Skillful interior decorating is largely an artistic endeavor, but there's some science involved also, and none more important than the psychology of paint color.
"Color psychology can help you choose paint colors that create the right mood in a room, affecting not just your own feelings, but those of everyone who enters the space," according to Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute. "In fact, paint color is so powerful that it can influence not just our state of mind, but even our physiology," she says.
"The ancient Egyptians, Native Americans, and many other peoples used color to heal. In doing so, they often favored the blues and greens found in nature, colors that have an emotional association with peace, harmony, and tranquility. In these trying economic times, paint colors in these same hues can help calm our nerves at home," says Zimmer.
Blue, which often ranks at the top of surveys exploring "favorite" colors, has been shown to slow pulse rate and lower body temperature. The implications for interior painting: blue is a terrific color choice for bedrooms, but less so for dining rooms, according to Zimmer.
Green, also among the most popular colors, is a little more versatile.
While it, too, has a soothing effect, it also represents renewal, youth, and vigor. Says Zimmer: "Because it is calming, green paint is a good color choice for bedrooms, and since it's the color of many appetizing fruits and vegetables, it can work in dining rooms, too."
There's no equivocation with red. It bespeaks energy and excitement, actually raising the blood pressure and making the heart beat faster.
Because red is associated with desire and passion, it's a perfect paint color for dining rooms and adult bedrooms, says Zimmer, but wrong for children's rooms. Yet, ironically, pink - a very light tint of red - is one of the most calming colors, and is a fine choice for a baby's room, she says.
Yellow is a great interior paint color. Like sunshine, it imparts happiness, hope, and optimism. Studies have shown that the brain actually releases more seratonin when the eye takes in yellow - creating positive psychological vibes. According to Zimmer, yellow can even stir our creative juices. What better color to use in a master bath or dinette to get your day off on the right foot?
Orange is also a happy color. More attention-getting than yellow, orange has an energy and warmth about it. Muddy shades are useful in many parts of the home, but vivid tones may appear raw and flamboyant. Zimmer's advice: "Orange is clearly not the color of calm, so it's best to bypass it when painting a bedroom or any other area where you want to relax."
Purple is a tricky paint color wherever it's used, but it is the overwhelming favorite of adolescent girls, according to Zimmer. She suggests that you reserve use of this color for your daughter's room to create a win-win situation: "Odds are, she'll love it, and you can take comfort in purple's proven ability to stimulate brain activity," she says.
No discussion of paint color would be complete without mentioning the "non-colors", black (the absence of light, and thus, color) and white (the confluence of all the colors in the spectrum).
According to Zimmer, black is a great accent color indoors or out, imparting elegance, formality, and sophistication to a paint color scheme.
But don't get carried away with it, she cautions. Too much black can be depressing.
White, on the other hand, conveys peace, simplicity, and spaciousness. It can provide a crisp finish to almost any paint job by adding sharp contrast to the wall color. Used throughout a room, it can give the illusion that the space is bigger than its physical dimensions.
"Color psychology should play a role when selecting an interior paint scheme, but it's only one factor to consider," says Zimmer. "Personal color preference should be given at least as much weight.
"No one will spend more time in your home than you will," says Zimmer, "so it's important to paint with those colors that are personal favorites.
Choose colors that you love, and you won't go wrong."
For an affordable remodeling trick that will also improve your mood, choose to paint your interior rooms in colors that speak to you in a positive way. Who knew you'd be using psychology the next time you pick up a paint roller?