Transform Your Home With The Many Moods Of Colour

If you want to bring your walls into the picture, transform them with splashes of colour and interesting colour combinations that compliment the basic elements in a room. That's easier said than done for those of us who have lived comfortably with off-white walls for years!

White and light neutral wall colours are always a safe choice for home decorators but they often give the impression that a room is somewhat unfinished. Darker, multicoloured pieces of furniture against light coloured walls may look very much like an artist's canvas in which only the foreground has been painted. Pale walls can help to create the illusion of space, but they do little to create a unified, stylish look in a room. If you want to bring your walls into the picture, transform them with splashes of colour and interesting colour combinations that compliment the basic elements in a room. That's easier said than done for those of us who have lived comfortably with off-white walls for years! The following is a brief introduction to the ways that colour affects our moods and how you can use colour effectively in your home.

Colour is a topic that has interested researchers for years. They know for example, that tomatoes and other plants grown with red plastic mulch over the soil will produce more fruit and foliage than plants grown without this mulch. The plants have a chemical response to the wavelength of the reflected light. Just as plants respond to light, so do people. In one study, researchers discovered that a red office is more stimulating and may improve performance but it can also cause anger or tension in a worker.* Blue was found to produce relaxation as well as sadness and fatigue. In another study, children in a classroom that was painted pink tended to feel stronger and drew more positive pictures than children in a blue classroom. These results were attributed to the fact that warm colours like red have a longer wavelength and are thus more stimulating, while cool colours such as blue have a shorter wavelength and are thus more sedative. And what about unobtrusive white? When compared to workers in with red or blue offices, workers in white offices complained of more headaches and instances of nausea.

In another study, researchers developed these general correlations between colour and mood: White = purity and clarity; red = power and strength; pink = sensitivity and love; orange = stimulation; yellow/gold = energy; green = harmony in mind, body, and soul; blue = healing and calmness; violet = spirituality; brown = earth-like and natural; and black = depression.**

Colour not only affects people's moods through chemical reactions in the brain to different wavelengths, but colour also has powerful cultural associations. In many Middle Eastern countries, people view blue as protective and paint their front doors blue to ward off evil spirits. Although black represents mourning in North America, white is the colour associated with grief in China. Personal experience also plays a role. For example, blue or brown may be a cheerful colour to someone who has happy memories of family meals in a blue kitchen or a playroom with brown wood panelling. People often choose colours for their home based on a combination of all of these factors.

How can you use colour to your advantage?

Knowing a bit about how colours affect mood, you can deliberately set the tone in a room. For example, a bright, sunny morning helps most people start their day on a happy note. Try using bright, cheerful colours such as yellows and oranges in the room where your family eats breakfast. It is not necessary to paint the entire room these colours, even one yellow wall or some orange accessories or artwork can liven up the room

In a room where you wish to read or do computer work, choose colours that encourage a sense of serenity and focus. You may wish to emulate earth tones by choosing natural brown wood flooring, with beige or taupe walls and muted shades of green or blue for the trim, furniture and/or accessories.

Most people feel the greatest freedom to experiment with different colours and styles in the bedroom because it is tucked out of sight of most guests. In general, dark shades will encourage relaxation and sleep; rich colours are energetic and romantic. Try painting one wall deep wine or cinnamon and balance it with lighter shades on other walls such as cream or mineral yellow, as well as furniture and accessories in espresso, orange or brushed metal.

Feature Wall

If you wish to add colour to a room but are hesitant to use a bold colour throughout, a feature wall is a good solution. Feature walls are most commonly used as an accent in a neutrally coloured room, but they can also be used to define space in open plan areas such as lofts. When you decide it's time for a change, you can change the colour of your feature wall, and the look of the entire room, in a single afternoon.

When selecting a feature wall, look for the prominent surface in the room-it will often be the first wall you face when you enter the room. Ideally, it should not have any windows or doors to distract from the feature effect. Another good choice would be a wall with a fireplace or interesting angles.

Look for colour inspiration in your existing furniture, artwork or rugs. For example, you may wish to bring out the sage green in a chair covering or the rust red of a favourite painting. Be aware of the moods that colours can create and plan according for the room. You may not wish to paint a blue feature wall in your dining area as you may find dinner conversation to be a bit dull! Likewise a bright red wall could lead to some heated discussions!

When painting a feature wall, it is best to choose low sheen or flat finish to ensure it does not overpower the room. In addition to various paint techniques such as sponging, you may want to experiment with different types of wall treatments such as tinted Venetian plaster or metallic plaster.

Even if the most adventurous colour you've ever tried on your walls was beige with a touch of pink, you may be pleasantly surprised by your experiments with colour. The only rules are to choose colours that you enjoy and that compliment the main colours in your furniture, as they help create the right mood in a room.

* Research by Nancy J. Stone and Anthony J. English

** Impact of Three Interior Color Schemes on Worker Mood and Performance Relative to Individual Environmental Sensitivity by N. Kwallek, C.M Lewis, C. Sales, and H. Woodson.

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