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Harnessing the power of color

Photos by Matt Haas

April 2016

When it comes to choosing the right hues for your home, heeding the practice of color psychology probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Yet between all those fan decks, paint samples and fabric swatches is a world of emotion waiting to be tapped into — and it could significantly change the feel of your home.

Want to experience a sense of zen? Try sands, taupes and grays to evoke the colors of nature. Feel empowered? Go for red.

At its root, color theory examines how colors affect human behaviors and feelings. For example, retailers use certain colors — like the red on sales signs — to create wayfinding and to influence shoppers’ buying habits. While color theory is far from a new concept — Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton all debated its merits — it’s rarely applied in one’s home — at least, not consciously.

"Colors can affect our health, well-being and energy level," says Cathy Kaczmarczyk, a lead paint consultant at Sherwin-Williams. "A lot more people are looking into it."

Adding a new coat of paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a home, yet people often feel lost when it comes down to selecting a color palette, Kaczmarczyk says. Understanding how an owner wants to feel in a specific space can help narrow down their choices.

"Everybody is different and has their own opinions," she says, adding that one homeowner might have an affinity for lime green, for example, while another may say the bright hue gives them a headache. "We ask customers what colors they are drawn to."

This year, popular colors seem to reflect the nation’s trend toward mindfulness with nature-inspired color palettes. Sherwin-Williams’ color of the year is alabaster (SW 7008), a neutral hue "symbolic of new beginnings."

"Alabaster is neither stark nor overly warm, but rather an understated and alluring white," says Jackie Jordan, Sherwin-Williams’ director of color marketing. "It provides an oasis of calmness, spirituality and ‘less is more’ visual relief."

Natural influences are also being seen in furniture choices. At Steinhafels furniture store, various shades of blue have taken over the spring showroom.

"Blue is the color of the sky and water, so it is often associated with the depth of the sea and the stability of the sky — always above us," says Elaine Haskey, a Steinhafels upholstered furniture buyer. "It’s a great color for furniture because it can create high-impact, vibrant designs. They are sure to draw the eye and evoke some sort of emotion."

Red: A bold choice, the color red evokes empowerment, love and vigor. It is said to stimulate appetite, increase energy levels and attract attention. Too much red in a room can overwhelm its visitors, so it’s best to stick to an accent wall or a few eye-catching pieces.

Yellow: Much like the rays of the sun, yellow is warm, cheerful and happy. While yellow can be associated with impatience, Kaczmarczyk says it is also noted for its enthusiasm. The color is popular in bedrooms and family gathering spaces, such as living rooms and kitchens.

Green: Various shades of green are associated with nature, incurring feelings of balance and harmony. Lighter greens induce feelings of calm, while darker greens are associated with success and wealth. Kaczmarczyk sees greens used in everything from offices and bathrooms to bedrooms and sunrooms.

Blue: Many surveys show that blue is the most liked color in the world. The color represents peace, serenity, loyalty and relaxation. That makes blue popular in bathrooms, bedrooms and more. Shades of blue are often also used in offices — it’s said to create a sense of authority, and increase creativity and productivity. M



This story ran in the April 2016 issue of: