Source: Farrow & Ball @studioetthem @bcdfstudio
Have you ever felt a specific colour scheme surprisingly pleasing? There is an explanation for this! We tend to be attracted to certain colours and this includes specific tones and shades too, is not the same to like 'Forest Green' than 'Mint Green' for example. Let's go a bit deeper into the topic...
Colour psychology has been the object of study since BC times and it has evolved with groundbreaking theories developed in the past century. In the 1970s Angela Wright developed a theory based on the previous work of Carl Jung, where she explored the way colour affects our emotions, how we think, feel, and behave. She described the Colour Affects System like this:
- Every hue affects specific psychological states.
- The effects of colour psychology are universal.
- There are four colour groups in which each tint, shade, or tone can be classified.
- Each of the colours within the same group creates harmony with each other.
- All the people can be classified into one of the four personality groups, sometimes someone can have attributes from one or two groups.
- Each personality character links to one of the colour groups
- The response to the colour schemes is influenced by the personality type.
Source: Farrow & Ball @johnstonparkeinteriors
This combination of science and psychology has taken Angela Wright's theory to explain the impact of colour in our moods and behaviours.
The way we perceive colour is usually subjective, however, there is one thing that creates the same response on everybody, and this is how intense the colour is. The more saturated the colour the more stimulating it is whereas the lower the saturation the more soothing it will be. This is especially important when talking about colour and wellbeing, or why we choose pastel or pale colours when painting the baby's nursery.
Source: Farrow & Ball @francisamiand
On a deeper level, the meaning of colour is not only the individual attributes of each colour and its different levels of saturation but also the context. This is what is called 'Colour Harmony' and it is the meaning colour has when in combination with another colour. This is a key element as we never see colours in isolation, or almost never, so the way they work together is what creates an emotional response.
To understand Angela Wright's theory and get to the juicy bit, which is the four colour personalities and their attributes, we need to explain the meaning of 'Tonal Colour Harmony'. Unlike traditional colour harmony, it suggests that every colour in nature sits in one of four tonal groups which are connected to the four seasons. According to Karen Heller in her book 'The Little Book of Colour', colours from the same tonal group will always harmonize with each other, or they will jar when sitting alongside with colours from another group. This is the way that colours are arranged in nature and hence the importance of the seasons and the colours we perceive during each time of the year.
The 'tonal colour harmony' is the key to Wright's theory, an exploration of underlying patterns in the colour spectrum and their relationship to patterns of human behaviour. So Wright organized colour into these four tonal groups and there are correlations between the colours within each family, these are not shared by the colours from any other group.
Let's explore the four colour groups together with their personalities and attributes:
Colours: watermelon red, apricot, sky blue, aquamarine, lilac, cream, buttercup, sunshine yellow, apple green, coral, baby pink, and camel.
- Outgoing and spontaneous
- Fun and young energy
- Warm, lively, optimistic
- Full of life, enthusiastic, and light-hearted
- Naughty and playful
- Enjoy outdoor gatherings with lots of people, barbecues, and picnics
- Love diversity and spontaneity
- A natural 'motivator'
- Positive outlook, cheerful, high spirited
- Natural light is fundamental
- Interiors with large windows letting all the light in
- Outside space like a garden, feeling connected to the outdoors
- Cane, wicker, and pale wood furniture
- Glossy finishes, glass and brass
- Geometric patterns for cushions and curtains
- Playful fabrics with smooth textures and a 'kitsch' element
- Modern, love for new designs and art prints with lots of energy
Colours: rose pink, plum, sage, powder blue, lavender, mauve, taupe, oyster white, and maroon.
- Formal and confident
- Cool, calm, and collected
- Graceful under pressure
- Elegant and symmetrical arrangements, everything matches
- Introverted, never showy
- Shy can be seen as cold or aloof
- Formal style, calm, and order in your home
- Soft and floaty curves, romantic lines for furniture
- Structure, no fussy interiors
- Like for fine craftsmanship and antiques
- Woods like mahogany, satinwood, and rosewood
- Patina distress, nothing too high gloss or shiny
- Style and perfection, balance with things arranged in pairs
- Matching bedside tables with matching lamps
- Flowing patterns with muted and subtle colours
Colours: olive, forest green, teal blue, aubergine, burnt orange, sunflower yellow, rust red, ivory white, chocolate brown, and stone.
- Warm and caring
- Passionate and intensively expressive
- Strongly connected to nature
- An inquiring mind, love for art and culture
- Keen and interested in people
- Casual and relaxed
- Social but in small numbers
- Implicated, like deep conversations
- Dazzling, quirky with a rebellious side
- May appear bossy and dominating
- A comfy and welcoming home
- Materials like wood, brick, copper, and natural fabrics
- Snug sofas by the fire
- Renovating and applying your own stamp to a space
- Solid furniture, craft, and heritage items
- Authenticity, books and open shelves to display treasures from travels
- Rich colours, not a minimalist
Colours: magenta, lemon yellow, pillar-box red, pistachio, ice blue, pure grey, royal purple, shocking pink, charcoal, silver, and midnight blue.
- Extreme, bold, and icy
- Classy and sophisticated
- Sense of drama and a strong presence
- Courageous and confident
- A pioneer, avant-garde
- Strives for design excellence
- Efficient, focused, clear, succinct
- Clean lines and clear surfaces
- Minimal with no clutter
- A single and statement centerpiece (chandelier, sculpture, large painting)
- Surfaces like glass and chrome, glossy, shiny and with sharp angles
- Saturated and high-contrast colour scheme
- Spotless stainless steel kitchen with high-gloss doors and surfaces in pure white
- Astonishing geometric patterns for textiles and art
- Latest tech, luxury furniture, and iconic designs
So have you recognized yourself in any of the above? If so, it's a great start to understand which colours and interior decor make you feel your best and emotionally positive. I personally think these colour types provide a more personalized approach towards colour, even though all colours have their own meaning there is much more to it when it comes to the way we feel and interact with it.
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