Words: Anne Schauffer | Image: Supplied

There have been numerous books written about the psychology of colour, and few would argue the theories – but there’s no cut-and-dried directory, because we, as individuals, also carry baggage to the table.

Not a black-and-white affair

Claire Bond from Kansai Plascon, says, “The psychological power of colour is a real thing and worth thinking about when decorating a space. Moving beyond what’s on trend, it’s important to consider how certain colours make you feel as an individual. Rule of thumb is pastels – like calming light blues and greens – create tranquil spaces for bedrooms, while bright reds and yellows work when you’re looking to inject energy into spaces like a design agency. But these things don’t necessarily ring true for everyone and should be used as a guideline when decorating. You must consider your individual preference.”

In her experience, says Paige Waplington, owner and creative director, Redesign Interiors, “Most people are scared of colour. They want neutrals, it’s safer, and the perception is that it’s more cost effective. But we nudge our clients towards colour, to be a little braver because the right colours can really create or enhance a mood and a wall of colour is easy and inexpensive to redo.”

Paige always asks clients about their likes and dislikes. “As designers, we subconsciously work with the psychology of it. Strictly speaking, it’s not always about the colour, but rather the shade and tone of it. You love pink? Fine, but it doesn’t need to be shocking. Tone it down, choose a calming variant. You might love lime green, but too much will be overpowering and probably be stress-inducing. We can include a single piece in lime green, but balance it with calming complementaries.”

Colour alters the way you feel in a room

Certain colours affect people in different ways – you may have a negative or positive personal history with a particular colour. Claire says it’s too simplistic to say things like “yellow is a colour which makes you happy”.

“Not all colours are created equal and not everyone likes the same thing. Bright yellow in a baby’s room would probably be too much, but a soft pastel yellow would work perfectly. Similarly, not everyone likes yellow. It completely depends on what the person likes. Ideally, we’d guide people to choose colours that resonate with them, but within the fundamental basics of colour psychology.”

Same room, different colour, different effect on you

Claire says, “Imagine what sitting in a room painted black or dark purple would feel like for you? Then imagine re-painting that same room in a minty, pastel green like Desert Spring. Obviously, the room’s look would be vastly different – but, equally, you’ll feel very different.

“Colours are interpreted differently across cultures and according to different life experiences. In Western society, black is associated with funerals, white with weddings. In China, white is the colour of mourning and in India, brides are encouraged to wear red. All these things contribute to how we perceive certain colours and how they make us feel,” she says.

“Our experiences of nature also play a major role on how colour makes us feel. Blues and greens especially are naturally found in nature and are used as a way to convey peace in a room, to bring the serenity of the natural environment into a home. Earthy colours act the same way and are often used as neutrals where pops of colour can be introduced,” Claire concludes.