I have often wondered if it is any coincidence that the vast majority of people agree that there is nothing quite so lovely as a true blue sky on a sunny day. Is it due to some inherited sense of beauty that has been passed down through multiple generations as part of what famous psychologist Carl Jung referred to as a “collective consciousness”?
Or is it because of our personal memories Â– perhaps a day at the beach or making snow angels as we gaze up into the sky after the storm has cleared?
Our association with color has a distinct impact on not only the colors we feel comfortable surrounding ourselves with but also the colors with which business establishments, hotels, and restaurants choose to surround us. Call it “the psychology of color.”
While certain colors have specific meanings for us as individuals, there is also a common vocabulary of color we share within our culture. For example, most people associate yellow with warmth and brightness, green with nature and calm, purple with passion and power, and so on. If you pick a color out of a hat and ask different people to associate a word with that color, you will most likely find that common understanding.
As an interior designer, I must consider the psychological appeal of a color secure in the knowledge of how that color will be affected by natural versus artificial light, the distance and area in which the color is to be viewed and, perhaps most important, how that color will be perceived relative to other surrounding colors.Â If someone would like to paint a room blue, for instance, and the room is large and faces the north, it is very important that the tonal value of blue (that is, its relative strength of color in terms of it being light or dark) be carefully chosen. Since blue is what we refer to as a “cool” color, a tone of blue that is tinted with too much white could make that room feel colder and lose its appeal, in spite of its otherwise good looks.
The walls of a room constitute the largest expanses of surface space. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that your walls should form the background upon and against which you view the contents of the space, including the pattern, texture, and color of the furniture, window treatments, floors, accessories, and art work. The challenge is to select colors for the walls and for all of the other objects that develop a harmony that will be pleasing in appearance. It is this harmony that produces a desired psychological and emotional reaction from those who observe it.
Just because colors work for us in one venue does not mean they will work for us universally. For example, colors that we like to wear because they look good on us or that we admire in nature are not necessarily the colors we should use in our personal spaces. There are numerous shades and tints of colors that will alter their psychological appeal.
Science has proved that all color comes from rays of light and that indeed there is a reason that our eyes perceive physical colors as we do.Â But science is of no consequence when what we perceive to be this color and how it makes us feel also gives us the opportunity to conceive of days at the shore that will come again next summer or the snow angels that children will make this coming winter under a true blue sky.Â So the next time you have the opportunity to take in the colors around you, ask yourself how they make you feel. And if ever you find yourself uncomfortable in a room, perhaps you need to go no further than to change its color.
Donna Terry is Principal of Interiors byÂ…Donna Terry in Middleton (www.interiorsbydonnaterry.com ). Her designs have been published in many design publications and she has also consulted for HGTV’s Kitchen Design and Bed & Bath Design. A teacher of design fundamentals at North Shore Community College, Terry has also participated in the Tara Drive Showhouse supported by the Boston Design Center.