The Psychology of Colours and How to Use Them

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Personality and preference come together as one in interior design. Design works quite literally from a “blank canvas” and is a success when the “colour” is added - be that literal colour or, metaphorically speaking, the furnishings, fixtures and design elements that make a room go from an empty shell to a well-designed space.

In this instance, we´re talking about literal colour; how to choose it and why; how to use it and when. Yes, colours serve an aesthetic purpose but they go a lot deeper than that. Let us enlighten you on the science behind colours and guide you on how to use them correctly.

Colours: Explained 

What is colour? It's the way our eyes and brains perceive different waves of light. Colours exist on a spectrum and while we can “perceive” many colours, the amount of colours in existence is unknown and, technically, endless. 

Here is a run-through of the most common colours that exist on the spectrum. Many of these can be used in combination to make the other, or through colour mixing, can be used to create a number of other colours. This is a brief description of how these colours are perceived psychologically and how they could potentially be used, and while each person perceives colours on an individual basis, the general consensus on certain colours is strikingly accurate. 


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Green is a positive shade and, like in nature, evokes a sense of balance and growth. As it brings nature to mind, it gives a refreshing thought of the outdoors and is perfect for inner-city homes. At home, its shade provides an openness and for business, it's linked to money, so it speaks for itself. 


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Joyful and energetic, yellows are vibrant and playful and it's completely obvious as to why - it mimics the brightness of day time. Lemons or golden shades of yellow can brighten up any space and although sometimes tricky, statement pieces of furniture or even feature walls using yellow can be beautifully designed and add light and life into a space. 


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Red is daring and dramatic, often rousing emotions like passion and excitement. The ambitious tones in the colour make it perfect for productive spaces such as offices and studios. At its core, it's powerful and strong but in its variants, it can be rich and beautiful and, if used correctly, can provide a nice depth to any area in the home or elsewhere.


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This colour is relaxing and comforting, perfect to be used at home. Combine it well with the right decor and you provide invitation and stimulate senses of cosiness. It's a neutral hue that is stable and supportive and would work well in kitchens as it's both tasteful and balances well with natural materials like wood, stone, and metal. 


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White is pure and innocent and can be used to convey fresh simplicity. It can be used in minimalist spaces as it illuminates the areas in the space and creates a sleek feel. Its tranquil ambience makes it a great tool for doctors, dentists and spas. In the home? Areas such as the bathroom or office areas. 


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Black is a classic colour for a reason and a staple in not only fashion but in design as it can be coordinated and work well with anything. Its neutrality is its strongest asset. It's powerful, dramatic and mysterious and can work well in a monochromatic colour scheme to add accents and depth to a room. 


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Like black, grey is versatile and can be utilised in a number of ways to provoke a range of things. It's solid and it can give a sense of security and intelligence. Its calming tones make it an ideal choice for family homes. How you use it matters as, depending on the hue, it can be delicate and soothing, or strong and dominant. 


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Underused in general but overused for a little girls´ room, pink is a soft colour that is nurturing, loving and has feminine tones. Perfect for a bedroom but pink can also be used in a living area. 


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A strong colour that works well in bathrooms and is commonly used for men and boys. Shades like Royal Blue are bold and confident and often associated with loyalty and peace.

These bold shades work well to portray strength, while lighter blues can be calming and tranquil, hence the use in bathrooms. 


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A fantastic colour that is often associated with wealth and creativity. Like pink, it has feminine tones so can be used effectively in a woman's bedroom, but the darker hues of purple can also be very masculine with its deepness and charm. It is a luxurious colour that can create a presence and leave a great impression.

Using Colours in Interior Design

As we've said, each person has an individual reaction to every colour and, for instance, while some people may find white boring and bland, others may find it clean and organised; some people may hate the brightness of yellow, others may find it refreshing and energetic. 

Taking this concept of individuality into consideration, along with the generally accepted associations with colours, it's important to find out how a colour scheme can work best for you and/or your clients. 

Here is a run-through of various ways you can use colour in different spaces. We hope this will allow you to make an informed decision on how to use colour in your own space!

Living Area

Green with its versatility is the most restful colour for the eyes and creates a sense of calm and security. It can be used for entire rooms by contrasting various shades to create a nice, harmonious depth. The great thing about green is that you can add this through plants and shrubs that are placed in a room with a lighter background. 

Purple is dramatic and rich and adds a lot of depth to any design. It can be used as an accent in the room or to make a bold statement. Its sophisticated and luxurious and would work well in a living area you'd love to show off to guests. 

Browns are a reassuring and warm colour that when used correctly can make people feel welcome and comfortable. It works well to create a rustic look and is best used alongside colours that provide a joyful effect as brown can also be a bit sombre. 


Red is known to increase appetite and its intensity can bring on excitement, mostly at night. It stimulates conversation so could be a great choice if you are the type of person to have people over for dinner. In turn, pink can be used for a dining room as it can add glamour and comfort.

Orange can work in a kitchen through its dependant on the shade, as like red, it can help stimulate the appetite with its warm and energetic depth. 

White can work well in a kitchen entirely or used throughout as it increases visual spaces and provides a clean atmosphere. It provides a calming effect which can help ease any pressure whilst cooking. 


Yellow is a joyful and energetic colour that can be a great addition to a bathroom. It is fresh and uplifting but should be used cautiously as choosing the wrong shade can have the opposite impact. 

Blues can be a great choice for a bathroom as the lighter shades can have a healing effect on the mind. It creates an image of the sea or bodies of water and can relax you and slow down your heart rate. 

Bathrooms can sometimes be on the smaller side and therefore white is a great choice. It can combat feelings of claustrophobia and, in general, because of its simplistic and "clean" vibe it is commonly used for bathrooms to give the sense of space and cleanliness. 


Pink can create a feel-good atmosphere as well as the obvious choice for a “girly” room. 

Royal blue or any shade is commonly used for a boys bedroom but this colour can be used for anyone as it has a calming effect and is easy on the eyes, which in turn, helps ease any discomfort. 

Purple and its lighter shades give a restful vibe and would be great in a bedroom. 

Red is another useful colour for the bedroom. Its deeper hues can ignite feelings of love and passion and work well as an energetic colour that is best used with calmer tones like white in order to create a balance. 

Office Space

Blue has a calming effect and has great benefits to the mind and body, slowing down the metabolism. Certain shades can represent knowledge and power and are therefore a great addition to a home or office, or both if you have the option!

Black signifies simplicity and functionality. It is versatile and can be used in virtually any space. It is modern and elegant and would look amazing in an office space. Contrast it with white furniture or modern accents and it can be stunning. 


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Yellow can be welcoming in hallways and foyers however, it can also be dull and can represent decay so it is best to use sparingly. 

Purple can also work great in an entryway as its elegance and depth can create a calming and welcoming effect. 

While the psychology of colours is a massive area of study, the associations with interior design are obvious and therefore it is important for any designer - professional or amateur, to know how to utilise colour and when. 

As stated, colour perception is subjective and although we can say what works well, it is all down to the individual, though we hope we have at least provided a helping hand in explaining that colours are not just surface beauty but a deep well to draw from and use however it suits you!

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