How to Color Your Home

Sherry Beck Paprocki
Columbus Monthly
Kelly DeVore, chair of the interior architecture and design program at the Columbus College of Art & Design

Kelly DeVore is chair of the interior architecture and design program at the Columbus College of Art & Design. She and her architect husband, Jay DeVore, are building a group of sustainable vacation rentals in Hocking Hills called Idyll Reserve. We’ve asked Kelly to weigh in on color and mood given our current dispositions.  

Can good use of color theory in our homes improve our moods?

You can 100 percent control and lift your mood depending on color and light—and personal preferences play a huge role. Wit & Delight blogger, Kate Arends, has a good piece about this where she talks about her own journey through a very personal and colorful home remodel and speaks about how important color theory can be. I think the key is—don't make it random. Work with color to draw your eye around your house. Choose two or three exciting new colors to experiment with in your whole house, not a different one for every single room.

We've been in the midst of the pandemic for nearly a year. What colors are best for our psyches at this time?

Considering we are hopefully coming out of a pandemic soon, look to colors that give a sense of energy—warm colors (dull orange, deep red/pinks, warm yellows) or calm, cooler colors (such as blues and greens) to relax us. However, the type/hues of colors are really subjective and depend on the space you use them in—and the quantity and locations where you see it.  

Is there any evidence that certain colors and design styles influence dopamine production in our brains?

While it's true that certain colors really do affect your mood, I'm not convinced there are rules about this—color is so personal. So, what really makes you happy? That "spark joy" business really does mean something. When it comes to color, look to your wardrobe for inspiration more than Pinterest. What colors look good on you and around you?

Regarding your areas of expertise, are you personally doing things within your home environment to help maintain a sense of emotional balance?

Small—or manageable—projects are the key. In a year filled with turmoil, disruption, lack of control and being stuck in the house, do a small project that will really help your quality of life or make you happy. (For example, we painted a boring powder room all dark blue. I've been slowly changing kitchen cabinet pulls, and door hardware around my house and I'm getting ready to paint a small cabinet green.)  

If a person wants to do one project in their home this month that will help them get through what we hope is the end of the pandemic, what would you suggest?

Projects that you touch or see or interact with every day are great places to have the biggest impact. Do you have a small bathroom that you use a lot but is neglected? Paint that whole room (including the ceiling and trim) the same color. Switch out a light fixture that bothers you. Apply some simple feng shui principles to spaces you use a lot: move your work-from-home desk so that you see out a window and don't have your back to a door. Or, wallpaper behind some shelves with some bright color that you love and only you see—things that make you happy. Design is about solving problems. And, when it's so hard to control the rest of our lives, it's a big help to just do small things that make a big difference.  

Your thesis topic “Design Activism and Design Education: Socially Responsive Design Curricula” is an interesting one. Can you make any predictions about how this era may affect our design choices in the coming years? (Not just due to the pandemic, but also involving the social and political unrest.) 

CCAD’s interior architecture and design program is really focused on solving spatial and functional problems for people, and it is going to take some really creative solutions to all of these wicked problems we have. These interwoven and interdependent problems seem to have been the theme of 2020, and designers are trained to respond creatively to problems. So, I hope that companies start thinking differently about who they hire and how they approach issues and problems. (For example, for the pandemic, interior designers were being hired to think through logistics of turning a convention center into a makeshift hospital.)

We just launched a minor in social practice at CCAD, and I think students are hungry to feel like they can do something in the world and make an impact. I also think we will all be willing to take more risks in color and design in our homes because not only has it been where we spend the most time, but because life is short.