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November 19, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, November 19, 2004

Color's subtle effects Color's subtle effects (November 19, 2004)

How to select the ideal color for any room

by Kit Davey

Want to create a restful mood in your bedroom? Would you like your kids to concentrate more while doing their homework? Want to feel energized during your morning shower?

Believe it or not, you can influence your behavior and emotions through the paint color you use in your house. The proper paint selection may not only enhance your decor, but also positively affect your mood and energy level.

When you're ready to repaint a room in your home, ask yourself a few questions before you start looking at paint samples:

** How do you want to feel in the room? Relaxed, alert, cheerful, romantic?

** What activities take place in the room?

** Will you spend long or short periods of time in the room?

** What size is the room? Do you want it to feel more spacious, or cozier?

** If you entertain frequently, what kind of effect do you want to create in the space?

"But what about matching my carpeting, drapes and furniture?" you ask. Matching your paint to your decor should come after deciding on the mood you want to create.

What do colors communicate?

Leslie Harrington' s special publication for Benjamin Moore Paints entitled "Color -- A Stroke of Genius" describes common behavioral responses to color. Keep these effects in mind when making your selection:

** Red increases appetite and energy levels, raises blood pressure and makes a person feel warm.

** Pink is associated with innocence and sweetness, and is favored for packaging candy or for little girls' rooms. Pink has short-term calming effects and is sometimes used to color walls in prison holding cells.

** Orange adds energy, extroversion and vigor, and can encourage thirst. (Sounds like a great color for a sports' bar).

** Yellow stimulates memory and encourages concentration -- a wise choice for a study, office or library.

** Green evokes feelings of relaxation, quietness and comfort. It is associated with new growth and new beginnings. Because it is such a calming color, "green rooms" are provided for television talk-show guests and for actors in theaters and television studios. A green bedroom would encourage rest.

** Blue can lower blood pressure and body temperature. Its ability to cool down is so powerful that it is used in burn-victim wards. People who enjoy solitude may enjoy its coolness.

** Purple can also help to lower blood pressure, as well as suppress the appetite and quiet the mind. As purple is a mixture of cool blue and warm red, it may be a difficult color to live with for long stretches.

The effects of these colors are altered by adding white or black to them. Light or pastel colors are generally more casual and darker colors more formal.

Surround yourself with color that is in harmony with your body's coloring; if you've ever had your colors done, you can use the hues that match your skin, eye or hair color to create a nurturing, balanced environment.

Making the final choice

After establishing the emotional effect you'd like to create, assess the colors already present in the room's upholstered pieces, carpeting and woods. Visit your local paint store and grab 10 to 30 sample cards in your "mood" colors, body colors and possible matches to the room's decor.

Return to your home and hold the color swatches up to the walls, the furnishings, woodwork, etc. Check in different areas in the room, at different times of the day, and with the lights on and off. Narrow your choices to three.

Return to the paint store and purchase a quart of each of your top three choices. Paint at least a 2-foot by 3-foot area onto the walls, or onto a piece of plywood or wall board that you can carry around the room. Check the color in morning, midday, afternoon and evening light (with the lights on) over a two-day period.

The best choice will become evident when you are not rushed and have had a chance to live with it for a day or two. You'll know you've made the right selection when you look at the color and it feels right inside.

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, is a Redwood City-based interior designer who redecorates by using what you already have. E-mail her at, call her at (650) 367-7370; visit her Web site at

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