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"Skillful use of interior design color psychology can alter the perceptions of your space."

Consider interior design color psychology when you plan a room's color scheme.

Kitchen Window

The appropriate interplay of a color's temperature and tonal value will help you achieve the feel you are aiming for in a room if you understand how these elements affect human perceptions.

How do you want your room to feel?

Colors can be perceived as warm or cool depending on where they lie on the color wheel. In interior design color psychology, the yellow-red-orange region is viewed as the warm color zone. On the other hand, the purple-blue-green area projects a cooler feeling.

Think about warm things in nature. Sunshine and fire are a couple of natural elements that might come to mind. What color are these elements?

What about the sky on a clear day, the azure waters of the ocean, or the lush green grass? Cool and fresh, right?

Then there are the beiges and muted grays that don’t really have a definite warm or cool projection in interior design color psychology. These are referred to as temperature neutral.

For a basic overview of how we tend to perceive the different color families take a moment to explore my interactive color board by clicking here or on the image above. (Note: Link will open a new window)

The colors on the warm side of the color wheel tend to advance visually. The positive aspects of this are a closer, cozier feeling environment. If you have a large space that lacks an intimate appeal, consider using colors from this part of the spectrum.

Conversely, the hues on the cool side of the color wheel tend to recede visually suggesting a more airy, open environment. This is an aspect of interior design color psychology to consider if you are struggling with how to enhance a small space as I have from time to time.

The Warm Colors


Red – associated with passion, heat and energy. This color is very bold in its pure form. It can be very elegant and add a lot of character to a color scheme – both traditional and contemporary. It’s a great accent to the green family which lies opposite red on the color wheel. Even in its softer tint of pink, red can add much character to a design scheme.


Orange – associated with vitality, activity and adventure in color psychology. It is believed to have healing qualities and is supportive of the immune system. When used in its more muted shade it can be less overwhelming. Terracotta flooring, apricot fabrics or other muted varieties of this hue can be quite pleasing to the eye. Pure orange may work well in a contemporary setting but often doesn't sit well in a traditional one where a more muted form works better.


Yellow – associated with cheerfulness and sunshine. In its pure form yellow can be overwhelming. Perhaps this is because it requires the most complex visual processing by our eyes. Its lighter tints, however, can look clean and fresh. As an accent color, yellow can provide a nice level of pop in a design scheme.

The Cool Colors


Purple – associated with tranquility, opulence and fashion in interior design color psychology. Because of its position on the color wheel where warm and cool meet, its bias towards red or blue will determine its degree of coolness. With red undertones it takes on warmer characteristics than when the undertones lean more toward blue. Some tones of violet can be quite intense, but pastel lavenders can give a very fresh, uplifting feel to a room.


Blue – associated with calm, trust and sensitivity. It is the favorite color of millions of people. Blue can easily be paired with many other colors and is therefore a common choice in a color scheme. Common pairings include blue and white (porcelain china), blue and green (reminiscent of flowers in nature) and blue and yellow (evoking the warm sun in a bright, blue sky).


Green - associated with nature, relaxation and rest. Green is very versatile in working with other colors as it is in nature. It can be strongly traditional in feel or even a bit contemporary, as in the case of its more acidic forms. When designing, consider using a splash of red from the opposite side of the color wheel to create a dramatic accent for a green based color scheme.

Color Tones

In addition to color temperature, tonal value also plays a role in interior design color psychology.

Lighter tones are more reflective and as a result we see these as moving away from us. They give the illusion of more space.

On the other hand, deeper, darker color tones reflect less light and appear closer to us. This creates the sense of closer, more intimate space.

Consider both hue and tonal value when determining how you want your room to appear and feel. These are important aspects of interior design color psychology.

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