The Power of Color

A room’s decor isn’t just a matter of personal style. Surrounding yourself with the right hues can boost your mood, productivity, and imagination. Maybe you are due for some redecorating.

Could your work or study space use a pick-me-up? Adding color is a simple and fast way to show some flair. No news there. But what you may not know is that science shows that color can influence your mood and productivity. (Yep, researchers are studying paint swatches.) Even if you don’t have complete control over the decor, something as small as a picture, desk accessory, or plant can impact the room, says Katherine Morris, PhD, an environmental psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area.

Check out these color characteristics to find the right hue for your space.

Blue
A cool backdrop is helpful if you work under stressful deadlines or need to establish quiet and concentration. Blue is emotionally calming because it reminds us of the sea and sky, say color experts. Research has also suggested that blue boosts creativity and brainstorming.

Red
This stimulating shade is an acknowledged attention grabber, so it’s easy to understand why red increases energy and helps with productivity. You may also find it helpful when it’s time to study, proofread papers, or crunch numbers. According to one study, participants who were exposed to images of a red background performed better on tests of attention to detail. However, too much red may be overstimulating, says Morris, who advises using the hot hue in small doses. Start with a splash in a piece of artwork or on a mouse pad.

Green
Transplant nature to your desk with a potted plant or scenic picture. Research has shown that exposure to greenery has soothing emotional and physical benefits. You can also visually expand a tight office or dorm room by painting it green or incorporating green textiles or a small area rug. “It’s Mother Nature’s ubiquitous color, so it serves as a mental trigger that you’re outside and your space is limitless,” says Leatrice Eiseman, a color expert and the author of Color: Messages and Meanings.

Yellow
Want to encourage communication with your colleagues? Yellow is an undeniably cheerful choice and adds a warm and inviting vibe to your surroundings. “Yellow fosters a happy atmosphere and a sense of sociability, so it’s appropriate for meeting rooms and collaborative spaces,” says Eiseman. No worries if you’re in a cubicle, try filling your space with bright yellow desk accessories or a few accent pillows.

Neutrals
Brown, beige, or taupe are generally considered a safe palette in interior design circles. Turns out these warm earthtones may actually make you feel safe too. Neutral shades convey a sense of balance, comfort, and ease, which makes them a nice choice for home-away-from-home spaces. Neutrals can also be very practical if you work in design or have to tackle creative projects, says Eiseman. These noncolors act like a blank canvas and are less distracting than brighter colors.

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