If you were asked to name the key component of a room’s design, the spark that makes it all come together and ignite into one glorious setting, what would you choose? The furniture, the floor, the window coverings or maybe the fabrics? If you picked any one of these, you’re overlooking one of the most basic elements in design: color.
It just may be that the essence of a room, indeed the entire home really, is color and how it’s used. It’s more often than not the very root of what makes a home come alive.
There isn’t a better way to add warmth and style to a room than with color. It remains the least expensive decorative touch there is and one that can be easily changed if it isn’t right.
I wish I could provide you with some magic formula for determining the right color(s) for your home, but I can’t. Color, like so much in design, is subjective. As a custom designer, I’ve learned that clients are as unique as their homes and the things they like. And people perceive colors differently, and so the effects of color will not be the same for every person.
In fact, every interior may be the exception to the design rules. Personally, I don’t ever search out color forecasts or trends but rather attempt to find the best color choices that will help to guarantee a successful project for each individual client.
But, as some kind of a basic guide that might be helpful to you in choosing color, it has been well documented that there is indeed a psychology to color, and that every shade in the spectrum can create an emotional and even a physical response. Some examples are:
n Red is very exciting, of course. This color can actually increase a person’s heart rate as well as the appetite (which may account for its use in dining rooms) and is also considered the color of love. It’s bold and beautiful as well as energizing. Should it be used in the bedroom? That’s strictly up you!
n Yellow is a sunny color and said to speed the metabolism. (But honestly, we didn’t know that when we used it in our kitchen!) A word of caution: Avoid going too bright.
n Green is a very versatile color, and it just maybe the most popular color used in design. It’s so relaxing and refreshing and certainly the easiest color on the eye. It works well with any style of design and in any room of your home.
n Blue will also help to create a calming effect. Maybe because it’s the color of water, it’s often used in bedrooms to induce relaxation and rest.
n Black is not a color. But, still, it’s no doubt timeless and powerful. It makes a bold statement, obviously, but needs to be used carefully. Try to avoid painting all the walls black because that can get a little scary, except in powder rooms where I’ve used it quite often.
Dark rooms with very little natural light can give a cave effect. If the room has plenty of windows then go ahead and use a darker color like black and then a lighter color trim, furniture and flooring to balance out the dark color.
n White is of course visually very soft, which can also create a calming effect. But, at the same time, it can be very stark and harsh and create a cold feeling when it’s used to excess.
Try to balance it with soft neutrals and other pale colors and warm finishes. And while white reflects light better than any other color, it doesn’t have to mean that you use it only on your ceiling.
It’s important to note that the ceiling shouldn’t be forgotten or thought of in terms of only shades of white. No, rather think of it as an additional wall.
Having a color on the ceiling will go a long way in adding an extra dimension to your space by helping to draw the eye upward thus making a room feel larger than it really is. Conversely, if you have a very high ceiling, paint can help to bring it down and create a more intimate feeling.
Don’t hesitate to experiment and have fun with color because most major paint companies now sell testers which contain enough paint to allow you to cover a wall big enough for you to stand back and get a real feeling for the color. Be sure to use them and you’ll avoid making any mistakes.
Be smart and look at the color for a few days to be certain you love it at different times of the day and with different lighting. Daylight and artificial lighting can play a big role in how colors feel.
Using color in design can be like a magic elixir. It can make a tiny room feel larger or a spacious one feel more intimate without the time and expense of actually moving walls. And it can even make a narrow space feel wider by using different colors on opposing walls.
Just be sure to choose a coordinating palette of colors for the entire home at one time if you possibly can. This will help the rooms in your home to flow together visually and not feel jarring. Simply put, don’t showcase a new color in every room.
It’s plain to see that you can paint the walls of your home to convey whatever feeling you want in your decor, which is why color choice is absolutely one of the most basic considerations in interior design. It helps to set the mood of a room and actually will help you to determine which path to follow with your furnishings. Decide for yourself how you want to look and feel in your space and don’t hesitate to let your gut feelings and emotions steer your design choices.
Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design (soleildezine.com); he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is past president of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is a certified professional in green residential design. Questions can be sent to email@example.com.