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Color Psychology: How to Make Your Home Feel Good

Ready to paint? A little color psychology may be just what you need to create soothing and productive moods.
By David Freeman
WebMD Feature

Home decor is often viewed as simply a matter of aesthetics -- what looks attractive. But proponents of color psychology believe that the colors you use to decorate your home can have a profound effect on the emotional well-being of you and your family.

"Color is a universal, nonverbal language, and we all intuitively know how to speak it," says Leslie Harrington, a color consultant in Old Greenwich, Conn. and a noted expert on the use of color in residential and industrial decor. "What color you paint your walls isn't just a matter of aesthetics. It's a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behavior."

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If you like the idea of using color to create an emotionally healthy home, color consultants say you should first consider the primary function of each room. Next, pick a predominant color. Although it can't be proven scientifically, color consultants say some hues work better than others at encouraging certain activities. Need ideas? Here's a room-by-room rundown of the colors believed to work best in each of the most important rooms of your home, and the moods they create. 

Living room and foyer paint colors. Warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges, and earth tones like brown and beige often work well in both the living room and foyer, because they're though to stimulate conversation. "These are colors that encourage people to sit around and talk," says Kate Smith, a color consultant in Lorton, Va. "You feel the warmth, the connection with other people." 

Kitchen paint colors. Color consultants say that if you have fond memories of spending time in the kitchen when you were a kid, it might make sense to recreate the color scheme in your grown-up kitchen. "If you grew up in a blue-and-white kitchen and have great memories, blue and white may be the best colors for you and your family," says Smith.

If there's no particular paint scheme you remember fondly, reds and yellows can be great colors in the kitchen as well as in the living room and foyer. But watch out if you're watching your weight: in addition to stimulating conversation, color consultants say that red may prompt you to eat more, if only subtly. "If you're on a diet, you might want to keep red out of the kitchen," Harrington says, adding that the restaurant industry has long recognized the appetite-stimulating power of red decor.

Dining room paint colors. Because it's stimulating, red decor can be great for a formal dining room. In addition to encouraging conversation, it whets the appetites of your guests. "If your dining room is red, people may think you are a better cook," says Harrington. 

Bedroom paint colors. The bedroom is where you go to relax and reconnect with your partner.  Cool colors -- blues, greens and lavenders -- can be great choices here, because they are thought to have a calming effect. The darker the hue, the more pronounced the effect is believed to be. "Reds tend to increase blood pressure and heart rate and stimulate activity," says Harrington. "Blue does just the opposite. That's why we think of it as calming."

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