Suprising Color Theories

By Annette M. Callari, Allied ASID; CMG

Red color schemes for living roomCan color change your life in any measurable way? Most people would probably answer no to that question, but they would be wrong. Color is a powerful influencer on our lives, our behaviors, our health and our moods. The more I study color, the more I feel obligated to share important information with you, because color is extremely powerful and can have therapeutic and even subliminal effects you may not even be aware of.

For instance, did you know that color can help you with diet, exercise, relaxation, and sleep patterns? Some basic information to know is that colors are divided into warm colors (red, orange, yellow, and tints and shades of each) or cool colors (blue, gray, green, purple and tints and shades of each). Those warm colors are perfect for locales that have little sunlight or extended winters. The effect is to lift your mood, brighten your environment, enhance energy and help compensate for the lack of sunshine. If you need to cool things down (maybe even your A-type personality), then you should surround yourself with cool colors. A room with extreme sunlight exposure would do well to wear a coat of blue, green, or lavender. It visually reduces the temperature of the room and prevents indoor glare. It truly works, as many of my design clients will attest to.

Let’s get more subject-specific and talk about diet and color. The more colorful your food intake, the more nutritious your diet is likely to be (red and green tortilla chips don’t count). Red, green, yellow veggies are enticing and vitamin-rich. Add more color to your plate and your diet, and cut back on the white, bleached-out colors (white bread, high-fat dairy, white rice, starchy baked goods, for example). That’s an oversimplification of good nutrition, but color is a great way to start. Everyone knows to serve meals on smaller plates to feel fuller with less food, but did you know that if you serve food on orange plates it makes food taste sweeter? Participants in a recent experiment published in the Journal of Sensory Studies discovered that hot chocolate tasted more chocolate-y when served in either orange mugs or dark cream-colored mugs. You can use these color serving pieces to trick your taste buds into thinking that low-sugar foods and drinks are sweeter than they really are.

Calming colors for bedroom Is sound sleep eluding you? Surround yourself with cool blue and blue-green colors in the bedroom. Blue calms the nervous system and reduces anxiety so you will sleep better. Even the color of your bedding will make a difference and is conducive to sleep. Satin sheets are cooler to the touch, so even with the lights off, they feel “blue”. Not partial to blue or green for your walls? I suggest a tint of a cool color for the ceiling. It will give the room a soft cool glow and is less noticeable than color on the walls. Don’t forget your floor covering. Deep, rich, cool colors used in carpet for the bedroom is a great way to add the desired calming color to your room.

Did you know that prisons and detention centers use the color pink for holding cells? It might be a good color choice for rambunctious teens’ rooms (joking). Pink, surprisingly, calms down agitated or violent prisoners. (Not to suggest that your teenagers are either, of course.) Qualifying as a warm color, pink seems to be an exception to the information I’ve given you above, but it is well documented and quite effective in its calming ability.

The workplace is another area of study that lends itself to color theory application. You want a calming, tension-reducing environment, especially when workers are spending 8 hours or longer at their jobs. But strong accents of color (one orange or bright purple wall, for example) bring a sense of fun and high-energy into the workplace. Using quiet neutrals on the remaining walls and floor creates the perfect canvas for these high color accents.

Medical facilities have honed the fine art of color therapy. They know that physical therapy rooms should be utilizing a mix of bright colors. It increases energy levels and stamina. Hospitals need a balance of colors specifically designated for different areas. (Professional designers are enlisted to specify colors since they are educated specifically in the appropriate balance and therapeutic effects of colors.) Blue and soft green can suppress an already compromised immune system, so must be used sparingly. Recovery rooms need to utilize soft, pleasing colors (no stark white) to encourage physical recovery. Pediatric units use a mix of bright primary colors, with soothing neutrals to add a playful element to the medical environments dedicated to children. Black and white with color accents might be the best choice for nurseries and neo-natal departments. Newborns cannot distinguish colors, but their new-born eyes are intrigued by the contrast of black and white patterns. Next trip to your doctor’s office or medical facility, take note of the colors and see if you can figure out WHY they were used.

Moving your exercise outdoors has a number of beneficial effects. Walking, jogging, bicycle riding all take advantage of nature’s own backdrop. A study published in Environmental Science and Technology found that cyclists rated their rides easier when there was a green backdrop. Natural, green environments seem to retain interest and provide aesthetic distraction, which may be the reason why participants in their study felt less fatigued after exercising. For indoor exercise spaces, murals are always a great way to replicate the outdoors, or adding a touch of natural forest green to the room (maybe just a hefty, single painted wall stripe) is suggestive of nature.

If you find this information as fascinating to read as I did to write, please leave a comment for me. That will tell me you are interested in this subject of color theory and I will follow-up with more great information in Designer’s Corner.

Have a colorful day….