The Power of Colors

As designers, our responsibility is to create spaces that will enhance the quality of life for the occupants –  Not as easy as it sounds. Many factors contribute to the success of this difficult equilibrium.

First and most obvious is tidiness. Another is good circulation as obstacles should not stand in the natural path, but there are many other contributors from square footage to ceiling height to lighting etc… all are important but choosing the right colors will pull an interior together and influence the mood, emotions, and comfort of the residents.

Much research has been done on the psychological influence of colors. Red, for example, is said to represent love, warmth, comfort, but also intensity, excitement, and even anger. People say that red is loud, energetic, violent and I can’t help but wonder why so many homes have a red dining room… Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple, and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference.

When discussing color, one must also remember the diverse cultural interpretation of colors. In Western cultures, the color white is often associated with weddings, hospitals, and angels and is often used to convey a sense of purity, cleanliness, and peacefulness. In many Eastern cultures, however, white is symbolically linked to death and sadness. It is often a color used in funerals and other mourning rituals.

With everyone in the USA celebrating Fourth of July later this week, it is also worth pondering why red, white and blue were chosen as the patriotic colors of this country. In the words of Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774 – 1789,  “White signifies purity and innocence, Red, bravery and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief.” In my native France, the same colors – Bleu, Blanc, and Rouge – are used on the flag but with different significance. Blue and Red are the colors of Paris, and White is the color of the king. When the revolution started, the king was forced back from Versailles to the Louvre, hence the White surrounded by Red and Blue.

Color perception changes with time. Black was the color of death, menace, and evil in the Old World and early Americas but now it is fashionable, said to be calming while representing power, confidence, and maturity. As many of you know, I wear black almost exclusively because it makes me feel slimmer and stylish. My puppy girl is all black and very elegant with her strand of pearls… she is my classy canine debutante.

The perception of color is highly personal and subjective, so my advice is to play with colors while keeping your circumstances in mind. Personally, I prefer to live in a very calm environment, so my house is mostly white, trimmed with a lot of wood (organic emotion for an earth grounded girl), but I have painted the master bedroom in a super pale blue/green and the very large master bath with a variation of serene light and dark taupe to cozy up the white floor.

Remember the colors are not only on the walls. They are in the rugs, on the furniture and in the artwork. So, select with caution, bring samples home to help you visualize it all together, proceed step by step, but don’t be afraid to use colors, and only live in a vanilla room if that is your favorite color.


Sabine Roy is the President and CEO of SR/A Interior Design. Sabine and her husband, Sean Saidi, Principal at SR/A, reside in Maryland with their reclusive cat Phisy and their gregarious (and stylish) dog Margot.

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