Home decor is often viewed as simply a matter of aesthetics -- what looks
attractive. But proponents of color psychology believe that the colors you use
to decorate your home can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of
you and your family.
"Color is a universal, nonverbal language, and we all intuitively know how
to speak it," says Leslie Harrington, a color consultant in Old Greenwich,
Conn. and a noted expert on the use of color in residential and industrial
decor. "What color you paint your walls isn't just a matter of aesthetics. It's
a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behavior."
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Some years ago when I was chief resident in psychiatry at the New England
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So I booked an appointment with a noted psychiatrist, about 10 miles from my
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If you like the idea of using color to create an emotionally healthy home,
color consultants say you should first consider the primary function of each
room. Next, pick a predominant color. Although it can't be proven
scientifically, color consultants say some hues work better than others at
encouraging certain activities. Need ideas? Here's a room-by-room rundown of
the colors believed to work best in each of the most important rooms of your
home, and the moods they create.
Living room and foyer paint colors. Warm tones like reds, yellows,
and oranges, and earth tones like brown and beige often work well in both the
living room and foyer, because they're though to stimulate conversation. "These
are colors that encourage people to sit around and talk," says Kate Smith, a
color consultant in Lorton, Va. "You feel the warmth, the connection with other
Kitchen paint colors. Color consultants say that if you have fond
memories of spending time in the kitchen when you were a kid, it might make
sense to recreate the color scheme in your grown-up kitchen. "If you grew up in
a blue-and-white kitchen and have great memories, blue and white may be the
best colors for you and your family," says Smith.
If there's no particular paint scheme you remember fondly, reds and yellows
can be great colors in the kitchen as well as in the living room and foyer. But
watch out if you're watching your weight: in addition to stimulating
conversation, color consultants say that red may prompt you to eat more, if
only subtly. "If you're on a diet, you might want to keep red out of the
kitchen," Harrington says, adding that the restaurant industry has long
recognized the appetite-stimulating power of red decor.
Dining room paint colors. Because it's stimulating, red decor can be
great for a formal dining room. In addition to encouraging conversation, it
whets the appetites of your guests. "If your dining room is red, people may
think you are a better cook," says Harrington.
Bedroom paint colors. The bedroom is where you go to relax and
reconnect with your partner. Cool colors -- blues, greens and lavenders
-- can be great choices here, because they are thought to have a calming
effect. The darker the hue, the more pronounced the effect is believed to be.
"Reds tend to increase blood pressure and heart rate and stimulate activity,"
says Harrington. "Blue does just the opposite. That's why we think of it as