Colour Psychology: Using Yellow in Interiors

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A kitchen featuring yellow blinds from Blinds2Go

Dandelion Mobile Sunflower Yellow roller blind by MissPrint from Blinds2Go

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.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A velvet yellow chair from Atkin & Thyme in the corner of a living room with a side table beside it and yellow curtains behind

Astoria Armchair In Mustard Yellow Velvet from Atkin & Thyme

We are seeing more and more people using 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.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. Yellow and gret floor tiles from Original Style seen from above

Hawthorn Yellow Dover White and Holkham Dune Victorian Floor Tiles from Original Style in a Brighton Pattern

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 using yellow in interiors?

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

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A dining table in front of bench seating with a window behind. Wall painted in yellow paint from Benjamin Moore

Hawthorne Yellow HC 4 Regal® Select Matte by Benjamin Moore

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.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A yellow arm chair against a yellow wall. Wood flooring from Carpetright.

SS19 Kahrs Tres Erve Matt Lacquered Wood Flooring from Carpetright

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.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A modular sofa from Tom Tailor Home with sections in yellow and grey in a living room

Modulsofa Elements from Tom Tailor Home

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.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A yellow bedspread and yellow cushions from The French Bedroom company on a bed in a white room

Dove Grey and Yellow Velvet Pom Poms Cushion from the French Bedroom Company

The 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.  Its psychological properties help to balance those of yellow.

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).

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. Yellow blinds from English Blinds on a window behind a dining table

Yellow Blinds Luxury Dining Room Roller Blinds from English Blinds

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.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors. A wall painted in Aurora York Harbour Yellow from Benjamin Moore

Aura York Harbor Yellow 2154 40 from Benjamin Moore

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

Pantone Colour of the Year 2021 - Illuminating. The colour psychology behind using yellow in interiors.

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