Sure, we may know how we want a room to look, but what about how we want it to feel? What does the impact of colour have on our brains, and how can we harness the power of colour psychology to make our rooms feel smarter, cosier or sexier?
Capsule x Resene
As someone who has started to dip their toe into the very adult world of first home buying, colour has taken on a whole new meaning to me.
As a life-long renter, the terms ‘colour palette’ and ‘feature wall’ have sat alongside ‘mortgage rates’ and ‘home renovation’ as words that belong to other people. For instance, right now I am sitting next to a wall in my rented flat that is painted in a colour I would describe as ‘cold dirt’. Mmm, evocative!
If I had a dollar for every time friends warned me ‘not to get attached’ to open homes I’ve visited, I would have enough money to probably buy those homes! But that hasn’t stopped me! And now I am on a journey to work out what Resene colour should I paint the inside of our (imaginary?) home as I look to optimistically plan the future.
In this home, we’ve got a kitchen, a bathroom, a lounge, a main bedroom, a nursery and an office (honestly, those final two might be combined because, well, it’s Auckland and an extra bedroom is not always possible).
The first thing to know about me is that I love colour. In fact, when I look at those Zillow Gone Wild listings, I don’t see bad taste – I see inspiration. But even I, sitting next to my cold dirt wall, know that colour can be an overwhelming choice when you have to live with it.
Plus, I’m a big believer in the feel of colour – the cosiness of a warm yellow, the soothing tones of a sage green.
According to interiors writer Kate Watson-Smyth, we react to colour three ways: culturally, physically and emotionally. Colour psychology sounds like something that exists on pure ***Vibes*** whereas in reality, it’s actually a powerful tool.
Colour therapy can be used to help improve mood and colour psychology that is often harnessed by corporations to create emotional attachments to products – think of Coca Cola’s trademark red, or Cadbury’s rich purple.
Think about the furore when Pantone names their Colour Of The Year – it’s just as much about what the colour represents for humanity, as it is about how the colour looks.
So, what does that mean for us mere homeowners (fingers CROSSED)? How do you choose what colour to paint your room, and what affect does colour have on your mood?
If You Want Your Room To Feel Calmer?
Blue has long been a top pick for creating a calming room interior, due to its association with nature and the sea. But did you know that bright pink is considered such a soothing colour, there’s actually a name for the psychological affect it has?
Baker-Miller pink is a specific shade of pink – better known to us in 2023 as Barbie pink – that is commonly used in psychiatric institutions and jail holding cells, based on a 1970s study by a research scientist who found that the colour pink made inmates ‘noticeably less aggressive and hostile’, due to the tranquilising effect of the colour.
And I WILL be using this study as proof for my family as to why I need to paint at least one of our rooms pink (feel free to do the same). Serenity, now.
If You Want Your Room To Feel Cosier?
Pale sunshine yellow is like the Taylor Swift of paints – there’s a lot of depth behind that sunny exterior. One of the most joyful colours in nature – the colour of the sun, the centre of flowers – it’s a colour associated with happiness.
Full of energy, it can uplift a room – just avoid the starkest yellow as that’s associated with warning and pick a creamy or pale yellow to bring the warmth and cosiness you want in a room. Great for a kitchen or family room (this is the colour I am mentally planning for my lounge, join me, why don’t you?).
If You Want Your Room To Feel More Child-Friendly?
The rise of beige-only children’s palettes might be Instagram friendly but according to one psychotherapist, it’s not ideal for the development of cognitive and motor skills in children.
Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar tells Apartment Therapy that colours that are too bland can be “under-stimulating”, whereas too much colour can be over-stimulating (children are nothing if not the Goldilocks of insisting things are ‘just right’).
“I would recommend neutral tones — cream, stone, pale pink — with bright splashes of colour,” Yasmin suggest. “Creating a feature wall or accessorising the room with vibrant furniture that can be changed over time is the best way to accomplish this. It gives you a flexible approach as the child develops and forms their own taste.”
As someone who has the taste of a child, I’m on board with this.
If You Want Your Room To Feel Sexier?
Wall-to-wall bright, garish red, of course. Jk, jk. Of course, red IS associated with passion but welcoming anyone into your blood red room is probably a bit of an overwhelming move, so how can you bring the heat without bringing the 50 Shades of Grey vibes (unless that is your vibe! No judgement here!).
But what about a nice caramel? A 2013 Travelodge survey found that people who slept in a toasty beige room had way more sex than your average couple – in fact, three times more than couples who slept in a red bedroom.
If You Want Your Room To Feel Smarter?
Elegance? I don’t know her. I didn’t think there was a single thing that would ever convince me to go for a restrained palette of navy blue until I read what Resene Colour Expert Meryl Southey had to say about blue. Apparently, the blue spectrum of light ‘activates and awakens our brains’ and I don’t know about you, but I’ll take anything that awakens my brain (particularly after 3pm).
If you want a room that makes you feel more creative, rather than more focused (your classic left brain/right brain conundrum), then green might be your green light. Apparently looking at green is supposed to make you feel more creative and is associated with growth and prospect. Creativity that pays well? Sign me up.
If You Want Your Room To Feel Fresher?
White is considered a blank canvas colour, but it’s also associated with efficiency, which is why it’s the colour of choice for doctor’s uniforms and hospital rooms. But you might not want a home that’s reminiscent of either of those things, right?
A warm cream or more biscuity beige gives a more delicious twist on a cool white, and don’t underestimate the power of a soft sage or pale blue to make a room say ‘Summer at the Hamptons’ rather than ‘the doctor will see you now.’
If You Want Your Room To Feel More Festive?
Orange has long been considered a celebratory colour, full of energy. In Hindu culture, it is considered a sacred colour and the bright, saffron-coloured marigold flowers are used for rituals because of the energetic significance this colour is said to have. While a full orange wall might feel a bit overwhelming (even to me), using it as an accent can make your room feel not only more fun, but more festive as well. Apparently, it’s a top pick for restaurants because it encourages sociability!
Tip: How To Match A Paint To Your Pinterest Board
If you’re someone who has a packed Pinterest board or vision board, and just wants someone to recreate those colour schemes without you having to know anything (*raises hand*), then there is a Resene colour palette generator that can do exactly that. Upload your image of choice and a colour palette based on that image will be created for you. Easy, peasy.