I’m happy to say it’s that time again! October presents us with our quarterly opportunity to interrogate colour expert and consultant Karen Haller about the psychology behind the use of colour in interior design. Karen has already given us an insight into yellow and grey in the two previous posts that have been part of the Karen’s Quarterly Colour Psychology Questions series. And in this post we will explore the use of magnolia in interiors.
The colour psychology posts have proven to be very popular and both Karen and I have really enjoyed getting your thoughts and feedback on the colours we have featured so far. So please don’t be shy, any comments or questions you may have are very welcome and we try to respond to each and every one of you.
As many of you may know, I recently moved from Bristol back down to my home town of Dartmouth. I’m now renting a lovely large house with my other half, and whilst it is very different to the pokey flats we have lived in previously they all seem to have one thing in common – magnolia. Floor to ceiling magnolia in every single room. It’s the colour of choice for property developers and, it would seem, landlords too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I would much rather a neutral colour scheme than some hiddeous, garish wallpaper that screams of someone else’s personality. But it did get me thinking, why is this colour so popular? What reactions does it provoke and how does it make people feel? And above all, I wanted to know which colours should be pared with magnolia for best effect.
So once again, I put all my questions to Karen and here’s what she said:
Magnolia has become the colour of choice for landlords who are renting out property, or by people trying to sell their property. Why is this?
KH. There could be several reasons. They want to use a neutral colour for their property to appeal to the widest number of people to make that quick sale or to rent out. Usually white is choosen to achieve this. But brilliant white is very harsh whereas magnolia is a warm white.
Using magnolia as a default colour certainly takes any hassle out of making a colour decision and developers also know the homeowner will change the colour when they personalise the space. It appears that some landlords have just followed their lead, forgetting the renters have to then live with it.
Over time, it seems using magnolia has taken on a life of its own, becoming the standard neutral colour for landlords and developers. The colour name magnolia now appears to have negative associations.
I wonder if the developer/landlord said they used colours called buttermilk, cream or butter (which are also clear, warm whites), whether there would be the same negative associations?
What are the main psychological properties of magnolia?
KH. Magnolia is really a cream. It is warm white, which means it is a yellow-based white. The psychological properties are actually the same as white. The positive attributes are hygiene, sterility, clarity, purity, cleanliness, simplicity, sophistication and efficiency. The negative properties on the other hand are isolation, sterility, coldness, barriers, unfriendliness and elitism.
Magnolia is often perceived as a colour that lacks in any kind of personality or character. Do you agree?
KH. Every colour has personality and character. The lighter the colour (less pigment), the more subtle the personality. So it’s understandable that the subtly of magnolia may be perceived as a lack of personality. At the other end of the cream scale is a bright sunshine yellow (pigment rich), which is full of personality.
What can people like me, who live in a rented magnolia house, do to bring a little more interest into a magnolia room?
KH. If the magnolia colour on the walls dominates the space, look at changing the proportions. This can be done by bringing in other bright, clear, warm colours, creating a tonally harmonious colour scheme.
Another way to change the proportions is through wall hangings e.g. pictures, artwork, mirrors, large potted plants or furniture like bookshelves. It’s all about proportion and balance.
What colours would you say work particularly well in conjunction with magnolia and why?
KH. As magnolia is a bright, clear, warm white, colours that will be tonally harmonious are other colours that are also bright, clear and warm and yellow based. This includes warm yellow-based blues and greens.
What are your top tips for using magnolia successfully in residential interiors?
KH. My top tip is to combine it with other bright, clear, warm yellow-based colours. This will create a tonally harmonious colour scheme. If you were to use colours that weren’t in the same tonal colour family, such as colours that are greyed out, or black, or any blue-based colours, they would look harsh and jar against each other.
If people are really against using magnolia but want a colour that has the same positive attributes, what colour would you suggest they use instead?
KH. The equivalents of magnolia are other whites, such as ivory, oyster white and pure white.
Do you think that people often resort to magnolia because it is the easy option and they fear having to make other colour choices?
KH. For landlords and developers it takes all the hassle out of making a colour decision. Time is money for them and the quicker decisions can be made the quicker they can advertise the property for rent or sale.
I don’t know of any homeowner who has used magnolia when decorating their own home. However they do use cream, buttermilk and butter, which is interesting given it’s virtually the same colour. Perhaps it’s all in the name, eliciting a different emotional response…
And so there you have it folks, now we know all there is to know about magnolia. Like I said, please let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment. Also if any of you have any tips about living with magnolia, please do share your experiences. I am sure there are many more renters out there just like me who would love to know how to decorate or accessorise a magnolia home.
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