Color and Mood

Anyone who has ever seen a meadow of bright green grass or a field of colorful tulips after a long, dull winter can tell you that color affects our moods.

Research has shown that colors can affect not just our frame of mind but our behavior and thought patterns.

While there is little doubt that color, especially color in nature, has a direct influence on our disposition, this very important fact is often neglected in the places where we spend the most time.

Our homes

How often do you walk into someone’s large, beautiful home and see that everything is either “builder’s white” or various other “neutral” (another word, drab) tones. How does that make you feel?

The rooms feel cold, uninviting, and completely unstimulating (not sure that that is even a word, but if it’s not, it should be). This is not how a home should feel.

Colors can help you bring not just warmth and a welcome feeling to your home, they can also bring verve, drama, and various other emotions and moods to different rooms.

Rooms and colors, however, should not simply be randomly matched. Each room or space has its own unique uses, and the chosen paint color should reflect those uses. The bedroom, for instance, is a place of rest and relaxation, yet it may also be a place of conversation or meditation.

The bright and vibrant color red may be a bit of a stretch for a bedroom. Red, as you will see below, is bold and energetic, and will not be conducive to relaxation.

Red would generally be better suited to a home office, a playroom or family room, or even a kitchen, where activity is the norm and some vibrancy or stimulation is required.

Let’s get into a bit more depth regarding how specific colors affect our moods.


As I’ve already noted, red is the most intense color choice. It is bright, vibrant, and draws the eye. It is the color of love, and also of anger.

Psychologists tell us red can have an intense affect on mood, and can actually stimulate the pulse and quicken breathing. It is best used in rooms where activity is common.

Red is an extreme color, and hence one that should be used sparingly in any setting. If red is used extensively in a room, the other furnishings and décor should be neutrally or lightly colored, so that the eye is not distracted by a barrage of shifting color.

Red is a perfect color for an accent wall to add “punch” to a room while not overwhelming the viewer.


Blues are amongst the most relaxing of colors, reminding viewers of summer skies and ocean water.

Blues tend to create a very laid back and relaxed mood. They are very cool and easy on the eyes, making them ideal for bedrooms, bathrooms, and dens.

Blue is also something of a paradoxical color, because in certain settings it can appear cold, formal, and sad. “The Blues” got their name from the sad aspect of the color.

In most settings, however, it can be combined with other, warmer colors to provide a calm, tranquil setting.


Yellow is a sunny, very reflective color. It is generally viewed as a positive mood, or optimistic, color. It creates a room or space awash with light, and is great for rather small or dark areas.

One thing to keep in mind is that yellows and golds can be overdone. While yellow is a sunny color, it is one of the more difficult colors for the eyes to take in (as opposed to blue and green, which are both very easy on the eyes). Hence it can be carried too far, and should be dispersed with less vibrant colors in the furnishings and décor.

Yellows work great in kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and any rather dark rooms that seem to need a splash of sunlight.


Green is one of the most popular decorating colors today, largely because of the wide range of moods and emotions its various shades can evoke.

It is very easy on the eyes and calming, which makes it a favorite for bedrooms and bathrooms. Green is also reminiscent of nature and serenity, which makes it a popular choice for living spaces and dining rooms.

Dark greens can also be somewhat formal, bringing to mind wealth and taste. Darker greens, like dark reds and blues, should be used in combination with lighter colors and in good lighting.


Purple is a very intense color, suggesting femininity and royalty. It is easy on the eyes and yet rather overwhelming when overdone.

The color purple rarely appears in nature, so overuse of this color can appear artificial.

Purple contains tones of both the very warm color red and cooler blue, and its affect on mood can vary according to the tone used and the lighting provided by a given space.

Purple is most successful as a decorating color when used sparingly. A faux technique utilizing lighter colors or several shades of purple can help to break up the overpowering effect.


Orange sits astride the line between sunny yellow and lively red and contains some characteristics of each.

Like yellow, it reflects light well, especially in its lighter tones, bringing a sunny brightness and lively mood to the space.

Orange’s darker, richer tones carry much of the personality of reds, bringing vibrancy and warmth. Like reds, these darker tones are best used in conjunction with more neutral colors because they will grab the eye.

Oranges work well in living spaces such as family rooms, dining rooms, and kitchen where its lively and sunlit characteristics are put to best advantage.


I’m sure you think that after my earlier rant against “builder’s white” and neutral colors, that I don’t think white is a valid decorating color.

Quite the opposite. White is a very sunny and bright color, bringing a summery, airy lightness to a room.

My problems with the color white lie with many people’s fear to decorate with other colors to give more “life” to a white room. White should always be used in concert with other colors, whether it is painting a single accent wall to give the room punch, or adding color through furnishings, artwork, and décor.

Purely white rooms rarely feel open and sunny. Instead, they feel very sterile, rather like a doctor’s office, and have a rather depressive affect on mood.

White, when used with black, creates a very sophisticated, urbane, formal look. White can be utilized creatively with other colors, especially darker reds, blues, greens, and purples to lighten the otherwise overpowering effect of these colors.


Black is a rather risky color to use as a paint color. It has the tendency to suck up much of the available light.

Generally, black is used as an accent color, both in furniture and décor. It tends to work best with whites or other lighter colors, which offset its overbearing darkness and present a very formal, sophisticated look.


Brown can be either a very warm or a very dry color, depending on its use, so some care should be taken when using brown.

Chocolaty, mocha browns can create a very warm and inviting atmosphere. Though it is a dark color, it should create feelings of warmth, like hot chocolate on a winter’s evening.

Brown works very well with other browns, so several different shades can be used, either in a faux technique such as color washing or ragging, or in opposing walls, to give the space some texture and variety.

Using brown in faux techniques or faux finishes (such as faux leather) can also give an aged or antique effect to a space.

I hope this introduction to using paint colors and how they can affect atmosphere and mood has helped make your decision a little easier.

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