4 Ways Color Affects Your Mood and How to Use It to Your Advantage

Foster joyful energy, serene calm, or whatever mood you want in your home with these tips on how to utilize the mood-generating frequencies of color.

Color can have a powerful effect on the way we feel when we walk into a room. Certain shades can trigger feelings of warmth and comfort, inspire joyful spirits, or establish a soothing ambiance. It all comes down to color theory, which attempts to explain how humans perceive color and how different hues relate to each other. "The basic science of color theory says that each color has its own frequencies that blend with our own personal energies," says Jessica Shaw, interior design director of architecture and interiors firm Turett Collaborative. "The reason different people prefer different colors is because we all react to visual stimuli in different ways."

bright colorful living room with large windows and plants
Justin Coit

There is a vast body of research on how color impacts mood, linking warm shades like red and yellow to feelings of excitement and delight. Conversely, hues from the cooler side of the color wheel, such as blue and green, are associated with calm and relaxation. These responses are often inherently psychological, but they can also be influenced by our cultures and lived experiences, says Michelle Bove, founder and owner of interior design and architecture firm DesignCase. So while there are certain general truths about how color makes us feel, it's also highly subjective. Shaw relates our varied feelings around color to music preferences. "Our sense of like and dislike comes from taste and personal reaction," she says.

The key is to decorate with accessories and paint-color choices that resonate positively with you and help encourage the mood you want to create. "For an individual to feel joyful and comfortable in their own home, they should start with colors that they typically gravitate toward," Bove says. Next, consider how the room will be used and by whom. For example, is it a private sanctuary intended for relaxation, or is it a welcoming space equipped for entertaining? Then apply a few principles to help you achieve a room that suits your desired attitude. Here are four ways you can harness color to foster certain moods.

orange kitchen with grey island
James R. Salomon

Colors for a Happy, Energizing Mood

Communal spaces where you want to feel cheerful and energized, such as kitchens and entryways, benefit from bright, warm colors. Think yellows, oranges, and reds for wall colors and accessories. Otherwise, Shaw suggests using high-intensity shades that are true to themselves on the color spectrum, not blended or toned down with other colors. "In a recent project, I used orange and green accents, which are complementary colors that excite each other, which brings a refreshing, vibrant mood to the area," she says.

master bath with cool tones and blue cabinet

Colors for a Soothing, Tranquil Mood

Blue and green are often associated with water and nature and help encourage calm and tranquility. Apply these soothing hues in bedrooms, bathrooms, and other spaces that serve as a personal retreat. Balance blue or green with neutrals and limit the palette to just a handful of shades for a quiet, restful effect. As you choose colors, consider the tint. "The more white you add to a color, the more pastel and peaceful it will appear," Shaw says.

earth tone living room with sectional
Jay Wilde

Colors for a Warm, Cozy Mood

To establish a sense of security, Bove recommends neutral tones like brown, tan, or taupe that feel cozy and comforting. If an all-neutral palette seems too bland for you, consider introducing a few subtle colors with brown undertones for added depth. For example, mustard-yellow, muted olive, and muddied mauve can have a similar comforting effect as true brown. These warm, earthy shades work well in living rooms where you often gather together with friends and family. Incorporating a variety of textures and tones enhances the inviting atmosphere.

bedroom with blue upholstered bed, white and blue bedding
Jay Wilde

Colors for a Dreamy, Intimate Mood

Apply shades of black and purple to evoke a sense of mystery and imagination. This is ideal in bedrooms where the majority of your time is spent dreaming. Deep, dramatic shades, such as charcoal or eggplant, envelop the room in a cozy, intimate feeling. Shaw leans toward lighter purples tinged with gray for an airy, subdued atmosphere. "Of all the colors, a pale lavender that is on the edge of gray is a color that I personally associate with calmness and sweet dreams," Shaw says.

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  1. Kurt, Servinc. "The Effects of Color on the Moods of College Students." SAGE Open. 2014.

  2. J. Elliot, Andrew. "Color and psychological functioning: a review of theoretical and empirical work." Frontiers in Psychology. pp. 368. 2015.

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