Colour Psychology: Using Yellow in Interiors

Sunshine on a rainy day

Image 1. Janicskovsky‘s Photos on Flickr Image 2. Lemon Cookies via Pinterest (source unknown) Image 3. Lemons via Decor8

I’m not really one to follow trends, I tend to stick with what I like and what appeals to me on a personal level rather than following fashion. However, just sometimes there are a few trends that come along and I can’t help but get caught up in the furore. And this is exactly what has happened to me recently with yellow.

I’ve never really liked yellow, and in fact I would even go so far as to say it was my least favourite colour. That is until a few months ago when I suddenly developed a really strong love for this bright and vibrant hue. So I started to ask myself what exactly it was that made me discover my new love for yellow.

Karen Haller

Luckily for me this is where colour expert and consultant Karen Haller stepped in to offer me her insights into the new-found popularity of yellow. Here she answers my questions and gives us her tips and advice on how to make the most of this sunny colour and how to use it to its maximum potential in interiors.

Why is colour so important in interior design?

KH. Colour affects us physiologically, therefore we cannot underestimate the powerful effect a colour or combination of colours used will have on those who use the space.

Image 1: ArtQuitect Edition bathroom suite by Jaime Hayon. Image 2: Chef bathroom range by Rapsel. Image 3: Softskin bathroom range by Omvivo. All images via Trendir

We are seeing quite a fair bit of yellow in interiors this year. Why do you think that is?

KH. The trend colours we see today are retrospective, a reaction to influencing factors two to three years prior. So if we think of what was happening two or three years ago, we saw the economy taking a nose dive. Yellow was possibly chosen for its positive psychological qualities: creating happiness, optimism and confidence for the future.

Yellow & Grey Bedroom by designer David Jimenez via Desire to Inspire

What are the main psychological properties of the colour yellow?

KH. As with every colour there are positive and negative psychological properties. Positive qualities for yellow are happiness, optimism, confidence.  Being surrounded by too much yellow, the wrong yellow for you or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones within the colour scheme and the negative qualities could present themselves such as irrationality, anxiety hence the expression ‘yellow streak’.

How can we best harness the positives effects of yellow in our interior design schemes?

KH. By using the right shade of yellow that resonates with you.  Using it in the right proportions and in the right rooms.

Yellow & Grey ensuite bedroom designed by Tracery Interiors. Image via Audrey’s Design Blog

How important is it to choose the right shade of yellow?

KH. The right shade of yellow will be the one that resonates with you. To pick one that doesn’t will create disharmony with you and the negative psychological properties of yellow may, over time, be felt. Pick the yellow that resonates with you, not because it’s in fashion or because everyone else has it. The colours you pick are an expression of your personality. Yellows range from creams, daffodil and sunflower yellows, through to acid yellows.

Yellow & White Hallway via Hus & Hem on Flickr

Are there any rooms in the house that particularly lend themselves to yellow and any where it should be avoided? If so why?

KH. The best rooms in which to use yellow are hallways as these are usually dark and yellow is a welcoming colour and also in the breakfast room to help create a sunny, happy way to start the day.

It is best to avoid using yellow in the bedroom. Yellow being one of thepsychological primaries, relates to the emotions. To sleep in a room that is decorated using yellow will mean that over time you’ll wake up irritable and annoyed. Even when you’re asleep the psychological properties of a colour are still at work! Babies’ frequencies are very sensitive so avoid using cream, which also contains yellow.

In interiors at the moment we are seeing quite a bit of yellow paired with white or grey. Why does this combination work so well? What other colours should yellow be teamed with for best effect?

KH. Pairing colours together can be trend led which I believe is happening with the pairing of grey.  Depending on the strength of the yellow perhaps grey is being used to tone the yellow down.

Yellow and its tonal white (cream, white, ivory, oyster) looks fresh, lively, happy.  We’ll be seeing a lot of it during Spring.

The Frank Collection available at Heal’s

Complementary scheme – yellow and purple.  If you find you have used too much yellow in your scheme and you feel a bit overwhelmed you can easily counteract this with the addition of purple.  It’s psychological properties help to balance those of yellow.

Yellow & Purple Living Room Image via Osborne & Little

If you’re after a calm scheme, look at using an analogous colour scheme.  That is where you use colours that site next to each other on the colour wheel. It is considered calm because there is no strong leap between the colours. For yellow that would be yellow – orange – red.  Team this with a neutral e.g with the white from the same colour family (cream, white, ivory, oyster).

What are your tips for using colour successfully?

To create a truly harmonious colour scheme use colours from the same colour family.

The key is to use colours in varying proportions. Identify which is your primary colour, secondary and accent colours.

Image by photographer Eric Piasecki via Despire to Inspire
Yellow, White & Purple Bedroom. Image via Emily A Clark
Yellow and White bedroom. Image by Photographer Douglas Friedman via My First little Place

So how do you feel about yellow? Where would you use it? And in combination with which other colours?

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