The Colors We Love to Decorate with (and Why)

Jenny Rogers

As any designer will tell you, color is complex. But that doesn't mean it should be complicated.

Columbus Monthly Home & Garden spoke with national and local color experts about why we love the colors we do, why some colors work in a space while others don't and how to go bold without going too far.

William Lidwell, creator of the video series "How Colors Affect You: What Science Reveals," notes an individual's reaction to a hue is based on psychological, emotional and cultural influences. Blue tends to relax a person, making it a great choice for bedrooms, while green is known to reduce stress and support creativity in offices. Yellow, the most visible warm color, is perceived most often as inviting-hence its popularity in kitchens and dining rooms.

Dr. Mary Anne Beecher, design chairperson for Ohio State's Department of Design, agrees colors chosen for the home have a big impact on a person's life but says choosing the best hue isn't a totally scientific process.

"There's some science involved with color, and that mostly has to do with vision, because color only exists in our brains," she says. "But much of what goes into what we like is psychological and emotional. Of course, all factors related to color preference are valid."

At least a basic understanding of color theory, Beecher adds, is important when decorating. The amount, shade and placement of color can "affect lots of things, from perception of volume and size to even taste, sound and perception of noise."

"Most of the time, we're doing one of two things in our homes," she says. "We're trying to make a small space as big as we can, and we're trying to make a space relaxing and comfortable." Trying to accomplish the former? Avoid red, which can make a space seem as if it's advancing toward you. Dark colors make an object appear heavier, while pale hues have the opposite effect.

"I've taught a lot of color theory, and I think an understanding of the topic is a really powerful tool to have in your toolkit. Color isn't so mysterious," Beecher says. "At the same time, color is complex. We're not just talking about blue, green. We're talking about how light or dark or intense or saturated a hue is."

Color has three dimensions. A successful interior comes from an understanding of how changing the lightness and darkness of a hue can affect a room, Beecher says. Having depth and complexity-a paint color, for example, that will change as the day's light does-turns a room into a dynamic space.

Beecher suggests creating a color plan that moves from space to space-don't treat a room in isolation-and to think about environmental factors that can't be changed, like natural light and ceiling height.

"I always tell people who are reluctant to be too colorful that if you're thoughtful of where you're using and how you're using color, it's far less scary," Beecher says.