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Paint your way to household harmony

Use color psychology to choose paint that creates just the right mood in each room of your house.

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You just closed on your first house. You’re standing in your completely empty living room, imagining the possibilities. After years of renting boring apartments in beige, eggshell, cream or oyster, you’re ready to go whole-hog and do every room in a variation of your favorite color, orange.

Please insert your own record-scratch sound here.

Before you slather on 2 coats of emberglow or yam, you might want to consider how the color you choose will affect your mood. Beauty is highly subjective – but groups of colors do tend to elicit similar reactions from most people. Think about the purpose of each room, and what mood matches that purpose. Armed with basic color psychology based on a bit of internet research, you too can paint your rooms for maximum harmony.

So let’s take a little tour through the color wheel.


Intense and energetic, red is a great choice for any room in which you want to encourage conversation. It’s said to stimulate the appetite, so it’s often used in dining rooms as well as living rooms or other places people gather. For the same reason, it might not be a great choice for a bedroom or bathroom, where you want to wind down instead of amp up.


Orange gets you moving! Try using it in an exercise or hobby room to take advantage of its motivating properties.


Yellow is welcoming and sunny and can promote a sense of fun. However, beware of yellow that is too intense, or too prevalent in the color scheme. Studies have shown that babies cry more and people are more prone to anger in yellow rooms. So keep it soft and subtle, or use it in a small space like a bathroom or entryway.


Romantic and joyful, pink is a good choice for bedrooms – but its persistent associations with dolls and childhood can limit its appeal in other rooms of the house. Think about unexpected pink shades rather than Barbie or bubblegum: Soft blush pink can be soothing, while a bright fuschia brings energy and glamour to a space.


Green is the most versatile color and can be used in almost any room for a calming influence blended with warmth and comfort. Green is nature’s neutral, so it’s a great choice for any room where you spend long periods of time, like an office.


Calming and tranquil, blue is said to lower blood pressure and slow your heart rate – which makes it perfect for bedrooms and bathrooms, where you want to relax and unwind. But be wary of icy blues, which can make a room feel remote instead of relaxed, and of blues that are too dark, which can give you the literal blues.


Lighter purples like lavender can have the same restful effect as blue, so can work well in bedrooms. Darker hues like eggplant are rich and luxurious and said to stimulate creativity – they can be too intense for spaces where you want to relax, but play well as accents.


Now, neutrals (the endless variations on black, white, gray and brown) never really go out of style – their flexibility and very neutrality are what make them so popular. If you go with neutral paint for your walls, you can always add personality and pop with furniture and accents. And if you’re decorating with an eye on selling your house in the not-too-distant future, a neutral palette will probably mean less work for you later when positioning your house as a blank slate for buyers’ desires.

If you do want to punch up your palette, think about the moods you want to create.  Choose colors that will keep babies happy, prevent you from constantly eating in bed, amp up your party games, and soothe your cares away. Orange you glad you didn’t paint everything orange?

More tips on home decor and paint colors:

Learn to compromise on decor decisions with these 4 easy steps

HomeDiggidy infographic: Pick your paint color to enhance your mood