I read somewhere once that people should never paint a baby’s nursery red, because it’s a naturally stimulating color and would probably result in an overexcitted, hyperactive, uncontrollably-flailing-armed infant. Clinging religiously to this advice, my first children’s bedrooms were painted in muted and serene olive greens and pastel pinks, respectively. For some reason (I blame sleep deprivation), I threw caution to the wind for my third child’s nursery and encircled her in a deep red. Interestingly, she gained control of her flailing arms just as quickly as her older siblings…and became our best sleeper.
Coincidence? Probably. But it just goes to show that not all color “rules” are hard and fast.
Warm colors (like reds, oranges, yellows) are usually associated with high energy and stimulation. Ironically, however, these and other rich, vibrant colors can also be an excellent means of bringing peace and calm and polish into a space. Consider the following:
Of course, red is the poster child for stimulation and energy. The color is often associated with excitement – like with a wailing, racing fire engine and ambulance duo. Often overlooked, though, is its ability to serve as an iconic color of coziness – think a mesmerizing fire in the fireplace and snuggling into a Scottish plaid throw. Set amid a “natural” decor scheme, red is a perfect soothing complement in both color and tone.
Ranging from pale wisps at dawn to hot-lipped fuschia after sundown, pink is an extremely versatile color. It can just as easily be electric – think flushing cheeks ablaze with embarrassment – as it can be refreshingly sweet and charming – like on a traditional rosebud-printed flannel nightgown. Paired with other pastels, pink is the ultimate in playful serenity.
Orange can easily get your heart pumping – consider the flashing lights at a raging disco. But the flashy color can just as easily be a fresh punctuation mark on serenity – think sun-kissed peaches peeking out from golden leafed branches. Warm and friendly, orange can comfort and set our minds at ease.
The color of the sun and a bright new day, yellow can’t help but be associated with energy – think miles of yellow tulips dotting an earthy green landscape. But there’s an undeniable serenity that accompanies certain shades of yellow, too – like a sweating glass of pale ice-cold lemonade on a porch bistro table. Particularly when paired with soothing greys, yellow invites without yelling.
Aqua can be vivacious – think boogie boarding on frothy ocean waves. It can also be nostalgic, like your grandmother’s cupboard full of milk-glass bowls and pitchers. Paired with pale greens and light neutrals, aqua is perfectly soothing.
Some spaces need bursts of energy; others are happy to simply lie low and whisper to us. Either way, we shouldn’t overlook the use of rich, warm colors; rather, we can embrace them and rest assured that, used judiciously, they can exude the serene, soothing tone we’re after.