It’s a Mood

Maybe mood rings were never an exact science, but there is some truth in the relationship between color and mood. 

How to Correctly Use Color Theory in Design

Maybe mood rings were never an exact science, but there is some truth in the relationship between color and mood. 

Color affects how we see the world—whether it’s through our own emotions or what a color may represent to us. We associate black with funerals, yellow with sunshine, and red with anger. 

That’s why color psychology plays a huge part in how we decorate our spaces. 

“The color of a room changes the very essence of a room,” says local interior designer Tera Janelle, owner of Tera Janelle Designs. “Many times, homeowners consider how they want their home to look, but a better question to ask yourself is, ‘How do you want your home to feel?’”

Knowing where to start when painting or decorating a new space can be overwhelming, but Tera says not to overthink it. 

“Worry less about what color a room ‘should’ be painted and more about how you want that room to feel,” she says. “Look for inspiration rooms that evoke a feeling you love. What colors are present in that room and how are they used?”

Photography by Tera Janelle Design

According to Tera, a great resource when beginning is a paint deck or fan deck—a collection of all the paint chips from a particular manufacturer or designer—which allows you to look at a wide range of colors without multiple trips to the hardware store. 

“It can be difficult to read the undertones of light colors on a single-color chip, resulting in a room mistakenly painted light purple instead of light gray,” she says. “Instead locate that paint color on a paint deck that shows the color in a line of its shades from light to dark. The darkest colors on the strip will reveal a color’s undertones.”

A way to bring cohesiveness throughout your home is to consider establishing a color story, bringing together each room without having them look all the same. 

“Consider how the colors in your home work together as a whole,” Tera says. “Focus on creating a color through-line throughout the home. A home’s through-line color might be blue, showing up as French blue on the dining room walls, navy on the kitchen island, and a pale robin’s egg blue in a bedroom’s bedding.”

But Tera says it’s important not to take a color story too seriously in order to allow for creativity—especially in places like your kids’ rooms. 

“Feel free to allow kids’ rooms or creative spaces to deviate from your whole-home color story,” she says. “Worried to introduce the ‘grape purple’ your child loves for their bedroom? Try eggplant or a soft lilac on the walls for a neutral grounding, and introduce grape purple in the bedding, stuffed animals, or art.”

“The key to using color is to exercise control,” she continues. “Avoid painting every room a different color. Instead use different hues of one or two colors to provide an interesting overall color story.”

When you first select a paint color, Tera says to apply your paint samples to multiple walls in a room and make sure to review them during different times of day before deciding on a final color. This will save you time and money in case a color doesn’t work in that space. But it’s also important to consider artificial light as well as natural light. 

“A lightbulb’s color [measured in degrees of Kelvin or ‘Kelvin temperature’] dramatically affects color in a room,” Tera explains. 

For example, her preference is 2700K (or 3000K at maximum) for a soft glow that feels equally inviting day or night. Tera says she avoids daylight bulbs or bulbs of 3000K+ because they cast a cool blue light that can make colors in a space feel cold and sterile. 

Photography by Tera Janelle Design

While Tera says there’s no great place to experiment with colors or patterns, there are easy hacks to try different things without overwhelming your space. 

“If you are looking to experiment with paint color, such as a darker trim with lighter walls or a saturated wall color that feels like a risk, avoid open concept rooms and instead choose a room that can be easily repainted, like a small bedroom or powder bath,” she says. 

Using decor that can be easily switched out such as bedding, pillows, napkins, or towels is also a great way to experiment. 

But color palettes aren’t always black or white. 

“Neutral colors include more than white and beige,” Tera says. “If you are scared to dip your toes into color, earth tones are a low-risk way to introduce color. Earth tones such as mocha, olive, blush, camel, blue, and khaki are also neutrals.”

Using neutrals as anchors in a room can also allow you to be more expressive.

“Neutral anchor pieces such as cabinetry, sofas, and rugs allow you more freedom to play with color in other elements, such as the art, wallpaper, and accent fabrics,” she says. While it may seem overwhelming and intimidating, Tera says don’t be afraid to trust your gut and take risks.

“Even seasoned interior designers use their own homes as design laboratories,” she says. “The practice of playing and experimenting teaches the most valuable design lessons. And we do not always get it right the first time! Instead embrace the pivot. The best designs are fluid.”  

Photography by Tera Janelle Design

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