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3 Ways Color is Secretly Shaping Your Life

by Mehera Bonner
art & design

color theory

Photo by Kara Harms

Ever wonder why you’re drawn to a particular color? Maybe you feel totally at ease in a sea of pink, and turn into a ball of anxiety around orange overload? Or maybe, you haven’t noticed at all — you have no favorite color, and pick your clothing and decor somewhat arbitrarily? Regardless of your conscious feelings about color, the truth is that our reaction to color is emotional, mental, and physical, and – more importantly – completely individual and unique. And in our homes, those colors are more important than ever.

“One of the reasons it’s really important to be careful in the colors we choose is that we spend more time in our homes than we ever did before, and inside, period. We’re not out in nature and having the ability to experience Mother Nature’s color palette,” says award-winning interior designer Tobi Fairley. Tobi’s an expert in color theory (awesome life skill, non?), and recently taught a segment on CreativeLive about color psychology, and why we’re drawn to one hue over another.

Whether you’re a color devotee, or someone who mostly thinks in monochrome, Tobi’s got your back, and can help you explore the psychology of color.

Color Affects Our Emotions
If color psychology teaches us anything, it’s that the shades of items changes the way we feel.  However, the way it changes is unique to us; our personal relationship with a color can be a product of anything from company branding, societal cues, and even personal memories. Does Robin’s Egg Blue reminds you of luxury and elegance? Go ahead and blame Tiffany and Co.! Did you spend the holidays surrounded by rich and decadent hues at your grandparents’ home? Those positive associations might draw you to those colors now that you’re designing a house of your own.

“For me, I’m a Razorback football fan, so I like to bring a little bit of red into my house — but maybe not all the time,” Tobi explains, because, at times, red can cause tension or stress.

Your home’s color palette should make you feel calm, centered, and comfortable, and the feelings and emotions experienced though the color should be 100 percent positive. Remember, everyone experiences different emotions when confronted with a particular color – you might feel serene around muted beige tones, and super-tense around stark whites, while others may find a bright white more sterile, and thus, comforting.

Color Affects Our Thought Process
Your home’s color palette doesn’t just affect your mood and emotions – it can directly affect your brain’s functionality. Certain colors can stimulate productivity and increase focus, while others will cause you to have super-high or super-low energy. But again, it all depends on the personal relationship you have with a particular shade. If you’re around colors that evoke a negative memory, you might find yourself feeling tense or stressed. It’s even possible to feel physically depressed if you’re around colors that don’t stimulate you.

Oh, and fun fact, says Tobi: Red makes people more inclined to spend money.

“Believe me, marketing people really understand color,” Tobi explains.

Color Affects Our Bodies
Do you work in front of a computer all day? Chances are you suffer from visual fatigue, and working in a room with a color that inspires you can actually help mitigate the strain on your eyes. Alternatively, being around over-stimulating colors can raise your tension levels and hyperactivity – which could be why your preschooler is bouncing off the walls after being surrounded by primary colors all day.

Believe it or not, both pattern and color can increase your sensory function, and you might even notice that you’re forgetful when surrounded by too much visual noise. Lesson learned? Don’t wallpaper your entire bedroom in hypnotizing black and white — instead, Tobi advises, stick to an accent wall.

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Mehera Bonner

Mehera Bonner is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two children.