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Color and your brain

What the color of your living space can do to your head space

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Need a mood boost? Need to relax? Take a look at the room around you.

Color choice is a time-honored way to manage the way we feel inside, from the outside.

Think about the soft greens in institutions, the shades that were supposed to keep stressed patients calm. For years, designers mocked it and disposed of it, but according to Harrison Luoma, writing in Healthcare Design Magazine, it was originally used to reduce afterimaging, not to relax patients.

“The eyes, after viewing a color and looking away, see the complement of that color,” Luoma wrote. For example, surgeons, staring at blood, could look up and see green, which would help their “eyes to adjust more quickly.”

Green may have been practical in surgery, but color can serve other purposes. Benjamin Moore, the paint company, offers a tutorial on color choice and how it affects us at home. For instance, the ubiquitous off-white, default choice for people who just want something safe color-wise, provides a blank canvas, the company says, for personal style. Neutrals such as taupe and gray keep you grounded. Earthy neutrals look good no matter how the daylight shifts.

Timisha at Tool Box Divas offers suggestions for using blue, noting that it promotes “freshness, cleanliness and relaxation.” Sometimes, blue is too relaxing. You might not want to use it in your office, for example, where it could induce drowsiness. Its opposite would be red, with all its energy and force. Homestratosphere has loads of images of red rooms and red accents that could get anyone’s heart rate going.

If your teenager demands a black room, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has gone to the dark side.

“Black is the most mysterious of all colors,” says feng shui expert Rodika Tchi at The Spruce. “It is the color of the void, unknown mysteries, power and sophistication.” Tchi offers tips on using black accents in the home:


Use black at or below eye level in the house--black grounds and stabilizes.
Use it in moderation or near a door or entrywayto foster "flow, courage and connection.”
Use in furniture or in frames (for black-and-white photos or mirrors)
Use it carefully, Tchi cautions, because black can carry so much water energy that it can leave you feeling like you’re drifting.


For those who struggle through winter due to Seasonal Affective Disorder, designer Sherry Burton Ways recommends avoiding overuse of grays and blues because they are such cooling colors. Warmer hues can help, she says, but so can adding track lighting, keeping the view from your windows clear (that way the sun can stream in) and including plants in your room decor.

If you’re unsure, Benjamin Moore offers a virtual design tool that lets you try out different colors on a sample room to see what you like.

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