Behind the Color Yellow

Learn how you can bring sunshine into your space with uplifting yellow.
Midcentury Modern Living Room

Midcentury Modern Living Room

Photo courtesy of Robin Callan

Photo by: Suzi Q. Varin

Suzi Q. Varin

Photo courtesy of Robin Callan
By: Jeannie Matteucci

Yellow adds optimism to your home, prompting feelings of happiness in all who enter. Yellow activates memory, stimulates the nervous system, promotes communication and sparks creativity.

Control the hue and you control the mood. Muted yellow works well as a soothing neutral. A sun-kissed yellow brings the warmth of summer inside your home. A pale yellow can make a compact room feel larger. The wide spectrum of yellow shades gives you flexibility in designing rooms with a feel-good ambiance.

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Hallways and rooms without windows can benefit from strong, saturated shades of yellow. The shade will create the illusion of light. Buttery yellow walls add a warm glow that makes a room feel cozy, while muted yellow walls can make a room feel peaceful.

If you have a room with northern exposure and live in a climate with lots of gray days, yellow can brighten up the space without overwhelming it.

Brown and Yellow Cottage Bedroom

Brown and Yellow Cottage Bedroom With Floral Pillows

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Greely

Photo by: Designed by Kathryn Greeley

Designed by Kathryn Greeley

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Greely

"Yellow is a tricky color," says interior designer Jennifer Agus of Agus Interiors. "It's an uplifting color but you really have to pick the right shade. You want to make sure it's not too bright or too muted, so use those test cans of paint and look at the yellow on your walls in the different lights of the day."

Pale ocher and muted gold are great choices for those who want a yellow color that feels approachable and timeless. An earthy yellow can work with terra cotta or lilac and make a room feel relaxing. A deep yellow accented with gray can make a space feel sophisticated. A golden, honey yellow works well for a kitchen with lots of natural wood, creating a hospitable room.

"I love kitchens painted in the warmer tones of yellow, instead of the lemony tones," says interior designer Denna McLaughlin of City Studios. "The warmer tones make you want to be in the room, because they're comfortable and welcoming."

Create a Welcoming Space With Yellow

  • Balance yellow with orange for a lively, citrus-inspired breakfast space.
  • Walls painted golden yellow with a touch of moss brown bring rustic Old World charm to a room.
  • Venetian plaster in a buttery tone can add color, depth and texture to powder room walls.
  • If you want a yellow that is lively without being too bold, try using French vanilla (a combination of yellow, beige and white) for the walls of a living room.
  • Straw-yellow walls imitate the warmth of candlelight, making them ideal for an intimate dining room.

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