In the Mood

In the Mood

Much has been written about colour psychology over the years. The real question is whether these theories are more anecdotal than scientific fact. It can be said, without doubt, that colour can inspire and does have valuable meaning in our lives. Colour memory also plays a part and stores specific memories in association with a colour or combination of colours.

Colour is one of the most important elements in decorating, for both residential and commercial projects. It can change the perception of dimensions in a space and the overall mood. Colour can reflect an individual’s personality for residential projects and can reflect a company’s culture and characteristics for commercial ones.

Another colour area to explore is colour symbolism, which can have powerful affects on humans. Think about the red that symbolises Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s golden arches. There are also many symbolisms that the Western world uses in relation to a white wedding, or wearing black to funerals.

Here are some theories on the major colour groups and how they affect our behavioural, emotional and physical attributes.


Reds can create a wonderfully warm charm with a sense of passion and excitement. Red is known to increase blood pressure and respiratory rate, and it’s also is thought to aid digestion. The behavioural characteristics of the reds includes aggression, anger, dynamic, impulsive, rebellious, power and strength. Where: Reds are perfect for formal rooms, such as dining or lounge areas, and they can make bold statements around the main entry or hallway. Many like to use red on the front door exterior to make the entry inviting and easy to distinguish.


Pinks are known to be youthful and are generally seen to be a feminine colour in early childhood for the Western world. Bright pinks can stimulate energy and increase our blood pressure (like the reds). Pinks can generate confidence and reassurance. Some lighter pinks (mixed with white) are used globally in gaols to help reduce volatile behaviour in prisoners. Where: Pinks are great for bedrooms and kids playrooms.


Orange – from the red family – is known to be controversial. Orange generally elicits a strong response, be it negative or positive. It is seen as fun, gregarious, social, helpful, jovial and extroverted. The physical elements state that it can decrease irritability and hostility, and improve social behaviour. Where: Orange works well in casual living areas and can work well in study or office areas.


Yellows create a feeling of joy and a bright, sunny aura to any space. Yellows radiate warmth and reflect optimism, and they can stimulate creative thinking. Yellow can sharpen memories, but also increase irritability and hostility. The behavioural characteristics of yellow can produce caution, debate, communication, creativity, innovation and introspection. In Australia, yellows are used with much caution due to our bright light and warm conditions in summer. Yellow tends to be used in south-facing spaces, or in smaller quantities using more subtle strengths. Where: Yellows work well in many rooms. However, for bedrooms you would want to use a lighter shade. Yellows are often used in darker rooms that need brightening up.


Using a purple can create an illusion of grandeur and has historically been linked to royalty. You need to combine purple carefully with other hues as it does take on characteristics of its undertone (blue and red make up purple). It is a known favourite amongst artists and creative types, and also with young girls. Its characteristics include elegance, spiritual, philosophical, reverence and lateral thinking. Where: Depending on the shade of purple, they can be very versatile. Darker and bolder shades are perfect for formal rooms, while shades such as lavender and mauve are often used in bedrooms.

Blue is the world’s favourite colour. It is viewed as a calming colour, reflecting blue skies and gentle seas. Blues are equally appealing to both genders. It is seen as trustworthy, responsible, pragmatic, conservative, loyal and astute. It is known to help reduce blood pressure, it is cooling and relaxing, and it can slow respiratory rates. Where: A versatile colour, blue can be used in many rooms. Try using a lighter shade of blue in the bedroom and combine it with white trims. You can then use a darker shade of blue in a room that gets plenty of light to help it feel a little cooler in summer.


Relaxing and restful to the eye, greens can create a cool, fresh and calm atmosphere. Green is the most influential colour in our natural environment, and is therefore one of the easiest colours to decorate with. Green is seen as the colour of peace and the environment. Its attributes include rejuvenation, balance, refreshment, relaxation and tranquillity. Where: Greens are so easy to use in any room. Bedrooms are a great room to use light shades of green. Alternatively, try a brighter shade of yellow/green to liven up casual living areas.


Browns are associated with the earth, thereby portraying stability, security and reliability. They create a sense of nature and tranquillity, but can also be seen as boring and ultraconservative. There are many shades of brown with subtle undertones such as tans, coffees, beiges, stones or chocolates. Browns can become very popular during financial downturns or after major disasters. Where: Browns are lovely as feature walls in darker shades in bedrooms, and in living spaces. You can also use lighter shades of brown – like stones and taupes – as main wall colours in any room. Browns combine well with so many other colours, so try a rusted orange or brownish red to help create your perfect colour scheme.


Ideal for creating a neutral backdrop, whites are classical and elegant, and they generate a sense of light. They provoke thoughts of cleanliness, innocence, purity and spaciousness. Whites are forever popular and continue to dominate residential interiors. Whites are easily combined with most colour groups. However, you must understand the undertone of the white, i.e. whether it’s warm or cool, or whether it possesses a yellow or reddish tone. Where: Most people would use a version of white as their main decorating colour in their home. That being said, the white can be a version of beige or a neutral base to help emphasise colours in soft furnishings or feature colours.

Andrea Lucena-Orr is the Colour Planning & Communications Manager at Dulux Australia.