It’s too simple to say that if you pick red you’re daring, brown you’re earthy, and grey you’re cool. Sure, much has been written about the “attributes” of different colours. But that’s all “pop psychology”, says Jane Lockhart, a Toronto interior designer and host of Colour Confidential on the W Network.
“All we know is when colours hit our eyes, we have a certain reaction,” Lockhart says. That reaction depends on personal preferences and long-held associations.
To make your wall colours an extension of you, and create your home’s aura, where to begin? With one question, says Dominique Pépin, marketing manager for Sico Paints in Montreal: “How do you want to feel when you’re in the room?”
There’s no formula to matching a colour to an emotion. “If yellow was a ‘happy’ colour, everyone would want it,” notes Lockhart. In fact, one of her clients who desired a warm and sunny living room had a hugely negative reaction when yellow was mentioned: “She said to her meant yellow snow—a horrible connotation.”
So start with the mood you want. Tranquility. Vibrancy? Sophistication? Playfulness? What evokes that? If someone wants a room that’s “peaceful”, Lockhart will ask what they associate with that feeling. If they say “the beach”, she’ll keep digging. What is it about the beach? Is it the water or the sand? The sky or the rocks? What colours remind you of the beach, of “peace”? And can you live with those colours?
Of course, ocean blue on the walls might mean calm to one person and excitement to, say, a surfer. What colours “mean” is in the eye of the beholder, says psychology professor Jim Enns, University of British Columbia. He likens wall colours to a piece of art. What it “says,” or what it says about you if you hang it on your wall, depends entirely on who’s looking at it.
So don’t get hung up on the latest design trends, the so called “hot” colours, or what your visitors will think about your paint choices. If your wild colour scheme makes you feel like a maverick, says Enns, and your friends think you’re just eccentric, so what?
Ultimately, any colour can create any mood. Yet, says Lockhart, “Most people have a tremendous fear about colour.” They fear change or being out of style, being too conventional or too different. “And I don’t think people should care,” she says. “As long as the colour looks good to you.”