Color psychology: which colors do me good?

Sira Huwiler-Flamm

Red gives us strength, dark blue keeps us grounded and yellow puts us in a cheerful mood – that’s what furnishing expert Wolf Dieter Schnurrenberger tells us. He provides practical tips here on how we can use the findings of color psychology to ensure an all-round sense of well-being.

A living room with lots of green potted plants and a wooden dresser – the wall is painted in a dark bluish-green tone.
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In this article

Color design: how it influences our mood

Colors have a considerable influence on our emotional world and are therefore a key part of spatial planning,” says Wolf Dieter Schnurrenberger, who has been working as an expert in color psychology and interior design in the canton of Zurich for over 20 years. He advises people and companies on furnishing and has been sharing his knowledge of color, space and Feng Shui (FRF) since 2006 at the FRF Academy in Wetzikon.

Schnurrenberger explains: “Colors alter our perception of space and bring living areas to life.” Everyone tends to live in their own color world – depending on their own experience of color and personal taste. However, regardless of whether strong tones or more gentle emphasis are required – the aim is always to design a room where the furniture, floors and colors are all in harmony. In line with the teachings of Feng Shui, the whole environment influences people because we are in tune with it.

The expert has a tip for people who don’t have a particular favorite color and prefer to avoid striking splashes of color: he recommends opting for gray to make a change, so that all the walls don’t simply remain monotonously white. The color stands for neutrality, seriousness and elegance. “Colored gray” is what Schnurrenberger calls it.

Oases of peace with blue, green and pastel shades

Bedrooms, guest rooms and bathrooms should be real oases of peace in any house. Which colors are most suitable? “A dark blue conveys calm and depth,” says the color expert. There’s a good reason why dark blue tones have such picturesque names as midnight or ocean blue. They encourage us to wallow, dream and relax.

But muted colors, soft pastel shades and earthy greens are also good for rooms designed to take things more easily. “Colors inspired by nature ground us and calm us – and give us a feeling of security and familiarity,” says Schnurrenberger.

But watch out: for many homeowners, the bathroom is also a wellness oasis and place of relaxation. The rule here is that it's best to avoid green. Although it refreshes the senses, green makes our complexion look a bit pale. If you do decide to use green, then there should be a strong yellow component.

A bedroom with a wall in midnight blue.

Midnight blue on the wall: this color, which reminds us of the night, grounds us and calms us – making it perfect for the bedroom.

Create lively living spaces with bright tones

Stronger tones are permitted in rooms where people actively live, discuss things and communicate – whether it’s the kitchen, dining room or living room. According to Wolf Dieter Schnurrenberger: “Be it yellow, orange to red, anything goes. Yellow is relaxed and cheerful, while red has a powerful, dynamic and communicative effect.” Since yellow and red are known in color psychology to give strength and boost self-confidence, they are also suitable for use in offices for emphasis.

If you buy a new piece of furniture in a gaudy color, here’s a useful tip: “To prevent the jazzy new sofa from looking like a foreign object or appearing too obtrusive, you should always pick up the color elsewhere in the room in question,” advises the furnishing expert. This works well with curtains, carpets, cushions or small decorative elements, for example. Otherwise you should limit yourself to more neutral tones in this room. Schnurrenberger’s tip: “I recommend using one emphasis color at most, so as not to disrupt the overall harmony.”

A kitchen with a bright yellow wall.

Yellow walls are particularly suitable for busy rooms such as the kitchen – the rich tone creates a cheerful atmosphere.

Perception of space: creating optical illusions with color

Colors not only establish the ambiance and mood, but also create optical illusions: “In principle, light tones and cool colors such as yellow, green or light blue make rooms seem larger. Dark colors and warm tones like orange or red on the other hand make walls stand out more and visually reduce the space.”

For the end wall of a long, tubular corridor, Schnurrenberger therefore recommends a dark tone, “because it visually shortens the space and balances out the proportions.” He goes on to reveal another trick: “If you paint the plinth area of a room darker than the rest of the wall, the room will be structured and the height reduced – creating a comfortable atmosphere. Low ceilings, on the other hand, should be brighter than the walls, so that the room gains height visually.”

Harmonious combinations of color and wood

Solid wood furniture and real parquet floors remain traditional elements of interior design with durability and charm. But do they also go with striking colors on the wall? According to Schnurrenberger: “Yes, very well indeed. Wood can generally be combined with any color. Light woods such as maple, alder or beech work particularly well in combination with pastel shades. Dark and strongly grained woods such as walnut or cherry are a good match for strong colors.”

In line with the teachings of Feng Shui, he likes to follow nature: “You can observe which colors belong together and work well together. Light beech wood and light green leaves, cherry wood and red cherries, dark spruce wood and earthy green – all these combinations not only work well in nature, but also have a harmonious effect on people because they belong together.”

The latest trends: these colors will be all the rage in 2021

According to the FRF Academy’s own research, Wolf Dieter Schnurrenberger is able to identify the colors that will be in fashion in the next few years besides the usual natural combinations: “The trend is more towards warm colors such as earth and sand tones, anthracite, violet and colored gray, as well as vital emphasis colors such as carmine red, orange, Naples yellow and silver thistle green. The dominant woods are oak, beech, maple and cherry.”

Is the base rough or smooth? This will affect color perception

No matter which color you choose, it’s important to have a close look at the base beforehand. Whether the wall is smooth or structured will have an influence on the color result. “On structured wall surfaces the light is refracted, partly absorbed and forms small shadows – the colors appear darker as a result,” warns Schnurrenberger. Large, flat, smooth surfaces, however, reflect the light: “The same tone can therefore suddenly appear much stronger.”

His tip for do-it-yourselfers: “Before deciding on a color, you should always try out a larger color sample on the area and leave it for a while. Check how it looks at various times of day on several different days. Then the color can always be lightened or adjusted – according to the effect of the location and to suit your preferences.”

A father and son are concentrating hard on painting a wall. The boy is holding a brush, his father has a paint roller.

Depending on the background and location, colors have a different effect. The expert advises amateur do-it-yourselfers to test a large-area color sample on the planned surface.

Conclusion: what suits me?

When choosing a color scheme, you’re allowed to use whatever pleases you. If you are unsure, go for a shade of gray. If you’re looking for a louder effect, feel free to go for a bolder color. But colors have a huge influence on our mood and perception of space and should therefore be chosen with care.

Experts like Wolf Dieter Schnurrenberger offer a color psychological analysis for people who would like to know even more precisely which colors suit them. “We take personal habits into account more than anything,” he explains, “with often astounding results. We have even discovered that many early risers have a different need for color than late risers, and that light-sensitive people don’t react in the same way to color as sun lovers.”

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