Color Psychology: The Meaning of Color

Carmen NatschkeDecorating Diva U12 Comments

Color can affect all parts of your life. Colors can create conditions such as fatigue, increased excitement or activity, aggressiveness or restfulness and can lead to an increase or decrease in stress. Thereby understanding the advantages and disadvantages of color can help you create the best suited interior environment for yourself and your family.

Different People, Different Reactions to Color

Your response to color is based on three very important factors. The first is based on physiology. For example if you are color blind you will see colors differently then someone who isn’t. The second factor is psychological. If you experienced a horrible car accident as a young child and that car was red, you may find the color red leads to anxiety or fear for you. Lastly, culture and society have a tremendous impact on our perception of color. For example in Western societies white implies purity and innocence and is used widely in bridal
gowns. In China, the color white is representative of a state of mourning.

Color Temperature and Their Psychological Characteristics

Cool colors can slow down your perception of time and can produce an environment that seems cold and distant (As often is associated with professional environments -cubeville). Cool colors can also have passive, calming qualities that aid concentration and can create a mood of peacefulness and tranquility. An example of a calming cool color is an aqua blue, reminiscent of the beautiful blue of the ocean. A cool color that can be harsh and cold in psychological impact would be a deep blue-grey used in large quantities. Warm colors tend to speed up our perception of time. As a matter of fact fast food restaurants use red and orange heavily in their decor to get customers in and out fast, so they can make more money per customer. Warm colors also lead us to have feelings of warmth & coziness and are often are associated with happiness & comfort.

Colors and Their Psychological Characteristics

I have compiled a subset list of colors that I use as examples in my decorating
workshop “Color Theory” for you.

  • Has a stimulating effect & warmth Use in rooms that need warmth & action: kitchens, halls,children’s play areas, Stairs
  • Avoid using when calming is needed (hyperactive child) or if aggression or frustration is a problem because it will make the problem even worse.


  • True BRIGHT Yellow results in excessive stimulation to the eyes. Some side effects of an environment with LARGE doses of bright yellow are: babies cry more, spouses/partners/clients are prone to arguing and disagreement.
  • The correct shade/hue of yellow can be useful in the family room, kitchen, living room, classroom environment (if external to the home) in order to create brightness and to stimulate the learning process.
  • Use a lighter version CREAM in the bedroom, study or den
  • Avoid strong (BRIGHT) yellow colors in nurseries, bedrooms and bathrooms


  • Good for relaxing and concentration -Use in bedroom, nursery (lighter & pastel blues), sitting room, study, bathroom, spa type rooms
  • If the color is too dark of a blue the impression created can be depressing and cold.
  • Do not use blues in rooms that SCREAM activity or need physical movement such as halls, dining areas, entertainment/fun rooms, or stairways.

12 Comments on “Color Psychology: The Meaning of Color”

  1. Carmen Natschke

    Hi Maryam,

    A deep rich red is wonderful for a dining room. Of course I don’t recommend dark colors in any room where lighting is an issue. Lighting is critical when using dark colors or the “feel” of the room will be foreboding and the room will feel like it’s closing in on you.

    We are currently working feverishly to convert some of our seminars into webinars and one of those being converted is our Color Theory and Home Design Overview. The webinar will be complimentary. When it becomes available I will post the link.

  2. Lamees

    Hi, i’m having a baby soon and i’m preparing the nursery, i don’t know whether it’s a girl or a boy yet but i wanted to go with either pastel yellow or pastel green either way. But now that i’m reading about colors i’m a bit confused and i’m leaning towards pastel blue even if it’s a girl. Tell me what you think.

  3. Carmen Natschke

    Hi Lamees,

    Pastels are always suitable for a child’s nursery. The soft colors are soothing and create a peaceful environment for the new baby.

    I tend to recommend a neutral cream color or ivory on large areas (walls), perhaps with one wall painted with a mural or wallpaper/decal motifs to create a truly unique nursey and then I suggest either pastel blues, greens, yellows and pinks for bedding and accessories depending on the overall effect the parents wish to create.

    I don’t adhere to the traditional design thought that a nursery’s color should be blue for boys and pink or yellow for girls. I believe that the design should reflect the style direction and preferences of the parents (which in most cases is mom).

    We will be debuting The Decorating Diva Design Sketchbooks in December and one of the upcoming design spotlights is a nursery. Please check back or subscribe to The Decorating Diva feed to be notified of this new and exciting feature.

  4. Darla

    Hi, I am a 20 year old female and i haven’t ever gotten the chance to decorate my own bedroom before and I am so tottaly stuck on a color for my new room. I been checking out sites for almost a week now and still never found what i really wanted. At first i wanted to go with a orange/yellow color because i love the sunrise..then i found the perfect bedspread and it has like a lime green in it…but i can’t seem to fine the perfect color lime so i though maybe lime and yellow. I really need help…i only have a few days to decided a color before the new roommate takes over my old bedroom and I really dont want to go into an all white bedroom. I really want this bedroom to be special and unique in its own way. If you could possible give me some advise, it be greatly appreciated. I have dark furniture and hardwood floors. THANKS!!!!

  5. Carmen Natschke

    Hi Darla,

    Do you have a photo of the room, furniture and the bedspread? If so you can upload it to flickr or another photo sharing site and I can take a look at it. Without an image to work with I won’t be able to help recommend wall colors for you because the image I have in my mind of lime green may be different than what you have – so a photo/image is a must :)

  6. Whitney in NYC

    Very cool. I’m thinking of doing my bedroom in a pale yellow/cream with Sage and lighter green accents and the oak color in the wood things. How does Green effect the mood? I’m excited; this will be the first apartment I’m living in that isn’t only for a year (thank goodness I’m done with school FINALLY) so I’m REALLY decorating this one. :-) Wanna make sure I don’t choose a color that’s going to drive me insane. But after living with stark white walls for years I figure anything is an improvement.

  7. Editor, The Decorating

    Hi Whitney,

    Congratulations on your first home that you can make feel like home!

    Greens such as sage help relax they are wonderful colors to use in your home if you want a calming effect.

    Greens like drab olive are greens I caution my clients from using – looks like decay visually, specially when used in large quantities. So I’d stay away from that color.

    I like some vibrant greens but only in small doses such as in decorative accessories- on a large scale vibrant greens can be excessively visually stimulating.

  8. Mandi

    Hi Darla,

    I am getting close to graduating with my doctorate. I am starting my own Chiropractic Clinic and I am trying to figure out whats best for an office. I want it to feel energetic so i was assuming brighter colors, but then i dont want people or kids to be hyper, i want them to enjoy coming to the office and relax. I also was confused, blue is calming but dont use it in hallways….so that means convert to a tan?
    My other option/thought was a tan wall with decorations in greens/blues…but since i am so energetic i figured this was the exact opposite of my style.

    So confused!

    Any help would be appreciated!

    Thank you very much,

  9. sanjay

    hello! i m sanjay , i m a research scolar and doing my research in “EFFECT OF DIFFRENT COLORS OF DIFFRENT SITUATION IN HOMES” . can u sugest me the book name and author name for study plz……and also sugest me how can i get online material for my subject….thank you

  10. Renee

    Any ideas for uplifting a small, drab apartment? I’m moving into a new place which is a little drab (right now the walls have a combination of hospital yellow, green and grey) and I’m wanting to brighten it up without making the color too stimulating (I want to create a happy, cosy, den-like feeling)- I was thinking raspberry for 2-3 walls in the livingroom, which would make the otherwise kinda crummy finish a little ‘richer”, but I’m a afraid that it might be too stimulating in a living room? Anyone ever tried this color or have ideas?Thanks!!

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