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Red is powerful, dramatic, motivating. Red is also hospitable, and it stimulates the appetite, which makes it a favourite choice for dining rooms. Some studies have indicated that a red room actually makes people feel warmer.


Yellow illuminates the colours it surrounds. It warms rooms that receive northern light but can be too bright in a sunny room. It’s best for daytime rooms, not bedrooms. It has a short range, which means as white is added to yellow, it disappears. Yellow highlights the calls attention to features—think of bright taxicabs.


Purple is royal, independent. True purple is a mixture of equal amounts of red and blue. Various shades of the colour range from deep eggplant to delicate lavender. As a decorating colour, it goes in and out of fashion but always looks pretty as a pastel or as an accent.


Blue, with its associations of sea and sky, offers serenity, which is why it is a favourite in bedrooms. Studies have shown that people think better in blue rooms. Perhaps that explains the popularity of the navy blue suit. Cooler blue show this colour’s melancholy side, however.


Green is tranquil, nurturing, rejuvenating. It is a psychological primary, and because it is mixed from yellow and blue, it can appear both warm and cool. Time seems to pass more quickly in green rooms. Perhaps that’s why waiting rooms off-stage are called “green rooms”.


Pink is perceived as outgoing and active. It’s also a colour that flatters skin tones. Hot shades are invigorating, while soft, toned-down versions can be relaxed and charming.


Orange is energetic and sometimes overpowering when used full-force, but it has lovely softer sides as well. Like red, orange stimulates the appetite; that’s why so many fast-food restaurants use it in their decor and logo. Because orange is so vibrant, it requires some contrasts to cool it down.


Gray goes with all colours—it is a good neighbour. Various tones of gray range from dark charcoal to pale oyster.

Black (technically the absence of colour) enhances and brightens other colours, making for livelier decorating schemes when used as an accent.