Colour changes how we experience the world. The same view in different shades of light can make us want to run outside or stay curled up in bed. So how does psychology affect interior design colours? This is something all interior designers inherently understand; that nothing is as important for creating a winning design than the colour wheel. The effect of colour on space and mood is unparalleled and is the natural place to start a scheme. The colour temperature and resulting mood can make the same room a playful, joyful space or a calm, reflective sanctuary. And without deciding what mood you want to create and leaning into the power of the colour wheel to deliver it, you will find it almost impossible to achieve.
Understanding colour relations: the colour wheel
The colour wheel can change not only the mood of a room, but also its perceived proportions. No successful interior design colour scheme is created without careful consideration of the colour palette and materials mix. And for the amateur (or even professional) interior designer it’s the ideal place to begin.
Colours next to each other on the wheel are complimentary and are naturally harmonious. This will guarantee a successful interior design scheme. But as interior designers know, those interior design mood boards can also feel a bit flat. Adding in colours from the opposite side of the wheel, known as contrasting colours, perhaps as an accent colour, will bring some drama and interest. Once the colour palette is understood, think about the mood you’d like to create, which is where choosing warm colours or cool colours will become important. Warm tones can energise and offer comfort, cool colours provide elegance and calm. Finally, a handy rule when starting is to use the interior designer principal of 60% dominant colour, 30% secondary colour and ten per cent as a highlight or accent colour.
Role of different colours
Different shades affect or nervous system and mood in profoundly different ways. We also have internalised beliefs about the properties of colour that affect how we respond to them. In branding, pale blue is associated with gravitas and confidence and is often used by banks and finance companies. Green is seen as promoting organic and natural qualities.
Orange - energy, optimism, vigour
Brown - earthiness, elegance, warmth, grounding
Black - exclusive, timeless, formality, refinement
Pink - softness, femininity, friendly, playful
Purple - creativity, luxury, mysticism, indulgence
Green - health and nature, calms the nervous system
Red - sexuality, indulgence, decadence, power
Yellow - youth, happiness, sunshine
Blue - air, calm, strength, balance
The effect of colour on space
Colour can be used to reduce the feeling of coldness in an oversize room, or in a small space make the environment feel comfortable rather than cramped. Avoid the assumptions of simply painting a ceiling white, and a floor dark, try inverting the standard procedures when considering your individual space. Use colour to mitigate the proportions of large-scale pieces like sofas or draw the eye, for example a large window, with pooling red curtains.
Colour combinations to try for 2023
Colour schemes in 2023 run from demure to brave, so we’ve got some pre-approved colour schemes that will make your interior design planning streamlined and smooth.
Grey + Brown
The minimalist’s favourite, grey and brown interior design colours have a refined elegant edge, evoking the feel of New York 1990s high-rise luxury apartments. Mix up the fabric textures to create depth and contrast with these similarly cool colours, like Faroe Dove and Juno Graphite.
Forest Green + Light Grey
This warm hue grey comes from the family of warm colours and works to allow the beauty of verdant Forest Green to show its full beauty. These make an unexpected but elegant colour scheme.
Grey + Sand + Blue
This airy colour palette is the ideal basis for a bedroom interior design scheme. Choose your primary colour and then secondary colours work as highlights. It’s essential to use them in varying proportions or the room will look chaotic.
Blue + Grey + Taupe
These are shades that feel richer and still within the cool colour palette. These would make a large room seem cosier and work with both a traditional and modern interior design. Leather, velvet and suede sing in these different shades.
Blue + Beige
These two shades feel tonally similar, so a good way to deliver extra depth is in patterns, plains and stripes. A small floral print trimmed with blue in curtains with a beige boucle will create a serene but classical colour palette.
Blue + Neons
A modern way to use colour is to use a neon. This soothing aqua toned light blue sits with this very bold primary colour green. Use Omega Neon as a trim on curtain edges and as cushions for fun twist on a neutral scheme.
Pink + Green
No colour exists in isolation. How they appear depends on the colours surrounding it. This velvet Omega Avocado looks like a gold or brass tone against this Lars Geometric Rose Blush. This makes for a very glamorous interior design.
Blush Pink + Black
A classic 1950s mix of glam and femininity, Although very different shades. They both have a timeless quality, the pink looking softer against the density of the black. Use these fabrics with a mirrored or black lacquered tray or side table to add shine.
Grey-Green + White + Black
This grey is in the family of warm colours, which makes the black and white fabrics feel much softer. Here a mix of textures will break up the potential monotony of this colour palette. Drama will be father added by using black as an accent colour, which makes it feel sharper and more evolved.
White + Pops of colour
White denotes simplicity and a brings a feel of ethereal peace. But it works better with something to contrast it against. In combination with the warm hues of this Danube Plain Spice fabric, it can recall the ancient Greek pottery, heat and sun. An ideal colour palette for a holiday home or south facing bedroom.
Dimensions of colour
Our Small Prints collection has a playful, laid-back look. Use them together to break traditional design rule of mixing large and small scale. This creates a busy, but overall relaxed interior design. Before you begin buying, understand how to combine them by considering these colour principles:
The hue is the name given to a colour, such as blue or green. This is the term most people use to begin describing their palette.
The term value is used to describe how light or dark a colour is.
Artists often call this chroma, and essentially it refers to the pureness of a colour. A less intense colour will have other colours in it, like black or white, making it more subdued. More intense colours often make great accent colours, which are used sparing to highlight and contrast the main colours in the room.
Tint are lighter shades, bring a hint of colour such as a pale green or a yellow with a kiss of yellow that makes it warmer. These will contain a great deal of white. Tints are great for adding personality to a room that still needs to feel airy and bright.
Shades are a deeper version of an existing colour, such as the popular Farrow & Ball Stiff Key Blue, a stately navy tone containing, as shades do, a degree of black. Darker shades are a good way to make large rooms seem cosier and more comfortable.
A tone is a more subtle and muted version of the main colour. So, a vivid, grassy green may seem very bright, especially when next to a darker avocado shade. A colour may be said to have a secondary colour with in it, such as mostly green colour with a blue note to it, making it appear as a cooler a dark shade or cool colour.
Feeling confident in applying interior design colours will change the way you decorate. Use a colour wheel to plot complimentary and contrasting colours to subdue tones or accent room schemes. And once you know the rules, it’s time to break them. And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun. What else is colour for?