Colour quotes


What's in the News?


by Sylvia O'Brien

To increase goodwill as well as improve productivity, more and more "psychology-friendly" corporations are hiring Colour consultants to determine the most effective environment for their employees.

  • A blue office, for example, is ideal for someone who must focus and concentrate on numbers.

  • Green is a better choice for a personnel management office. Green, the colour of balance, helps the inhabitant to weigh the pros and cons of a situation.

  • Yellow is great for a sales office, or call centre...where the sales staff need help keeping a positive frame of mind between those cold calls.

  • A design studio is best in a neutral colour, that can act as a chameleon to the many colours and combinations that are likely to collide there.

  • A red accent wall in the staff cafeteria can generate a feeling of excitement, increase the appetite, but not impact the staff's work environment for too long a time.

Psychological research supports the premise that colour affects the body in different ways. The following are some body changes that take place around colour:

  • BLUE slows the heart rate, suppresses hunger and reduces blood pressure.
  • RED increases blood pressure and motor-skills activities. It also sharpens the appetite.
  • YELLOW increases cardiopulmonary activity, so it is very exciting, and it can also be irritating to be around for some people.
  • GREEN (a mix of blue and yellow) is a well balanced colour, good for speech development. Good for contemplation, and a restful state.
  • PURPLE speaks to the intellect and is considered a very cerebral colour. Good for contemplation and for inner thought.

At home, colour and its placement also play a role in optimum home function.For example, a vibrant yellow or red bedroom will ensure a "less than perfect" night's sleep.

Down time is more easily managed when you're surrounded by the either the cool or neutral side of the palette, such as blue, lavender or taupe.On the other hand, while a blue dining room may look elegant, the blue walls will suppress the appetites of your family and guests.The room will not feel comfortable or intimate. Something on the warm side of the palette would be a better choice - maybe a rich red or deep gold.

In general, quiet tones are best for a living room, a soft green or lavender would work well as they are comforting hues, conducive to contemplation and relaxation. I always suggest a foyer, or entrance be a warm, welcoming colour. The first impression of your home should make your guests feel comfortable...and your comfort will follow.

Remember that too much of one colour becomes tedious. It is the interaction of colours with each other that creates a satisfying mood in your environment. With so much open-concept building now it's often a challenge for the homeowner to consider using more than one colour throughout. Be brave, inject colour by painting one or two accent walls.

Or you can paint a stairwell in contrast to the rest of the interior. Don't overlook powder rooms and bathroomsas a place to really make a statement with the colours you love.

Colours that might be too intense to use in a large room. Even a small powder room can create quite an impact....for yourself and your guests!

The rules in colour psychology are general, as everyone experiences colour in a completely personal way. Much in the same way smells can trigger a memory from our can colour!

People are drawn to a particular colour because they want (or need) it in their surroundings. It is actually a subtle form of therapy. Therefore, it's important that family members have input to the palette chosen for the home. Try to accommodate each members' choices, even if it's just in their private space.

A survey to determine the favourite colours of (adult) Canadians showed the following results:

  • 50% favour blue
  • 20% favour green
  • 8% like red
  • 8% prefer white
  • balance were undecided)

In the case if children, however, it was discovered that children under the age of eight are attracted to warm colours (first red, then yellow, then white). Children over eight preferred the blues and greens their parents favoured.

The recent trend (throughout the 1990's) for a very neutral environment in terms of colour is now having a kick­back effect. Although the neutral palette has a strong appeal to the intellect (colours such as stone, biscuit, vanilla, taupe and grey) they do not benefit the heart. By that, I mean they do not give back to us emotionally. Over time, this is wearing.

We need to feel our home (in particular) is OURS. Although austere elegance can look great in theory. In practice we need to express our humanness, the very essence of our individuality.

Sylvia O'Brien is a colour consultant and creative director of Colour Theory, a Toronto based firm that helps clients find the perfect colour of paint for their living or working spaces. She can be reached at 416·766·6789 or e-mail at

Business Woman Canada, January/February 2003

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