Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.
—artist Paul Gaugin
Every moment of our day we see colors, choose colors, live with color.
“Color is the first thing perceived when you walk into a room, it speaks louder than almost any object in a space,” contends Robin Lennon in Home Design from the Inside Out, a book that investigates color therapy.
In his provocative article, “Is the Colour of Your Home Making You Happy?,” color psychologist Stephen Westland and research fellow Soojin Lee at the University of Leeds discuss how scads of research have established that color and light in homes and offices affect mood and wellbeing.
Common thinking tells us that warmer colors are apt to excite us while cooler colors will relax us, but Dr. Westland and Lee argue that’s not the whole story. Individual preferences and certain emotional or physical responses dictate the ways in which we respond to colors and which ones we feel are better or worse for us.
Westland and Lee believe that many of us deal with fear or uncertainty when it comes to deciding on color for our spaces. When painting our walls, we can end up choosing magnolia or white (some tepid choices on the color spectrum) because we simply don’t know what to choose—or we don’t want to go bold in case that’s a turnoff for future buyers, or we don’t want to be too forthright with our personal flair.
How we experience color.
Before we can determine if the colors in our homes and offices are giving us joy or bringing us down, we need to understand how we perceive the colors around us. According to Professor Westland, our wellbeing is affected primarily in two ways.
First, we have emotional effects. As human beings, we can’t ignore the reality that we have psychological responses arising from our associations with color. We are part of a complex system and universe, so these emotional links might occur because of our “shared cultural backgrounds.” As well, our personal experiences will color (pun intended) our perceptions and emotions.
Color preference is a very personal experience, and most of us have pretty strong opinions on how we feel about chartreuse, fuchsia or indigo blue. For example, this author isn’t a fan of fuchsia but will take indigo blue over any other color every day of the week!
On the flip side we have physical or physiological effects of color. Some research suggests that if you spend time in a red room, your anxiety will rise and you’ll have an increase in heart rate. Exposure to bright blue light late in the evening (like the type emitted by our screens) can make us hyper-alert and disrupt our sleep.
Interestingly enough, when we are under huge amounts of stress, or if our lives are in turmoil, we are apt to change our color preferences in favor of more extremes. For instance, after a stressful pandemic period, many home interiors have brightly colored walls, brilliant accent walls and vibrant art or prints.
Taking into consideration both emotional and physiological effects, our responses to color can be quite complex and vary widely between individuals.
How to maximize color (and joy) in your space. And your life.
If you are looking to feel happy and at ease in your space, you want to think about bravery. So pluck up that courage!
Dr. Westland suggests in order to get the most positive feelings in our homes, we should be brave with our color choices. He advises that we grab colors to “match our individual characteristics, preferences and ambitions.” Huzzah! Color everywhere! After all, you don’t want to be known as the magnolia, white or beige person, do you?
Designer and TED speaker, Ingrid Lee, believes that if we think brighter, we’ll live brighter. In her short video (well worth a watch), “How to Harness the Power of Color for Year-Round Joy,” the title says it all. Don’t think of bright colors as those for kiddos or for hippies. We don’t have to fall into the trap of having our clothes, furniture and walls all be neutral. Avoid the “chromophobia” and embrace more color.
In the video, Lee talks about research (without being boring) that found office workers who were surrounded by bright, vibrant colors were more “alert, interested, friendly, confident and joyful” than those working in drab environments. She says the same goes for home and suggests brightening up your counters, cabinets and walls with lively colors.
Lee goes so far as to recommend wearing extremely colorful clothing. “Dress for the joy you want,” she says.
Pairing color with our floors.
If not with your clothing, we do hope you get daring with color in your space.
For any questions about color and your floors, please contact us today through our website or by phone, 877.215.1831.