellow room. A good thing to remember when ruling out colors for your nursery!

Blue reduces blood pressure, slows respiration and heart rate. It’s considered calming, relaxing, and serene, and is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms. Be careful, however, as some blues can appear unpleasantly cool, especially in a room that receives little natural light. If you opt for a cooler blue as the primary color in a room, balance it with warm hues in your furnishings and fabrics. Additionally, dark blue evokes feelings of sadness, so be careful when using a darker blue as the primary color in a scheme.

Green is considered the most restful color for the eye. Combining the refreshing quality of blue and the cheerfulness of yellow, green is suited to almost any room in the home. In a kitchen, family room or living room, it encourages unwinding but has enough warmth to promote comfort and togetherness. In a bedroom, it’s soothing and pleasant and is believed to relieve stress by helping us to relax.  It’s calming effect makes green a great primary color in any decorating scheme. 

Purple in its darkest values, like eggplant, is rich, dramatic and sophisticated. It’s associated with luxury as well as creativity, and as an accent or secondary color, can give a room depth. Lighter versions of purple, such as lavender and lilac, bring the same restful quality to a room as blue, but without the risk of feeling chilly.

Orange is a warm, inviting and joyful color. It evokes feelings of sociability and happiness. It has an emotionally strong presence, and promotes extroverted behavior  so it is a fantastic color to use in gathering spaces to encourage interaction. Because orange contains red, it can also be overused, so keep in mind that too much orange, or an orange that is too bright or intense, can create overwhelming, irritating or frustrating feelings.

Neutrals (black, gray, white and brown) can be a fabulous starting point in a color scheme because of their flexibility. One can use a neutral as the primary hue in a room and add color to liven things up or subtract it to calm things down.  Neutrals are a good bet for those who are not comfortable with lots of bold color.  Black is best used in small doses as an accent as it will ground the color scheme and give it depth.

And don’t forget the ceiling!

The ceiling represents one-sixth of the space in a room, and is often referred to as the fifth wall. However, most of the time the ceiling gets nothing more than a coat of white paint. In fact, for decades white has been considered not only the safest but also the best choice for ceilings.

As a general rule, ceilings that are lighter than the walls feel higher, while those that are darker feel lower, however, lower  need not mean claustrophobic as visually lowered ceilings can evoke cozy intimacy. A room with neutral walls can come alive with a pop of color on the ceiling.

These general guidelines are a good starting point in your search for the perfect paint color. But remember that color choice is a very personal matter. You will be living with your new paint color every day, so choose a hue that suits you, your family and your life style.

And don’t wait until the last minute to select your color. Paint can look dramatically different on a wall than it does on a chip in the store and the changing light in a room will impact the appearance of the color throughout the day and night.

ALWAYS purchase a sample pint or quart of your color selection and put it on the walls in a few places throughout the room.  Look at it several times during the day and night to make sure that it appeals to you in all types of light. You will be happy you took the time as you enjoy the new, perfect color in your room.

For more color ideas, visit my Baltimore Interior Design website at www.millbrookcircle.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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