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Color Psychology, Decorating for Mood

Updated on October 3, 2017

My original choice for professions was interior designer. After some soul searching I felt that my talents in psychology would be a greater help to other people. A friend of mine made the comment to me that I could combine the two. Hmmmm… The Psychology of Color? Well so far I have not opened a “Psych design studio” but who knows. I have however studied the effects of color on emotion and behavior. This hub will delve into the colors that get you going, eating, and inspired.


Let us start with Yellow. The color yellow promotes happiness. If you are depressed and looking for a room color, consider yellow. Yellow is also a great choice for kitchens where you spend your mornings. People who have yellow houses are actually helping themselves lead a happier life. Yellow can also be used to contrast blue in a room.


Ever heard the someone say “I’m just a little blue today” ? Well certain shades of blue can actually have negative effect on your mood. For this reason I never recommend painting any room that a child lives in, blue. Teenagers need all the joy they can get so blue is probably not a good color to go with unless it is in a more electric form. In an adult bedroom blue can have a calming effect and promote serenity when mixed with other natural colors.

I can always tell when a designer has not studied the effects of color because they paint dining rooms blue. Studies have actually shown that blue is an appetite suppressant. Unless you are on a diet do not paint your dining room walls blue.


Red is the color of romance? Yes actually it is the color of romance. Red also promotes a healthy appetite. In a dining room red promotes…eating. In a bedroom red can be exciting and romantic. However, red does not promote restful sleep (this can be overcome by turning out all the lights and then you obviously cannot see the red).


Research has shown that various shades of pink reduce aggression. At one time pink was used in mental institutions to calm the patients. The soothing feelings of pink are not completely understood by science. Pink is a great color for girl’s bedrooms for this reason. Stereotypically pink had not been used in boy’s rooms, but maybe we should rethink that!


Orange is a lively color that can bring a vital jolt of color into a room. I think every room should have an unexpected accent and orange brings that perfect shock without being too over the top. Like yellow, Orange is promotes warmth feelings.


The wide range of purples goes from serene lavenders to warm red infused purples. The lighters forms of purple are tranquil and calm. The brighter and warmer forms of purple promote healing.


Green is a common natural color. Green used correctly can give a feeling of nature and serenity. Admittedly one of the few colors I hate is Kelly Green (it’s obnoxious). Most greens contribute to serenity in a space, especially live plants.


Brown/tan has become a decorating staple in the last few years. People have been trying to create more earthy spaces. Brown does contribute the natural feel, however if a person is not careful it can be bland. Brown should always have a complimentary color to keep it from feeling like a box of miniwheats.


Black is probably the most overused color especially for men. While black has a sleek feel, too much black can make a person feel weighted in a room. Black tends to be a fall back when people are unsure about what furniture to buy. A few black pieces in a room are good…all black is way too much. The darkness is not healthy for a person’s spirit. For this reason I would not recommend painting more than one wall in any room black. In reality too much black can end up feeling like you live in a hole. This is a feeling that will affect moods (sometimes without a person knowing). Black should not be considered a neutral color.


Every photographer is familiar with grey scale. Most pictures have variations of grey as a primary color; interestingly enough most people do not see the grey. Grey is supposed to promote creativity. Used properly grey can compliment a room or be a great background color for an entire room. Grey cuts down the visual noise in a room since our eyes are trained to ignore it.


White takes a bad wrap. It shows dirt, is sterile and often white can seem boring. Not completely true. White walls are perfect for displaying art. White creates a feeling of clean, neutrality, and calm. White bedrooms can be restful. White kitchens promote cleanliness. White bathrooms can feel spa like.

Mixing colors is an art form. In design we use the 60/30/10 rule which means your room should be 60% one color, 30% another color and 10% an accent color (this formula also works for events and table setting). The biggest rookie room mistake is making it too much one color or another. Many people choose two colors which makes the room look like a child decorated it. Remember to inject that last color to create a healthy contrast.

Another rookie mistake is going with two many neutral tones. Neutrals are easy on the eyes, and tend to get overused in rooms. The best example is the tan rooms of the 2000's. Here you had tan rooms, with a few black picture frames and then tan furniture. It was a boring era.

Today's trend is industrial farmhouse which mixes black, white and gray with wood tones. most people employing this neutral pallet accent it with a color like navy blue or orange. The great thing about today's neutral is that it can change with the season allowing holiday decorating to be the accent.

With most colors it depends on how you use them and mix them with other colors. Bright colors can project a feeling of happiness and playfulness. Muted colors and neutrals create a more serene feeling. Style also plays into the overall effect of the room. Sometimes you have to play with a room to discover its potential. During that process you should always stand back see if the room makes you feel a certain way. Your mood may surprise you.


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      Momo 2 years ago

      Hi, thanks for sharing your hub, it was great fun to read.

      I love the colours red and orange, such as fire. That´s why I´m buying myself a fireplace soon. Until then, I´m gonna have to stick to a virtual fireplace on youtube:

    • michelleonly3 profile image

      MD Jackson MSIOP 6 years ago from Arizona

      Timorous: You are right we do tend to gravitate toward certain colors. We also go through phases. Thank you for stopping by.

      Cyndi; yes, it is amazing how uplifting yellow can be. I think I will eventually have shades of yellow on every wall in my house.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for a very informative article. Like Timorous, my colors tend to fall in shades of yellow because of the uplift it gives no matter what your state of mind may have been.

    • timorous profile image

      Tim Nichol 6 years ago from Me to You

      You're so right, Michelle. Colors do affect our mood. I particularly like shades of yellow in a room. It looks cheerful, even on a gloomy day. Of course, each person has their own likes and dislikes of color for various reasons.