So, what is colour psychology? In short, it is the study of colours and how they can affect us – from our moods to our behaviour and even the decisions we make. Have you ever noticed that putting on a favourite yellow jumper puts a smile on your face throughout the day, or that being surrounded by greenery instantly inspires feelings of calm and the impression of a lowering of blood pressure? Colour affects us every day, helping us to feel soothed, energised or simply happy. If you have an interest in colour psychology and the effect that different shades can have, it makes sense to use this powerful interior design tool when choosing palettes for your home. Here, we delve into some of the key colours and the roles they play when it comes to colour psychology in interior design.
Green holds many benefits for your home. In terms of colour psychology, it has lots of positive associations: nature, energy, wealth, luck… who wouldn’t want to bring it into their interior design scheme? The natural world is a constant source of inspiration for interior designers. Shades spanning soft moss to the rich, dark green of pine trees are all hugely popular room colours right now, while botanical prints and tropical designs reflect our desire to create a sense of exuberance and optimism within our homes. The appreciation of the natural world is something that will never go out of fashion, so if you are looking for stylish interior design ideas with longevity, schemes that give a nod to the natural world are a great way to go. Witness the uplifting feel created by our Les Fauves wallpaper, a bold floral design inspired by the liberal brush strokes of a Fauvist painting. Its Scandi-inspired colour palette includes a vibrant emerald green, which is picked up with a contemporary sofa featuring cushions in a zesty yellow accent colour. For a more muted effect, try using olive greens, such as our Moleskin Velvet in Fern, a gorgeously soft yet hard wearing fabric in a hue that works beautifully with many different palettes, from neutral colours to autumnal shades.
Tranquil blue notes
Blue is often perceived as somewhat cold but in fact it offers a spectrum of both cool and warm colours that in colour psychology evoke a whole range of emotions, from tranquillity to an energised feel. Blues can capture the calmness of an ocean or the optimism of a cloudless blue sky, while bold hues – think cobalt or royal blue – bring a sense of energy and confidence to a room. In this interior design scheme, the entire walls are painted a pale aqua hue that has an incredibly soothing effect. Similarly calming is the upholstery on the vintage chaise, our Exford fabric in Seafoam, a stylised geometric mixing gentle blues with neutral colours. For a wonderful light blue, try our versatile woven fabric, Pronto in Sky – just the right shade for a space where relaxation is key.
Chalk, almond, oatmeal and buttermilk: in the colour psychology spectrum, these neutral tones have the ability to help us feel calm and centred, providing welcome respite after a busy day. Recently, we have been mixing in dark shades of neutrals to help ground the lighter colours and create a sense of warmth, this sitting room being a perfect case in point. Walls painted a deep mocha are a rich foil to pieces in neutral colours, including an armchair upholstered in Sienna in Linen, our bouclé fabric that is perfect for bringing all-important texture to a scheme. Other neutral colours to consider are greys, synonymous in colour psychology with glamour, grace and strength. The palette spans cool blue greys to warm greige – have a look at our pure linen Danube Plain in Hemp, which makes beautiful cushions and curtains. All-white interiors denote innocence, purity and freshness and are the perfect palette cleanser. Make sure you include lots of textures to ensure a welcoming scheme, such as natural wools, cottons and linens – our Elba pure linen comes in Ivory which slots perfectly into the knocked-back shades of the colour wheel. And at the other end of the spectrum is black: in colour psychology, this denotes power, mystery and drama and it is wonderful as an accent colour in many different schemes, adding punch and helping to highlight the various shades around it. Our eco-friendly Verde fabric in recycled cotton comes in Onyx and Granite, two wonderfully versatile colours that will bring a sense of confidence to a scheme.
Whether it is golden shades, mustard tones or zesty citrus hues, yellow, the most upbeat of the primary colours, is linked with happiness and optimism in colour psychology. In our emotions, yellow is said to stimulate and increase our mental activity, so it is a great way to add vibrancy and energy to a room. A rich shade of yellow such as saffron is a wonderful complement to earthy tones of chocolate, dusty pink, and moody blues, and yellow is also fantastic for a statement piece of furniture, particularly when teamed with dark shades – see the glorious contrast here of dark green walls and curtains with a sofa in vibrant Omega velvet in Canary. As well as being such a positive, upbeat shade of yellow, the soft, luxurious touch of velvet gives an added benefit to the senses. And don’t forget yellow-green, a mix of cool and warm colours that is both reassuring and fresh. Kami in Chartreuse is a printed velvet featuring a striking Oriental design that is ideal for creating a statement piece.
From café au lait to chocolate; caramel to dark, peaty hues, brown in colour psychology evokes nature, relaxation, support and comfort. Use it to add depth to a neutral palette or to ground pastel hues, or layer different shades of brown for a nurturing, cocooning effect. Our Lana range of soft recycled wool features a number of browns in melange shades, from subtle Biscotti to this rich Chocolate, which nicely complements the inviting form of this armchair. Team it with different textures in complementary colours, such as our Saddle recycled leather in Espresso – a lovely deep brown – or Delta in Mineral, a relaxed cotton in a comforting mid brown.
Pretty in pink
In colour psychology, pink is associated with nurture, love, and femininity. For a long time, it was confined to bedroom schemes – saccharine tones proving particularly popular in little girls’ rooms – but this has changed in recent years with a rise in popularity of blush and plaster pink tones. These grown-up shades create sophisticated, warm interiors: they work beautifully as an accent colour and are also effective when used in an entire room, where they are both versatile and highly comforting. Our LA Sunset wallpaper was inspired by a 1920s design and features a rippling pattern that lends subtle movement to the walls. It would work beautifully in a dressing room – its blush pink shade being highly flattering – or try using it in a sitting room bathed in natural light to create a sense of warmth.
The power of purple
Purple is one of those secondary colours that denotes several things in colour psychology, from creativity and intensity to luxury and nobility. As a hybrid of cool and warm colours, it comes in a palette that ranges from soft, gentle mauves to rich regal shades of dark purple that will bring a sense of drama to a space. Elba in Damson is our tumbled, washable linen in a warming berry shade; team it with Westray in Lavender, a timeless weave in a wool and cotton mix. For a more theatrical feel, consider one of our velvets in dark purple such as Omega in Pitaya, which has the advantage of being highly durable and stain repellent – sumptuous yet practical, the perfect combination.
The most dramatic of the primary colours, red is viewed in colour psychology as inciting strong feelings such as passion, energy and excitement. For this reason, it is a fantastic choice for sociable spaces such as dining rooms, or creative spaces where it is good to keep energy levels high. As the only colour in this sleek monochromatic colour scheme, this statement sofa in our premium Tango velvet in Sherbert really packs a punch, with the fabric nicely showing off the curves of the 1960s style piece. For more restful spaces, it is advisable to use red in small doses, although different shades within the spectrum, such as burgundy or red-orange hues, are warm colours that help create a cocooning feel. Our Verde recycled cotton comes in a number of warming reds such as Spice and Tomato, a beautiful red-orange that feels cosy and inviting.
In the world of colour psychology, orange represents warmth, optimism and good cheer, so it is the perfect feel-good hue for sociable spaces. Variations of the colour span upbeat neon orange – which works well as a fun accent hue – to burnt orange and terracotta, the latter particularly popular right now. Orange in all its many shades pairs beautifully with blues and greys – witness our Miji linen in Tomato Red, an exotic print contrasting rich orange with teal blues, which are beautifully picked up in the bolster cushion. Note how the walls are painted in the same colour as the fabric for an immersive, cocooning effect. Other ideas to set you on the path to creating a cheery, happy scheme include our plush Alpha velvet in gorgeous Vermillion while Peru is a stylish wool stripe that feels both classic and comforting.
As we hope we have shown, colour psychology can prove an invaluable tool when putting together an interior design scheme. It can guide you towards the colours that will help create a specific mood, be that restful or invigorating, calming or restorative. The amount of colour you use is, of course, down to personal choice: you could go bold and theme an entire room around tonal shades of one key colour, or you could keep it more subtle by using your chosen hue as an accent, teaming it with neutral colours. Whatever you decide, we hope that you have fun with colour psychology in interior design, putting together schemes that truly resonate with the way you live.
How does colour choice affect an interior design scheme? As colour psychology reveals, colours can evoke different moods in a room: for example, an interior design scheme featuring golden shades of yellow as an accent colour can feel happy and uplifting, while a space featuring pieces in royal blue exudes an incisive, confident feel. Colour psychology is often used by interior designers keen to ensure that their schemes capture the required mood, enhancing the way homeowners wish to live.
Why are colours so important in interior design? Just as colours in nature are highly evocative – think how the dark shade of a rainy grey sky can lower our spirits, just as a tree bursting into green leaf can lift them – so is colour psychology in interior design. While for a long time, neutral colours were the preferred palette of many homeowners, a lot of us are embracing colour again, as we recognise that we spend a considerable amount of time in our homes and that colour in interior design psychology has an important role to play.
What are the best colours to choose? This very much depends on the mood you wish to create. Colour psychology can help steer us towards the hues that will make us feel a certain way – cocooned, energised, relaxed and so on – but it is also important to look at other factors: how does the colour palette you are considering respond to the available natural light in the room? If you are thinking about using cool colours, is there a risk that the overall effect might not be inviting? Try creating a mood board with your chosen paint colours and fabric and wallpaper swatches, moving the board around the space to see how the different hues respond to the light. Make adjustments as you see fit: you may decide to mix cool and warm colours or introduce lighter shades. If you are nervous about using colour, perhaps try a palette of predominantly neutral colours, introducing accent hues. Most importantly, don’t be led by trends and instead go with the colours that feel right for you.