When it comes to interior design and home renovation, giving your walls a fresh coat of paint is often the most appealing effort vs. impact kind of project. Figuring out which colors will accentuate the look and feel of individual rooms, on the other hand, can be a difficult task. The shades you choose can have a considerable impact on the atmosphere you’re trying to create.
Color has the potential to make a room feel bigger or smaller, brighter or darker, peaceful or exciting. How do you know which colors will be ideal for each room in your home, based on the feelings they evoke and the atmosphere they create?
Perhaps color theory and psychology will help you find the right shade.
Ready to see which colors will look the best in each room of your house? Take a look at our short guide below to help you choose.
Knowing Your Color Basics
When you look at a burning fire or consider the tones of a sunset, what colors do you see? Fires, volcanoes, and the sun feature vivid orange, yellow, and red tones--so they’re considered warm colors, because they often represent heat. Warm colors can evoke a feeling of excitement or passion.
Colors such as blue, green, and violet are considered cool because they reflect tones in nature that have a calming effect or cool temperature: the sky, running water, and tree leaves. Cooler colors typically make a room feel peaceful and, with the right amount of light, spacious as well.
Colors that are neither warm nor cool are described as neutral, or sometimes “earth tones,” as they represent hues in nature that contrast with both warm and cool shades. These colors are brown, gray, white, and black.
You can make cool and warm colors more neutral in feel by adding black, white, brown, or gray undertones.
Examples of warm neutral colors:
- Burnt orange
Examples of cool neutral colors:
- Peach pink
- Powder blue
Selecting a Color Based on The Direction Your Room Faces
North Facing Rooms
Rooms that face towards the north are considered to have the “best” lighting, as it is indirect and relatively consistent throughout the day. This effect will enhance the colors in your room in either direction: cooler colors become even more tranquil, and warmer colors get a boost in vibrancy.
East Facing Rooms
Rooms that face east are brighter in the mornings and dimmer in the afternoons. Neutral tones will look elegant during both times of the day. Select gray or beige to make a room appear more tranquil in the morning and airy in the afternoon.
South Facing Rooms
South-facing rooms receive the most sunlight. It’s best to avoid using cooler tones in these areas, as the colors may appear flat.
The best colors to pick for south-facing rooms are warm tones such as lighter shades of pink or yellow. Capitalize on the sun’s power and create a cozy atmosphere.
West Facing Rooms
West-facing rooms will be more subdued in the morning and brighter in the afternoon, so consider cool neutral colors such as lilac or maroon. This is the same principle as east-facing rooms as it will make your area appear brighter in the morning and more soothing in the afternoon.
What About Color Psychology?
There’s more than just the positioning of the room to consider. What may be even more important is HOW you use the room. Bedrooms, offices, and kitchens all support different moods and activities, and the colors you choose should support them.
As mentioned earlier, cooler tones tend to evoke a sense of peace and tranquility while warmer colors make one feel excited or stimulated. The low-key feelings you sense when you see a particular color could relate to color psychology. This isn’t a hard and fast science, but the next time you find yourself in a room of a specific color (as opposed to the neutral colors), see how you feel on a base level.
Color psychology is the study of hues and how it affects human behavior. For example, the colors you see in a particular food brand could influence your perception of how it tastes, and make you more or less likely to purchase it. (Have you ever wondered why almost all of the major fast-food brands feature red in their logo? Red has been shown to increase activity and appetite.)
So how can color affect your perception of a room? And which tones can create positive moods instead of negative emotions?
Avoid using energetic colors in bedrooms, as this may affect your sleep. Vivid reds and neon yellow could make you feel too excited, leading to problems with insomnia.
Children and adults usually don’t use the same colors in their rooms. Some tones are traditionally considered to be too mature for children, though in recent years, there has been a shift towards highly sophisticated children’s rooms that eschew bright primary colors in favor of sleek adult-like neutral.
For adults, the color beige is a neutral and relaxing shade that will make you feel peaceful at night while creating an airy atmosphere during the day. For maximum elegance, accentuate your beige walls with bright white trimmings, carpets, and drapes—perhaps with a few calming blue accents thrown in.
Beige might not be very exciting to a little kid, but stay away from bright exciting colors. Children benefit from calming, cool tones such as blue because of the soothing effect it has on the mind. Its peaceful tranquility is just what children need to calm down after a busy day.
You may enjoy the color green (in darker, more sumptuous shades like emerald and moss) for your office space, as it pairs well with wood often used for office furniture such as oak.
Green is a cool tone that symbolizes nature, freshness, prosperity, and good health.
Neutral colors such as white and lighter tones of gray are best used for bathrooms. It boosts luminosity and offers a feeling of purity & cleanliness—definitely something you want in a bathroom, right?! Create contrast by tiling your floor with light gray or blue marble, or opt for bright hand towels, to add a splash of color.
Create a warm and exciting space by painting your walls a brilliant cherry red, as this color represents passion, action, and energy. Red is also known to stimulate appetite, so it will be the perfect warm tone for your kitchen.
White pairs well with red, so you might choose white tiles and kitchen cabinets to really make your walls pop.
A bright and warm color such as yellow is the type of hue you want to paint the walls of your children’s playroom.
Yellow is a fun and energetic color that makes one happy and optimistic. It’s the color of the sun and is often used to represent warmth and cheerfulness. Children should feel happy and energetic in this kind of environment, so yellow will be an ideal color for a playroom.
Do you have a place in your home where you often create art? A workshop, art studio, or drawing room might be painted with this unique hue, as it’s regarded as a magical, spiritual color that triggers creativity. It’s associated with power, luxury, and the body’s spirit.
Lighter shades of purple can also have a calming effect on the mind, making it appropriate for meditation rooms, bedrooms, or office spaces.
Entryways & Small Spaces
Orange is a combination of red and yellow, which are both energetic colors. Because of its eye-catching nature and ability to draw attention, orange is often associated with caution, but can be used as a gorgeous burst of color in small spaces.
Orange is great for entryways, as it can get visitors excited to see the rest of your perfectly designed home. It also acts as a punchy accent (when used with restraint) in smaller spaces, such as nooks in the living room or on the back panels of built-in shelving.
Of all the rooms in the home, living rooms are the most multi-functional. So, it’s difficult to recommend one “winner above all” color for the space. It depends heavily on how you tend to use the room.
This room also tends to be dominated by large furniture: big couches, end tables, coffee tables, a flat-screen TV, and maybe an entertainment console, bookshelf, or fireplace. That’s a lot going on! So, you may decide to choose a color that best complements the furniture in the room, rather than anything else.
No kids in the house, or love high drama? Combine white and black for the height of edgy elegance: black walls and light fixtures paired with a white ceiling, white carpet, and white drapes. With such stark contrast between these two basic colors, you have the freedom to play around with accent colors as the mood strikes you.
Before You Begin
Use this guide to help you narrow down your choices, but remember to paint a few swatches before deciding to paint the whole room!
Large swatches of 2’ x 3’ will give you the most accurate idea of how a color will behave as the light shifts throughout the day. Often the way it looks in the store isn’t the way it looks at home, because in each room the lighting and furniture are different. Try to limit yourself to testing 3-4 colors in each room at once, so you don’t fall prey to decision fatigue.
Tweet us @Sparetoolzapp to tell us which colors you’ll be choosing for your next home improvement project!