The Psychology of Colour: How To Design the Perfect Bedroom
It should not come as a surprise to anyone that the psychology of colour has long been leveraged in marketing.
The fact that Starbucks has a green logo—representing health and sustainability—shows us that. The Royal Bank of Canada’s signature blue and gold represents trust and reliability, as well as wealth.
Think about it this way:
Would you buy a heavy-duty pickup truck from a car company that had a logo decked in fushia bubble letters? Probably not. There’s nothing wrong with pink bubble letters, but the style tends to symbolize youth and sweetness, not heavy-duty trucks.
Your perception of colour is also affected by your own personal experience and cultural background.
Many French people find white flowers upsetting, as they represent death.
In Western cultures, red means danger, love and action, but in Russia the colour symbolizes revolution and communism.
Cultural influence aside, there is a basic psychology behind how we are emotionally affected by colours.
Understanding this psychology makes it much easier to choose the right colours for your bedroom … to ensure a restful night’s sleep, that is.
How Does the Psychology of Colour Work?
Most people place colours into two broad categories: warm and cool. This comes from the natural propensity people have to associate colours with real things in the world.
Red and orange are categorized as warm, a reflection of sunlight and heat.
Blues and greens, on the other hand, tend to be categorized as cooler colours as they are connected with skies and water.
This association of colour with a broad category impacts not only how you feel when you are surrounded by a certain colour, but can have physical ramifications, too:
“An executive for a paint company received complaints from workers in a blue office that the office was too cold. When the offices were painted a warm peach, the sweaters came off even though the temperature had not changed.” (Source)
While reds tend to stimulate our senses and raise blood pressure—that old saying ‘seeing red’ when you’re angry isn’t an accident—a cool green can calm a person and lower heart rates.
Humans react differently when exposed to colours, consciously or not. You might not even be aware of your reactions to colours, which is why it’s important to choose the right ones for your bedrooms.
So, while it’s clear that colours go beyond aesthetics, when it comes to decorating your indoor spaces you shouldn’t ignore the overall visual effect.
For example, yellow is associated with agility and attention, so decorating your office or study in yellow might seem like a good idea.
Four walls of intensely bright canary yellow, however, might not be visually pleasing.
You can achieve some of the benefits of colour psychology with just a few accents, artwork and smaller pieces of furniture, in different shades and textures.
Basic Colour Profiles
- Blue: Serenity, tranquility and trust
- Green: Nature, harmony and balance
- Yellow: Attention and energy
- Orange: Warmth, social and creative
- Red: Passion and adventure
- Pink: Calm and sweet
- Lilac: Creative and spiritual
- Black: Protection and strength
These profiles are all high level generalizations and, depending on the quantity of the colour you are using to decorate, and the shades, they may have more or less impact.
The Right Colours For Bedrooms
While it is a very personal choice, understanding the psychology of colour can help you to make choices that are most likely to encourage good sleep.
When it comes to setting a mood, the bedroom is one of the most important rooms in your home.
Gentle shades of warm colours including red, gold and even orange can enhance the sensuality of the space. Conversely, harsh hues can actually have a negative impact in that regard.
For example, reds and burgundies can be warming when used in moderation, but too much red or too bright a shade can seem aggressive and disturbing.
The flip side is that bright shades of green and blue can be jarring and too cold, but gentle hues can bring on a feeling of calm and serenity, which might be just the ticket for your boudoir.
One excellent option is to get the best of both worlds: stick with muted shades of warm colours for walls and trim, with the addition of gentle cool green and blue shades in accents like pillows and bedding. Or switch it up the other way round, whichever works better for your preferences.
While bright primary shades of yellow, red and blue will attract a child’s attention and stimulate their growing brains, they’re not considered soothing when it’s time for baby to drop off to sleep, or to get your school aged child to relax.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association as reported by Painters of Louisville:
"Yellow is cheerful and warm, but it also strains the eyes, gives you energy (which is the opposite of what we want for our children when it's time for sleeping) and apparently makes the little ones really unhappy.” (Source)
Gentle shades of blue, green, pink and lilac are considered most effective to help lull little ones to sleep.
There is also anecdotal evidence that shades of green can help to prevent nightmares, but this has yet to be fully studied.
If you have a spare bedroom, you might be inclined to stick to more neutral shades like tans and greys, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Just choose some with warm, pink undertones to ensure a restful night’s sleep for your guests. You can always jazz up the warmth or coolness by adding accents, bedding, throw rugs or even artwork that reflect other moods.
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No matter what colours you choose, it’s a good idea to stick to only a few throughout the entire house, so that there is a natural flow.
You can use different shades within a palette but, ideally, there is at least one shade that is in ALL of your rooms, bedrooms or otherwise.
That continuity creates flow and balance that help tie together your design and make the transition to and from your bedroom smooth and comforting.