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The Psychological Impact Of Color
by Catherine Foust McGivern -

The following beliefs are generalizations. They may differ from culture to culture and from person to person. Yet, based on color studies, they represent the feelings most people associate with different hues. I have added in parenthesis, the rooms in which these colors are often applied.

1. Orange promotes feelings of excitement. It makes one feel vibrant, improves appetite, and enhances social interaction. (Kitchen, dining room.)

2. Green makes one feel cool, fresh and elegant. It also represents nature, and therefore, promotes balance, harmony, peace, hope and stability. (Bedroom, sunroom)

3. Mauve and pink are colors that symbolize romance. (Bedrooms)

4. Pinks, peaches, blues and greens can make a bedroom feel restful.

5. Sitting next to a lamp with a blue light bulb, for a half-hour before bed, may help stimulate sleep.

6. Red can raise ones blood pressure.

7. Blue, if it is warmed from its pure form, can reduce stress and relieve tension. (Bedroom, bath)

8. Purple can comfort and relieve strain. (Any room)

9. Yellow makes one feel cheerful. (In light shades, any room)

10. Black, white and gray are thought of as stark, restful or clean. (Kitchens, bathrooms)

11. Environments in which pure hues of contrasting colors (those opposite each other on the color wheel) are thought to be more stimulating, for example purple with yellow, orange with blue, etc. The liveliness of this affect, which might be suitable for a child’s room or playroom, can be softened by using hues that are not as dense or saturated, such as lavender and yellow.

12. Colors, used together, that are in the same family (i.e.: monochromatic, light blue and dark blue) or next to each other on the color wheel (i.e.: green and yellow), feel calm and relaxing.

13. All colors can have a positive or negative affect. The affect depends on the individual, the extent of color use, and the purity or saturation of the hue. Here are some terms that describe pluses and minuses. Red, used in a large space can be (positive) welcoming, nurturing, energizing, invigorating, or it can feel (negative) aggressiveness. Red in a small space, can be (positive) cozy, intimate, or (negative) claustrophobic.

14. Color selection should take room orientation into consideration. For example, a blue wall in a room with a southern exposure might feel relaxing, whereas, the same color in a room with northern exposure may feel depressing.

15. Color selection should be based on the predominant task that takes place in the room.

16. Every color can have a warm or color tone to it. Generally, warm hues should be used in spaces where there is activity, and cool colors should be reserved for restful spaces.

17. Wearing, and surrounding yourself, with your favorite colors, lifts your spirits.

18. Hospitals and spas use light, cool colors, because they have a calming affect. These facilities enliven neutral backgrounds by adding splashes of color.

19. Because of its wavelength and density, yellow is thought to help arthritis suffers, and green, cancer patients.

Catherine Foust McGivern, IIDA, is the Founder and Interior Design Principal of Design Portfolio, Inc.

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