H&G: Brush Strokes – Painted Emotions

Spring sits just around the corner, and soon the shades of grey and brown that dominate the outdoors will be replaced with a colorful palette. For many, this palette can inspire far beyond the typical spring cleaning, toward a whole new symphony of colors in their home with the perfect paint selection.

“There is not really a right color or a wrong color to use in a particular space, just depends on the type of atmosphere you want to create in that particular area,” said UCO Director of the Interior Design, Valerie Settles, ASID.

Generally, Settles said red, orange and yellow are perceived as active and stimulating colors. Energetic and demanding attention, sometimes they can be a little intense, and are often used in kitchens and living rooms where social interaction and conversation are encouraged. Believed to increase appetite, many popular fast-food restaurants use them for their logos.

Deep burgundy is perfect for dining rooms– warm and inviting, and yet not too strong. Settles said yellow can be a challenging color for interiors, because it adds an unflattering hue to people’s appearance. Yellow is also the most complex color for the brain to process, and experiments show that babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms.

Passive colors, such as blue and green have the opposite effect. Associated with the relaxing and calming colors of nature, they are often used in bedrooms and baths. Blue symbolizes wisdom and sincerity, but can also evoke feelings of melancholy and sadness. Green, the ultimate color of tranquility, implies life and health. Performers and television personalities rest in “green rooms,” before they appear on stage or on air.

“Purple has a rich connotation to it, royal and dignified,” said Settles, “and can have a soothing effect when not too concentrated.” Pink and purple are favorite colors for little girls’ bedrooms, but should be used in moderation because they are still within the spectrum of the reds and could be distracting.

Black is perceived as the color of pessimism and negativity, but is also associated with power seeking and unnecessary risk taking. It evokes authority when used in an office setting, and brings a feeling of sophistication and refinement to furniture or even bathroom tiles. 

Brown and its variations of darker chocolate and lighter latte in combination with beige and crème bring warmth and calmness to any room of the home.

“There are many variables with each color,” said Judy Pitts, ASID, owner of Judy Pitts Interiors. “Further, we are all influenced by the current color trends. Over the last year there has been a trend to move away from dark rooms, to build a foundation of whites, grays, and pale, calming neutrals, and add layers of bright clean accent colors.”

Designers often use color to manipulate the perception of space. Dark intense colors can make a large empty room feel smaller and cozier, while light or pastel colors create the illusion of more space.

Artists, philosophers and scientists have explored the relationship between color and emotions for years, but there are still many gray areas.

Michele Menzel, a natural health practitioner in Edmond, said colors have specific frequencies related to different organs and tissues in the body, and point to a number of medical, emotional and psychological conditions. This is the base of one alternative form of medicine that she practices, called chromatherapy. “It is a form of vibrational medicine that uses color and full spectrum light on various parts of the body to balance the body’s electromagnetic field,” Menzel explained. She said restoring that balance can relieve many conditions.

Caleb Lack, who currently teaches Psychology at UCO, seems more skeptical about the medical effects of color. Color’s impact lasts only through a relatively short period of time, he said. Therefore, it would be difficult to prove that, for example, a light blue room can have long-term medical benefits for a patient with ADD. “It is more of a placebo effect, rather than a psychological change that occurs,” Lack said.

Lack added that different cultures interpret colors differently, so it is not accurate to attribute certain qualities to the specific color, but rather, to a specific culture. For Westerners, for example, white is a symbol of purity and life, while for some Southeast Asian cultures it symbolizes sadness and mourning.

After all, the interpretations of color could be countless, just like the hues on a messy palette.

“As in all color schemes, color preference is very personal,” said Pitts. “The most important consideration is that you surround yourself with colors that you love, and that give you a feeling of comfort and contentment.”

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