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The use of color and iconography can have a positive impact on the home, promoting wellbeing, reflecting your personality and tastes, inspiring your creativity, and reinforcing the comfort of home. Interior decoration isn’t just aesthetic; it can have an impact on thoughts, feelings and actions, meaning its influence on our lives can be potentially profound. As well as creating an environment that pleases the eye, color, alongside its symbolic use, can transform four walls into a place that protects, feeds and nourishes the soul.
Color can be therapeutic. Indeed, it has a name: chromotherapy. This encompasses the use of colors and shades to promote good health and wellbeing. Practitioner Vanessa Volpe developed Colour for Wellbeing, a UK-based company, that used color therapy techniques to manage symptoms of panic disorder and low mood to build confidence. She developed a programme called “Color Play” which combined occupational therapies with color therapy to tackle mental health issues and defeat such afflictions as insomnia and even physical pain.
Each color has a unique light wavelength. Color therapy principles consider how the use of this energy can be used to boost mental and physical health. Indeed, color psychologist Karen Haller has made a career out of showcasing the positive effect of different colors and has helped both private and commercial customers fine-tune – through such means as her Wellbeing Color Wheel – their built environments through the positive impact of color.
Haller, like others in the field, recognizes the different impact colors can have and develop interior designs, and the requirements of clients on a case-by-case basis, around the implementation and harmony of color and combinations of color. For example, red is stimulating and energizing, good for the living or dining room; green evokes feelings of nature, offering a calming effect that could be good for bedrooms; blue is soothing and calming while also believed to be intellectual and good for study rooms and offices.
Indeed, at the University of Leeds in northern England, Professor Stephen Westland, Chair of Colour Science and Technology, conducted a study to measure people’s response to different colors in relation to sleep and emotions. In the study, according to theconversation.com research found color to cause a bodily reaction such as red increasing the heart rate but blue reducing it.
For centuries, civilizations across the world have understood color and symbolism to work harmoniously to promote a variety of qualities from healing and health to protection against aggressors. Khamsa, for example, shaped charms popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa that depict an open right hand, are believed to protect and may be used with oranges (a color Live Science considers a warning sign) to provide security to a home. Indeed, according to a recent infographic from Betway, their research on “Global Luck Index”, Khamsa is supposed to be lucky; it’s also a striking image that provides a home with an Arabic twist.
Clearly, color is more than just a style choice. It’s a character choice. It represents you and your home. Around the world, interpretation of color can vastly differ. For instance, ‘white’ has 17 different variants within the Inuit communities, modified by varying snow conditions, while the Bassa people of Liberia consider color in only two ways – “ziza” for red, orange and yellow, and “hui” for green, blue and purple. Green is emblematic of Ireland but generally considered to represent freshness, nature, the environment and luck. Yellow, however, connotes envy in Germany but, in Egypt, happiness and good fortune.
The effectiveness of our interior decoration can, therefore, be complemented by combining color and symbols. For instance, a green four-leaf clover could help fill a room with a calming, natural ambiance while exhibiting the widely acknowledged, at least in the west, good luck charm. Three keys – symbolizing the unlocking of the doors to health, happiness and wealth – could be displayed in yellow to further the reference to future prosperity.
This is why color choice becomes very personal. As Karen Haller says, “trust your own color intuition”. She even suggests that you may not know why you love a particular color but trust your instincts if you find color or colors bring a sense of happiness. Importantly, she argues, don’t go with trends or copy friends and family; consider how your choices will work harmoniously with your own living space, be it your kitchen, dining room or bedroom.
The use of color in your home might, on the surface, be an aesthetic choice. But it’s how we go about making that choice which makes decorating the place we live or work so fascinating. Influential factors are not only decided by what we like but why we like a particular tone or shade, and it’s often the subconscious way we make our choices that ultimately decide if our style choices succeed or fail. Whether it’s the ambiance color creates, its spiritual qualities, or its characterful idiosyncrasies, the truth is that it can play a positive role in our wellbeing and ensure a house becomes a home.