True Colors

True Colors

Want to create a restful mood in your bedroom? Would you like your kids to concentrate more while doing their homework? Want to feel energized during your morning shower?

Believe it or not, you can influence your behavior and emotions through the color of paint you use in your house. The proper paint selection may not only enhance your décor but also positively affect your mood and energy level.

"When you're ready to repaint a room in your home, ask yourself a few questions before you start looking at paint samples," recommends Carol Lorraine, artist and founder of Alive with Creating, San Francisco. She suggests responding to the following questions to help narrow your color choices:

  • How do you want to feel in the room? Relaxed? Alert? Cheerful? Romantic?
  • What activities take place in the room?
  • Will you spend long or short periods of time in the room?
  • What size is the room? Do you want it to feel spacious or cozy?
  • If you entertain frequently, what kind of effect do you want to create in the space?

But what about matching carpeting, drapes and furniture? "Matching your paint to your décor should come after deciding on the mood you want to create," Lorraine says.

What Do Colors Communicate?

Leslie Harrington, principal of L.H. Color, Old Greenwich, Connecticut, describes common behavioral responses to color. Keep these effects in mind when making your selection:

  • Red increases appetite and energy levels, raises blood pressure and makes a person feel warm.
  • Pink is associated with innocence and sweetness, and is favored for packaging candy or for little girls' rooms. Pink has short-term calming effects and is sometimes used to color walls in prison holding cells.
  • Orange adds energy, extroversion and vigor, and can encourage thirst. (Sounds like a great color for a sports bar.)
  • Yellow stimulates memory and encourages concentration - a wise choice for a study, office or library.
  • Green evokes feelings of relaxation, quietness and comfort. It is associated with new growth and new beginnings. Because it is such a calming color, "green rooms" are provided for TV talk show guests and for actors in theaters and television studios. A green bedroom would encourage rest.
  • Blue can lower blood pressure and body temperature. Its ability to cool down is so powerful that it is used in burn victim wards, according to Lorraine. People who enjoy solitude may enjoy its coolness.
  • Purple also can help to lower blood pressure, as well as suppress the appetite and quiet the mind. But as purple is mixture of cool blue and warm red, it may be a difficult color to live with for long stretches.

The effects of these colors are altered by adding white or black to them. "Light or pastel colors are generally more casual and darker colors more formal," Lorraine says.

Lorraine also encourages people to surround themselves with color that is harmonious with their body's coloring: "If you've ever had your colors done, you can use the hues which match your skin, eye or hair color to create a nurturing, balanced environment."

Making the Final Choice

After establishing the emotional effect you'd like to create, assess the colors already present in the room's upholstered pieces, carpeting and woods. Visit your local paint store and grab 10 to 30 sample cards in the your "mood" colors, body colors and possible matches to the room's décor.

Return to your home and hold the color swatches up to the walls, the furnishings, woodwork, etc. Check in different areas of the room, at different times of the day, and with the lights on and off. Narrow your choices to three.

Return to the paint store and purchase a quart of each of your top three choices. Paint a 2-by-3-foot area onto the walls, or onto a piece of plywood that you can carry around the room.

"You'll know you've made the right selection when you look at the color and it feels right inside," Lorraine says.


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