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Caution: The colours you choose will tell a story.

Colours are all around us. They might be naturally occurring or added by a decorator.

Often, designers use colour to express emotions. We say we feel “blue” when we are sad. We are “green with envy" when we are covetous of someone else’s possessions. Calling someone “yellow” or ‘yellow-bellied” is to suggest that they are cowardly.

Unfortunately, those are mostly negative examples and have their roots in cultural circumstances. For example, in turn-of-the-century American western society, “yellow-bellied” referred to the yellow-bellied sapsucker, a bird that appeared scared and always avoiding confrontations. From there, it evolved into an insult for cowards. A person might be described as yellow-bellied if they are afraid to climb a high ladder, for example.

More often today, using colours in interior design is about finding those colours that evoke good feelings. The colours chosen for a home will have an enormous impact on mood and emotions, so before using any colour, it can be important to understand and consider its emotional impact.

Colour psychology

The study of colour psychology suggests that some colours walk a tightrope of positive or negative. For one person, a colour might increase their anxiety, and for another, that same colour will boost their energy level.

Used as a design tool, colours can transform a dramatic space into one that feels calmer, or it can shake things up by adding a greater sense of drama. It can make a room feel more cheerful or melancholy. It can contribute to a more comfortable environment, or it can evoke a feeling of restlessness. Fast food restaurants are notorious for using colour combinations that make diners want to eat and move on.

Colour can make a tiny room feel larger, or a spacious one feel more intimate. It can help a narrow space feel wider, bring a tall space down to more human dimensions or push a low ceiling upwards.

Like a red stop sign, a bright yellow vest worn by workers, a green logo for an environmental research company or a blue one for a hot tub manufacturer, colour is a valuable tool that is used to transmit information.

To do that effectively in an interior design project, it is smart to take the time to understand how colours behave and how they can influence mood because, like it or not, they will evoke an emotional response in everyone.

A building’s architectural style can often dictate the colours used. Outside of a strict historical restoration, modern renovations allow a degree of creativity. For example, dark, muddy Victorian-era colours are often avoided in favour of brighter, happier tones. Instead of using dark olive green, a lighter celery green will appear fresher.

Deciding a space’s colour palate can feel like an overwhelming chore. Several paint manufacturers offer online tools and/or coordinated paint collections that make the choice much easier.

Choosing a colour palette is simply a part of expressing personal style.


Practitioners of colour theory suggest that the colour red attracts the most attention and evokes passion and drama. Red is associated with emotions love and anger, as well as lust and sexuality. Urban planners, for example, use red to communicate danger or power.

Most colour psychologists agree that red can increase blood pressure and stimulate the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands produce hormones that help regulate metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions. Colour therapists often use red to help dispel negative thoughts and release anger.

As the colour of optimism, orange is for the extrovert and exudes energy and motivation. Orange is derived from combining yellow and red, two colours that convey warmth and excitement. Its feeling of youthfulness suggests that it appeals to younger people. Colour therapists use orange as a natural antidepressant, specifically used to relieve feelings of self-pity. Orange is thought to contribute to the strengthening of the immune system and aiding in digestion. In colour psychology, the colour evokes optimism, independence, adventurousness and creativity.

When the sun rises in the morning it sets the mood for the day. As the colour of the sun, yellow evokes feelings of energy and happiness. It conveys optimism, freshness and it is uplifting and illuminating. Yellow is associated with success and confidence and is thought to stimulate the clear thinking and quick decision-making.

Colour therapists will use yellow to create uplifting feelings although it may trigger feelings of fear and anxiety in some people.

Virtually everyone used the colour green to evoke nature. As the colour of growth and health, green has the reputation of a refreshing and peaceful colour, evoking feelings of abundance.

Most variations of the colour green are comfortable and relaxing, although olive green shades can convey thoughts of decay, can be detrimental to psychological and emotional health.

Blue is strongly associated with the sea and the sky and as such, it communicates tranquility, peace and serenity. Blue will calm an interior space and will evoke a conservative design that is calm, secure and stress-free.

The colour violet is created by combining energetic red and calming blue. It is often associated with spirituality or royalty. It is an introvert’s colour that inspires creativity and communicates luxury.

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