The Science of Color: Part 1
What is your Favorite color? I think this question is asked many times at many different occasions in our lives… It is one of those questions that has no right or wrong answer, it is completely subjective.
What does this answer signify when in a meeting with an Architect/Designer and they ask the same question? It is an important question for the Designer because color in your home, office or business is placed there because yes, you like it, but more so because it elicits an emotional response. How do you feel in that space?
Elsie de Wolfe, who was a doyenne of American decorating, believed in emphasizing the impact of color. When choosing a color scheme, she paid as much attention to a Client’s personality as she did to the furnishings . In her 1913 book, The House in Good Taste, she wrote “we must consider the effect of color on our nerves, our eyes, our moods, everything.” I believe this is timeless advice, that still remains at the forefront of a successful Designer’s skill set.
The goals of color design in an architectural space are not relegated to decoration alone, it spans far wider into paint color, fabric choices for furnishing and walls, even wallpaper and lighting.
I consider color selection an integral part of the Design process with my Client, in this series of articles I want to delve into why this is true.
There is a science, a psychology to color selection in Design, because color elicits certain emotions, moods, and even physical feelings. Because of this impact choosing the right colors for your interior design aesthetic is about so much more than just which swatches and samples you think look pretty together.
I am intrigued by the study of Color Therapy of the effects that color has on our psyche, our thought process, our anxiety level, brain function. The study of Architectural Psychology, Color Psychology, and Neuropsychology play a vital and necessary part in the design process.
I think one of the most important words to remember when creating a space, whether it be residential or commercial is Harmony. When we feel Harmony, it is as if our brain is letting out an “ahhh” our chemical energy feels content and productive.
When I ask a Client how they feel about color, I am always fascinated by their answers and what “color” means to them. It is about a comfort level about how each individual’s brain processes “color”. For one Client, when I say “bold” or “strong” colors, for them that might mean brilliant red or pale grey. it is about what their brain does when they see those colors and where their emotional comfort level is.
If my Client is more comfortable with small pops of bold color, then I know the direction we need to go. some Client may say, integrate as much color as you can, the bolder the better. These opinions come from a natural place, a sense memory that their brain communicates. We are an amalgamation of nerve endings, of synapses, of chemical responses. Color Therapy is a pre-requisite in a Designer’s checklist of items to be discussed with their Client. The impression of a color and the message it conveys is of utmost importance in creating the psychological mood or ambiance that supports the function of a space.
Especially important for the Interior Designer is the research concerning the presentation extremes within the Client’s space known as sensory deprivation(under-stimulated) and sensory overload(over-stimulated).
Under-stimulated spaces show signs of irritability, excessive emotional response, difficulties in concentration and perception. The basic signs of an under-stimulated environment are weak intensities of colors, monochromatic harmonies, or monotonous color contrasts. Some basic signs of an over- stimulated environment is strong color intensity (highly saturated), color harmonies that might be too complex, or too many complex visual color patterns.
The assumption that color is no more than decoration and that it can be satisfied or solved by personal interpretations or following of color trends and Design trends in current fashion is counterproductive to the Design process.
In the book, Color Codes: Modern Theories of Color in Philosophy, Painting and Architecture, Literature, Music, and Psychology by Charley Riley he says “Color is an endlessly fascinating and controversial topic. The resistance to a unified color theory gives current aesthetic debate tremendous energy. Color Response and why we are drawn to certain colors, is largely an unknown force, color remains one of the most vital sources of new styles and ideas, tapped into by creative minds in the studios of Artists and Designers.”
I want to explore this idea more in the future and really bring to the forefront the effect of color on people and on their state of mind. What colors create environments for work, play, love and sleep?
As an Architect/Designer color is essential in creating a home that is functional, comfortable and peaceful. Whether it be with paint color on a wall or an object or lighting choosing the color that suits a space is an important aspect to discuss with the Client.
Designing an ideal space for a Client delves into much more than Design, Furnishings and Space Layout…Color plays a vital and necessary role. We as Designers are also Therapists, tapping into and listening to the needs of our Clients. Our interactions with them on a daily basis give us the background for the development of their Project. As we grow to know them more we grow to understand the Client’s needs even better and by that we can choose the perfect colors, objects, furnishing and layout for their life.