Use the bright and cheerful qualities of the color yellow to rejuvenate your interior design. From rich shades of ochre to brilliant buttercup and pale buttercream, the color yellow gives us instant vibes of positivity. Considering its vigorous nature, most interior designers approach the yellow color with hesitancy. Its overwhelming vibrancy can quickly overwhelm any room. But if you use yellow in the right way, it is an effective color that can define and heighten your interior design.
What Makes the Color Yellow?
The color yellow is part of the visible spectrum of light, located between green and orange. Yellow is a color we see in the vast array of nature; it is the color of varied flowers like daffodils, sunflowers, and roses, the color of fruit like bananas, the color of distinct fishes and birds, and the color of many minerals. Carotenoids, a natural pigment, are responsible for much of the golden yellow coloring in fruits, vegetables, and plants. They serve to protect plants from damage from harmful UV rays.
We derive the English word for yellow from the old English word ge0lu. This word has the same base as the word for “gold” and means bright and gleaming.
Symbolism of the Color Yellow
In the western world, yellow is not a universally loved color. For many, it is too bright, overwhelming, and can seem contradictory. It is the color of joy but can also signify jealousy and sickness. In the east, yellow is a much-beloved color symbolizing nobility and wisdom.
Optimism and Happiness
Yellow signifies optimism because of our associations with the rising sun on a new day. We also connect yellow with the joyful natural manifestation of yellow including the first flowers of spring, the daffodil and the crocus and luscious fruits like the pineapple and zesty lemon.
Advertisers tap into this idea by using yellow on their packaging. They use yellow to capture the audience’s attention and to create a look of cheerful optimism and joy.
Caution and Visibility
In western cultures, yellow symbols signify the need to be looking ahead. It is also one of the most visible colors from long distances. This is why city planners and architects use yellow signage and lights to signify the need to slow down. School districts in the United States also require school buses to be painted yellow to increase their visibility and to warn drivers to practice caution.
Wealth and Nobility
Yellow has positive associations in eastern cultures where it also signifies wisdom and glory, besides representing wealth and nobility. Yellow, in Chinese culture, represented the emperor. It was a color that he could only wear. Yellow roofs were another signifier of nobility, as these were limited to imperial rather than common buildings.
Cowardice and Sickness
There is an undeniable negative connotation with the color yellow in western cultures. In the middle ages, yellow was often associated with betrayal. Today, many in the west associate yellow with cowardice or betrayal as signified by the pejorative use of “yellow” or “yellow-bellied” for someone we see as neglecting their duty. We also use yellow to describe someone’s demeanor if they are sick or unwell.
Psychological Effects of the Color Yellow
Endeavoring to measure the effect of colors on mood has been a popular topic since the scientific study of Goethe (1810) called the Theory of Colors. Many have suggested that yellow has a negative effect on mood, but most scientific studies have shown overall positive effects from yellow.
- Association with joy – Scientific studies show that many people associate yellow with joy. This is more true if you live in a country with less sunlight.
- Increased stimulation – Certain scientific studies have shown that warm colors like red and color compared to cold colors like gray can increase student’s learning because they increase their cognitive stimulation.
- Heightened attention – Yellow is one of the most attention-grabbing colors. This is why many companies use yellow as part of advertising schemes or in logo designs.
Using the Color Yellow in Interior Design
Some people love the warmth and vibrancy of yellow, while others feel that it is too overwhelming. In whichever camp you find yourself, there are effective ways to use the color yellow in interior designs.
Brighten a Room
Use yellow to brighten a dark room that has few or no windows. By choosing a vibrant yellow, you will create a room that makes a definite statement. Use a pale yellow if you want to give the room a warm backdrop rather than a bold display.
Create a Focal Pint
The yellow color is ideal for creating a focal point. This strategy works well if you want to energize your room but don’t want to overwhelm the space. Use yellow to create a focal point in a room with an accent wall or a foundational furniture piece.
Add a Pop of Color
Use small hints of yellow in your home to capitalize on the warming qualities of yellow without having to change your entire color scheme. Add a yellow vase, a set of yellow throw pillows, or a yellow-themed picture. One striking way to add a pop of yellow to the room is to paint the ceiling yellow. This will warm and brighten the room without overpowering it.
Explore Diverse Shades of Yellow
Like every color, there is such an amazing diversity of yellow hues, and these distinct hues each creates a different vibe. Soft and pale buttercream yellows will provide warmth and energy in a room but can remain in the background. These provide a good backdrop for dark contrasting colors. Bright and deep yellows have a definite presence. These colors work well with dark highlights, and stand out with neutral highlights.
Combine with Other Colors
Pair the diverse shades of yellow with a variety of other colors for an effective interior design.
- Green, light and dark shades
- Blue, light and dark shades
- Light neutrals like white and cream
- Dark neutrals like black and gray
- Other warm colors like red, orange, and purple for a vibrant look
Ideal Rooms for the Color Yellow
Evoke a more positive atmosphere by incorporating shades of green in various rooms throughout your home.
- Bedrooms – Yellow works well in an adult or child’s bedroom to brighten and vitalize the space. Choose a pale yellow shade if you want a bright neutral option other than white or cream.
- Exercise Rooms – Scientific studies have shown that the yellow color increases mental stimulation. This quality is beneficial in exercise and yoga areas.
- Kitchen/Laundry – Utility areas like kitchens and laundry rooms often need revitalization. Use yellow on cabinetry or create a focal wall that animates the entire room.
- Bathrooms – Yellow brightens small spaces, so it is ideal for bathrooms. Even just a small amount makes the space feel warm and welcoming.
The Best Shades of Yellow
Explore the various shades of yellow and utilize them in your interior design. Consider the synonyms for yellow when looking for yellow color tones including buttercream, gold, and ochre.
Shades of Light Yellow
- Standish White (HC-32) from Benjamin Moore – This pale yellow paint acts as both a yellow and a deep cream. It has warm undertones of peach and cream.
- Moonraker (6701) from Sherwin Williams – Moonraker is a citron green rather than a true yellow. This pale hue is ideal if you want a yellow that leans into its green side.
- Farrow’s Cream (No. 236) from Farrow & Ball – Farrow’s Cream is a soft and pale yellow. This color can act as a warm neutral when paired with a darker color, or a more distinct color paired with a light accent.
Shades of Medium Yellow
- Maple Taffy (3004-3C) from Valspar – Maple Taffy from Valspar is a vibrant mid-toned yellow paint with a warm golden glow.
- Hawthorne Yellow (HC-4) from Benjamin Moore – Hawthorne Yellow is a rich light to medium-toned paint color. This is a balanced yellow with a slightly green undertone.
- Dayroom Yellow (No. 233) from Farrow & Ball – Dayroom Yellow is a refreshing and bright yellow paint color. This color works well in a child’s room to floor the space with warm color.
Shades of Dark Yellow
- India Yellow (No. 66) from Farrow & Ball – This deep golden yellow has a rich brown undertone that warms and calms the color.
- Good as Gold from Clare – Good as Gold from Clare is a great choice if you want a yellow that is not bright and rich. This color leans into its brown side, so it is subdued but still rich.
- Sudbury Yellow (No. 51) from Farrow & Ball – Sudbury Yellow is a mid to dark-toned yellow. This color changes with the light. It looks clean and bright on well-lit walls. It will appear softer in darker and dimly lit spaces