Painting Walls [Part 2] — Emotional Power of Color


Photo | Abigail Ahern Paint Collection at Designer Paint

Each color has the power to evoke a particular emotion. One more point to consider when painting a room. Color can stimulate, soothe, charm, irritate, or depress and it would be painful to go through the work of designing a room, only to feel irritated in it.

Emily Post’s overview of the emotional behavior of color in, The Personality of a House is eye-opening.  Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint why a room makes us feel a certain way, but color rules emotions.

Color Wheel

— the niftiest design tool in my tool box.


 is the color of sunlight. It is the lightest color.  Yellows of every tone can be put together becomingly while remaining in perfect accord with each other.

Red expresses fire, energy, and primitive passion. Rrrrr. In its brightest tones, red is the most brilliant, stimulating and approaching of all colors.

Red with gray gives us a deep, wine-red.  If darkened with black and accented with yellow it creates a brown-toned crimson:  Old Italian Red,  which is richly warm, dignified, restful, friendly.  It is very becoming to a large, high-studded room with dark wood paneling and is the perfect background for large, weighty objects.

Yellow and red— Light and fire— produce orange and the most vivid blaze of heat and light.

Vermilion or scarlet is the strongest, brightest most exciting color that exists.  It affects people differently; those who love it are stimulated and revived by its cheering warmth.  Those who love it will try to add at least a touch of it somewhere, while those who don’t will feel it be jarringly violent.   It’s best when accompanied by a full range of creams, blacks, and browns.

Blue— not navy, but French or Italian blue is ice, the coldest, most formal, distant and retreating color.  Its intellectual restraint may seem like it would behave calmly under all circumstances. Instead, it is tough to manage.  One blue item such as a wall hanging or a sofa is charming, but as soon as another blue item gets placed in proximity there, is a fight between the two objects.  Blues do not mix well and change drastically with the change in lighting.

Green is the color of leaves and intended by nature to harmonize with every color, and it will do so if properly blended.  If using green, remember that flowers have a quality of texture which modifies their hue and greens come in many varieties of shade and tint.

Green tints and shades of the same family go well together.  Green is known as the most soothing color, and its endless variation of hues and shades and tints can be chosen to suit every mood.  However, it can be hideous and light absorbing if its shade is too dark, especially at night.

Brown may quickly get elevated to beauty or reduced to ugliness depending on how it’s dealt with.  It is an essential of beauty— brown is the color of earth, tree trunks; many people have brown hair, brown eyes or brown skin.  The trick with brown is that it is dependent on texture more than tone.  Most woods are brown and carefully selected wood is the most beautifying element of furnishing known to us.  However, it can get uglier than any other color when it is not balanced or finished properly.

Violet is composed of red and blue— fire and ice— which consume each other, leaving nothingness.  That’s why violet is the color mourning, the color of twilight.  The violet-gray-black hue is the color of shadows.

Violet is nearest to black, the heaviest color giving it the air of mystery.  Violet can get suffocating if used in unrelieved quantities on walls or furniture.  And yet, a skillfully crafted violet wall can create the effect of vast distance.  The risk is that the wrong lighting or furniture can create the sense of being shut inside of an Egyptian tomb.

My Choice In the past, my color choices were dictated by furniture or the style I wished to create.  I didn’t work with the emotional power of those colors. For my current project, instead of choosing a look, I want to pick an emotion and let it guide me to the right color scheme.  I still haven’t nailed the paint for my current project, sigh.  But my goal is to have it by next Monday so I can show you some photos! Do you notice how the colors in your house play on your emotions?  If so, leave a comment, I’d love to hear how color works on you. My next post is the last in this series on color.  Painting Walls: Part 3— For Personal Appearance will discuss how to choose wall colors that will flatter your appearance (or that of the homeowner).  I can’t wait to share it.