As the weather changes – we were promised sunshine this weekend and 24 degrees – it’s easy to see why warm colours are much more inviting. Regardless of fashion and trends, unconsciously we veer towards warmer tones because we want to feel warm at home, both physically and emotionally. If we don’t get the brightness of sunlight outside, we can at least create a warmth inside with the colours we choose when we decorate.
Naturally reds, oranges and yellows have a warmer feel – on the Colour Wheel they are known as the warm palette. You can see that they are grouped together and that roughly half the wheel has a warmer visual tone. It may help you to know that red and yellow are primary colours – they can not be created by mixing any other colours. Orange is a secondary colour, created by mixing red and yellow, which is why they relate so well – orange is the child of red and yellow.
Within this warm family, there are other shades created by mixing orange with yellow or with red. These are called tertiary colours and it is this kinship that gives us the autumnal shades that are neither very red or very yellow, what we’ve become accustomed to calling earth tones. This tonal value continues into the diluted colours where the colour is less intense – and it is these ‘neutrals’ that make good background partners to support stronger colours – from either a cool or warm palette.
What you may not know though, is that colour creates an emotional response, which is something that Colour Psychologist Karen Haller helps her clients understand. Humans respond to colour – black and yellow means danger, red means stop and green means go. And the colours opposite each other on the Colour Wheel have the effect of competing with each other.
Called complementary colours, they increase the intensity of their opposite partner. To decode it slightly, each primary colour (red, yellow and blue) has a secondary colour opposite it created by mixing the other two primary colours together, so the complementary colour of red is green, blue equals orange and yellow equals purple. They add a visual pop that can sometimes be very striking.
Used to effect, this can be the beginning of a very individual scheme, but if a pairing as dramatic as this was unintentional, the result can be unsettling. Whether we know it or not, the colour on our walls will have an impact on how we feel about our homes. And this is where the visual warmth of even neutral shades gives us a sense of comfort or unease.
If your life is very fast paced and you are constantly busy, then a room that is decorated in vibrant shades of red and orange may do the opposite of relaxing you, but if you were to use them as accent colours with a more soothing background, you’d be creating a balance of intensity and calm, which would allow you to destress, to use your home as a way of coping with the outside world.
In using soft whites as the background, the vibrant tones of this leather sofa introduce a level of colour that invites you to sit and relax. Not only is the leather a practical option in a family home, but even in this very sunny room, red really does mean stop. It links to the other furnishings without actually dominating and simply welcomes you in.
Because colour creates a response within us, it helps to know what you want to achieve from a room. Do you want it to soothe or to stimulate? To feel warm or cool? If cooking is a creative pass time for you, a very white room may not be inspiring. If your bathroom is where you go to wind down, lots of small tiles may feel too busy, if your bedroom gets the setting sun, cool colours may be more soothing – even though the base colour of the scheme may be an earth tone, from our warm palette above.
This way of thinking may not be ‘on trend’, but interior space is about comfort and what makes you feel at home. Twice a year the designers create new collections of fabrics, wallpapers and furniture to tempt and delight us, but if these trends don’t fit with your idea of what home is, you don’t have to embrace them.
After all, spending money on something that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, isn’t money well spent.