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Guide to Color and Personality

Every color evokes a different emotion. Add a personal touch to your home decor by finding the color that fits your own social and cultural ideas.

Can a color make you feel better or more confident? Do certain shades increase appetite, make you sleepy or cause aggravation? Our reactions to color are led by a combination of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors. For many people, color can express a feeling ("I'm having a blue day") and for others it affects how they feel.

Color is defined as the "perceived quality of light reflected or emitted by an object." As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is color. While one person may love red because of its stimulating effect, another may dislike its intensity. These reactions are most likely learned at a young age as people tend to associate memories with certain colors.

A person may love yellow, not only because it provides a feeling of vibrancy, but because they have memories of their mom planting daffodils in the garden. This person may in turn associate yellow with memories of home and feeling safe. The way you feel about a color has a lot to do with where you live. In North America, we associate white with weddings, purity and cleanliness, while the Japanese tend to associate white with death and loneliness. Likewise, Western cultures relate black with death and evil, while many Eastern cultures perceive it as being lucky or prosperous.

An everyday example of our traditional associations with color can be found in business attire. Most professionals tend to choose navy, brown, black or gray suits, which symbolize conservatism, while more colorful suits can symbolize outrageous behaviors or personalities.

World events can also affect our reactions to color. During the '30s, the Great Depression brought in what is known as the "taupe age." This color may have reflected the general mood of the time with its nurturing characteristics of warmth, comfort and home, yet the lack of color reflects drained energy and monotony. Other color-felt world events include World War II (a somber palette of heavy grays, teals and deep reds), which corresponds with the end of the war and into the '50s with a color explosion of inspiring aquas, cheerful pale yellows, delicate pinks and restful greens.

Determining colors that positively affect the way you feel can change the way you react in a space. Here are a few ways to achieve this:

  • Take your lifestyle into consideration. Workaholics who are surrounded by noise and people all day should consider the shades of their homes carefully. Keep furnishings simple with solid fabrics and use colors that inspire calmness and relaxation such as blue and green. These cool colors have also been known to lower body temperature and blood pressure.
  • Review your wardrobe. We tend to be drawn to colors that complement our appearance as well as those that make us feel confident and comfortable.
  • Make a list of colors that relate to personal memories and associations.
  • Scan fashion and shelter magazines to spot current color trends. It is estimated that the human eye can distinguish over 10 million colors, so keep that color palette up to date!

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