‘Green with envy’
Do any of the above sound familiar to you? And ever wondered how some colours have come to be associated with particular emotions and sentiments? There is a reason why theatres have a ‘Green Room’. The room is meant to relax and calm the actors. Perhaps this is why colour psychology has become the ‘de rigeur’ when it comes to interior designing. Birren, a well known scholar specialising in colour psychology, talks of how colours have emotional impacts, from hard to soft, strong to weak and active to calm. Bright and low saturated colours create a soft feeling, whereas dark and high saturated ones create hard feelings. Moreover, colours in soft contrast to each other convey tranquillity, as opposed to colours in strong contrast to each other which indicate hyperactivity. Hence, colours such as blue and green are cool colours, whereas red and yellow are colours which arouse. To give an extreme example, London’s Blackfriar Bridge was painted green to dissuade people from committing suicide. And indeed, post the repaint, suicide rates dropped by 34%.
Angela Wright , a renowned colour theorist, explains that when a ray of light enters the eye, each does so differently owing to the different wavelengths. Vibrations of light caused in the retina are eventually turned into electrical messages to the brain which finally reaches the hypothalamus governing the endocrine glands. These glands are responsible for secreting hormones, thereby evoking a psychological and emotional response in us. So depending on each colour’s wavelength, varying emotions are stimulated. For instance, the colour green wavelength requires no adjustment to look at, and hence appears restful. And that is why you have the green room or the Blackfriar Bridge in London painted green. Response to a colour can also be influenced by childhood memories, certain incidents and family history. I am sure you all remember our high school science, when we had to draw the splitting of white light into Vibgyor through a prism! So this is pretty much it! No complicated science jargon for you all.
SHORT REVIEW ON COLOURS
However, before we embark on how each colour can have an impact on your interiors, let us bring out our paint brushes and colours and understand how each colour is created.
All the colours that we encounter daily are derived from three primary colours, namely red, blue and yellow. These form the basis for all the other shades of colours created, and cannot be created by mixing others! If mixed in equal parts, they result in the colour black.
Above: Primary colours depicted as a still life painting
These are achieved by mixing in equal parts two primary colours. So for instance, yellow and blue result in green. There are in total three secondary colours, namely green, orange (red + yellow) and violet (blue + red).
These colours are derived from mixing equal parts of both primary and secondary colours. There are six in total; lime, purple, saffron, lavender, amber and turquoise. Adding black or white colours to the above creates tints and shades of the same colour. Warm and energizing colours have more red or yellow in them, whereas cold colours have a high proportion of blue or green in them.
LET US GET READY TO PAINT NOW!
Black is not the most popular one, but when used wisely, it can add a touch of elegance, sophistication and formality to your interiors. It can ooze an unbridled sexuality for a bachelor’s pad, and when contrasted with white, can add high drama to a space. But maybe pure black is too dramatic for you? You can also choose from a host of designer wallpapers, which can provide the much needed sophistication and decor. Often black is also associated with mourning and death in some cultures, whereas in Egyptian tradition black is the colour of rebirth, so be careful in which rooms you might use the colour in. However, due to the high contrast that black can provide, avoid using it in small rooms, since it can make the room look small and claustrophobic. Only go about painting your walls if you have a big space or room.
Above: The 3 set of images show how the colour black can be combined with lights and other alternative colours to either create a warm feel or a raw and edgy one.
Now what comes after black? Well the first colour which pops up in my head is White! White is also the colour of innocence, purity, peace and all things pristine. Since it reflects most light, it adds brightness, space and air to a room. So as opposed to black, which can make a room claustrophobic, painting a small room with white, or in shades of white (such as creams and off whites), can give a false illusion of space and movement. White is a popular colour when it comes to bathrooms and spa centres. White also denotes sterility, hygiene and cleanliness, that is why even many toiletries are manufactured with a white packaging. However, a completely white interior can give a feeling of coldness, so add funky and playful colours like purple, green and yellow to liven up the interiors.
Above: The image on the left denotes the clean and cold lines of using white, whereas the one on the right has a more warm feeling due to the use of colours and appropriate furniture.
Now red is a complicated colour. On one hand, it evokes love, romance, warmth and comfort, and on the other hand since it arouses, it can be violent and aggressive too. Red is known to increase blood pressure and facilitate conversations and activities. Hence experts always recommend to use red in living areas where you entertain your guests. Red livens up the environment and helps to alleviate conversations, a perfect setting for cocktail parties or dinner with friends! Importantly, due to its conversation inducing, and appetite increasing tendencies, the colour red is often used in restaurants. Next time you go to a restaurant, pay close attention, it might not just be the tasty dish which made you overeat, but also the colour red surrounding you!! However, since the colour can evoke contrasting emotions, it is best outset by a neutral colour and should be used sparingly. For instance, say for your study area or your bedroom, use of red is not recommended.
Above: The left image is dramatic, with the colour of the wall as the main base, whereas the image on the right is more mellowed, wherein red has been mixed with other colours like cream and beige to neutralise its effect.
Remember the line right at the beginning? ‘Monday Blues’! So you are forewarned, blue is also the colour of melancholy. At the same time when you look into the blue ocean, it activates calmness, serenity and tranquility. It is also the colour which induces productivity amongst people, so often office spaces use blue as a predominant colour. Unlike red which can increase blood pressure and the heart rate, blue has the opposite impact, so for a peaceful, quiet sleep, blue and shades of blue are highly recommended in your bedrooms.
Above: Both images display the different shades of blue that can be used and in combination with both white and green.
Green signifies rebirth, spring, fertility, tranquility and a fresh start. It relieves, heals, and importantly symbolises the nature, so in addition to blue, green is also a popular colour for bedrooms. However, neutral shades like olive, sage and the likes are more acceptable when it comes to interiors. So before you decide to go on splashing your wall with a fluorescent green, it won’t necessarily have the same effect. Often blue and green are used in combination with each other, depending upon the purpose of the room.
Above: As can be seen in these images, green colours add much needed spunk, yet a certain tranquil feel to the space.
A bright, energetic and cheery colour, yellow is best used in the bedrooms of children or even kitchens. It evokes laughter and sunshine, at the same time though, due to the high amount of light reflected by it, too much of it can cause frustration and anger as well. So it is best to use the colour in combination with other warmer hues like orange and brown. Depending upon the purpose, say for instance in a kitchen, where there is constant activity, a bright yellow can be used, and if you have a gym in your house, then yellow in combination with orange would be the best bet. For children’s bedrooms, pale and pastel shades of yellow will be ideal.
Above: Clearly yellow is a colour for those who are the energetic ones. The top image is an example of a children’s bedroom, whereas the one on the bottom is a more sophisticated living area decor.
Since ancient times purple has been associated with royalty since it is an uncommon colour which occurs naturally. Thus it was an expensive colour to produce in earlier times, and only the rich and royal could afford it. So if you want to give your interiors a royal and plush look, you know which colour to go for. Lighter shades make for a playful combination with light pink for a girl’s room, whereas darker shades like mauve denote maturity, and hence can be used in parlour rooms or even the living area.
Above: The colour purple is for the mature, elegant class, not everyone’s cup of tea.
Even though pink is often associated with femininity, pink conveys a compassionate heart and an open mind. Pink is a great colour to appear neutral and welcoming to all. So shun those who might chide pink to be a ‘girly’ colour, use it in combination with white, blue or purple to that dose of benevolent zeal!
Above: The image on the left is of a living area, and the one on the right is a bedroom. Both images show the versatility of the colour pink.