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The power of colour psychology when redesigning your interiors

Because the colours you choose to decorate your home with can have a huge impact on your mood...
   Kathryn Lloyd  |  written on: 14-03-2019 14:00pm

Colour is often over-looked and can become an afterthought. Yet, in addition to interior form, light, space and texture, it's a major design element that if used with consideration, can really enrich a space.

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In a home, colour can have a huge influence on how we feel; the visible spectrum of light corresponds to a wavelength range of about 400-700 nanometres (nm) and a colour range of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. There are many well-known theories surrounding colour psychology and how certain colours have been shown to evoke specific physical and psychological responses in our bodies, however, although colour can indeed influence a person’s behaviour, these responses are likely to differ between individuals.

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Red, a long wavelength colour, is considered the ‘physical’ colour. It is thought to stimulate the senses, promote activity and raise the blood pressure. Colour psychologists believe red induces appetite; they believe this is directly related to the physical effect red has on our bodies. On the other hand, blue, a short wavelength colour, is thought to be the 'intellectual' colour; it tends to affect us mentally by stimulating thought, communication and concentration.

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As a guide, warm colours such as red, orange and yellow are considered to be stimulating while cool colours such as blue and green tend to be more restful. It’s useful to consider these factors when designing spaces we live, work and play in.

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As well as using colour to influence behaviour, used well, colour can also promote a specific atmosphere. Warm colours can make a space feel more welcoming and warmer while cool colours have the opposite effect and alter our perception of the temperature of a space and make it feel cooler.

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Considerations also needs to be paid to the dimensions of the space and the objects that colour will be applied to. Bright, warm colours tend to make objects appear closer and larger. Dark colours have the effect of making objects look smaller but heavier. When used on the walls, light colours seems to expand the boundaries of a space while darker colours can make a space feel closed in. When considering the colours to use for a space, it’s important to consider all of these factors as the final colour choice will help shape the feeling, appearance and atmosphere of a room.

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Studies have shown the environment has a huge impact on people’s wellbeing. It’s been found that natural day-lit environments enhance user comfort, increased user productivity and provided the necessary mental and visual stimulation needed to regulate circadian rhythms that promote healthy sleeping patterns. However, in reality an abundance of natural daylight is not always possible and interiors will be illuminated by a mixture of artificial and natural light.

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When choosing colour it’s best to view it in the light it will be seen. Colour both affects and is affected by its surroundings and the colours in it and it’s also affected by the type of light that falls on it. This is easy to detect when observing an interior space with lots of natural light. In an East-facing room colours look very different in the morning (when the room receives direct light) to the afternoon when the room only receives reflected daylight.

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North-facing rooms are illuminated only by reflected daylight and this projects a cool grey colour cast. South-facing rooms benefit from the glow of afternoon sunlight, which projects a warm yellow. In the same way, the type and colour temperature of the bulbs in artificial lighting can make a huge difference to the way colour is rendered within a space.

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Dependent on its colour temperature, most artificial lights emit white light which can vary from a cosy 'warm' white to a 'cold' white. Frequently, artificial light will exaggerate any undertones a colour might have. Dependent on a colour's undertones, a grey which looked grey in the shop might appear pink under some artificial lighting.

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Most likely, chosen colours will need to work with existing furnishings and this is where a variety of colour schemes can be utilised in design. A monochromatic scheme describes a scheme that uses only one colour in various tints and shades. Complementary colours are directly across from each other on the colour wheel, and when used together they really emphasise each other meaning that they appear to be more saturated.

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For example, a lilac will look stronger when placed next to a yellow. A neutral grey with yellow undertones will appear more yellow and ‘warm’ when next to a blue and 'cool' when next to a red. Another type of colour scheme is an analogous scheme which employs colours within 90 degrees of each other on the colour wheel. Each scheme provides guidelines for designers to apply colour within an interior space.

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To conclude: colour is an extremely important aspect in any interior and without much expense, it can transform any environment.

NEXT! Want to add a vibrant pop of colour to your home? Get inspired with these rainbow-bright ideas - click any image below to begin browsing our moodboard.

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