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The Emotional Effect Of Color



Color, because of its emotional effect upon us, is largely responsible for the atmosphere of a home. It is capable of soothing or irritating, cheering or depressing, charming or boring, welcoming or repelling. A color changes in emotional value if its hue, value, or intensity is changed. To illustrate: pure blue will have a different effect from greenish blue which is unlike it in hue, or from baby blue which is different from it in value, or from grayish blue which does not agree with it in intensity. An important thing for a decorator to know is how to use color for its emotional effect. Different colors excite different emotional responses, although some people are more sensitive than others and more responsive.

Yellow, which is the color of the sun and artificial light, has an effect of cheerfulness, gayety, buoyancy, optimism, exultation, sympathy, and even prosperity. It almost sings and shouts. For centuries it was considered a sacred color in China.

In home decoration yellow is indispensable, because more than any other color it gives the effect of light. The modified yellows, such as buff, cream, ivory, beige, ecru, and pale lime yellow, are the most useful wall colors there are, because they have the happy faculty of pulling together and harmonizing the colors used in curtains, carpet, and chairs. Yellow is a friend to the person with a limited income because it has the power of making inexpensive cottons, linens, and woolens look beautiful. Gilt and gold color are valuable in bringing life to sober rooms. A plain gold Japanese screen will bring cheer to a dull room of the more elegant type. Small objects of yellow in the living room supply permanent sunshine in it.

Orange, a color named after the fruit, is the brightest, most stimulating, and most decorative hue that exists. It possesses the qualities of both red and yellow, and in its pure state it is so warm that it should be used only in small quantities. It expresses energy, spirit, hope, courage, and cordiality.

One of the most-used colors in decoration is orange in its neutralized forms, some of which are tan, peach, rust, cedar, and copper. These soft warm colors are highly desirable colors for living-room backgrounds, that is, ceilings, walls, and floor coverings. They radiate hospitality and cheer. They are autumn colors and should be used especially in autumn and winter furnishings.

Brown, that most useful of colors, is being recognized again after a period of unpopularity. The brown period, or Mission Period, was a reaction against the ugly reds and greens used by the previous generation. But the reformists carried their crusade so far that walls, woodwork, carpets, upholstery, and drapery became brown, and the color very naturally fell into disfavor.

Red is the color of fire and blood. It is expressive of primitive passion, war, vigor, power, movement, aggression, boldness, and force. Red is one of the most beloved of colors. An explanation for this may be that red is the color of fire, and since for untold years the fire at the mouth of the cave of primitive man was his protection and comfort, his descendants may have inherited some of his feeling of pleasure in its color.

In decoration, red gives the impression of splendor, warmth, hospitality, and exhilaration. It is cheerful but not restful, and so must be used discreetly. There are fine reds, such as the Chinese red, which can be used without modification in small quantities, as for example on a chair, in book covers or flowers, or as a note in the drapery coloring. There are also rich reds that are used freely in Italian and Spanish rooms. Reds are usually modified, however. The color known as rose is a favorite variation. Dark, dull, raspberry red has proved to be a successful color for carpets. Pink, which is a tint of red, is usually liked by women; in decoration it is best to use it in large quantities but much softened. Pink and green together are to be avoided. Pink and blue are not much better, but if the pink is somewhat orchid and the blue has a violet quality they are then related and are likely to be satisfactory.

Magenta is the favorite color of modern decorators. It is a vivid red -purple and is extremely decorative. It is an exciting color, yet the purple element in it makes it mysterious and a bit restrained. It is particularly good with purple and vermilion, its neighbors. This color combination calls up a picture of the Russian ballet, which brought to America almost its first experience in pure color. When using magenta in decoration it is well to have it in small areas such as flowers. A certain successful room using pale violet-blues has magenta window blinds.

Purple is made of red and blue, which possess quite opposite characteristics and when mixed cancel each other's effect, so that purple is somewhat gentle and vague. It suggests mystery, dignity, reflection, mourning, philosophical musing, and twilight. Originally, the pigment came from certain shellfish and was so rare that only royalty used the color-hence the name royal purple.

Purple paint is the bane of the house decorator as it is hard to mix and is likely to fade. A pink glaze over a bright blue coat of paint makes a satisfactory purple, but the process can not be reversed. Artificial light turns purple into brown at night, so that by deliberately exaggerating this effect it is possible to have one color scheme by day and a different one by night.

Blue is the color of night skies and deep water, and so is associated with coolness. It expresses distance, spaciousness, loftiness, dignity, calmness, serenity, reserve, formality, restraint, lack of sympathy, and coldness. In decoration it acts as a check or an antidote for too much warmth. However, it tends to separate distinctly whatever colored objects are placed against it and so is valuable in a display window. Blues are not so friendly with one another as other colors are, and therefore have to be selected with additional care under both daylight and artificial light. Since blue is not an aggressive color, it does not have to be neutralized as much as some of the other colors. There are pale green-blues that are successful as wall colors for south bedrooms. The pale blue tint known as baby blue is about the most anemic color that exists.

Green is the color of grass, leaves, and vegetables and naturally suggests rest, cool shade, and refreshment-all pleasant things. Green is considered beneficial to the eyes, nerves, and disposition, because it is cheerful yet calming, and invigorating although restful. Some colorists say that green has negative qualities as well as positive ones and that it suggests envy, jealousy, and ill health. Since it is composed of yellow and blue, one warm and one cool color, it may be used with cool or warm schemes, as it appears warm if enough yellow is added or cool if more blue is added. There is such a large variety of usable greens that it is possible to find one that is harmonious with any scheme. Green is a good background color. Some pure greens are used in modern schemes, but generally greens are modified. Green ceilings or walls are likely to reflect an unbecoming color on the occupants of the room; however, pale green walls are often used. If greens are used in the country they should harmonize with the foliage, but green is less necessary for decoration in the country than in town. Green can be used also on the exteriors of houses.

Neutral Colors. Black, white, and gray are the only pure neutrals. Generally speaking, however, the term neutral refers not only to these, but also to all the tans, beiges, sand colors, and browns that have no very definite color of their own.

Black and White. As no more powerful contrast is possible than black and white, it should be handled with care. Black and white floors should be used only in palatial rooms that require ornamental floors because of their size and emptiness.

Black can be used to good advantage with dark colors, but in a light color scheme it gives too much contrast and makes other colors appear faded. Black is mournful if used in large areas, but accents of it are smart. Thin black lines of tiles or paint in bathrooms or kitchens look very stringy. Black carpets are sometimes satisfactory with modern or Oriental furnishings, but they require constant care as they show all marks and dust.

Large quantities of white suggest the cool cleanliness of hospitals. In small amounts it brings a cheerful sparkle to a room. Pure white is best with cool colors, but creams or off-white colors are more harmonious in warm schemes.

Gray. Gray may be produced by mixing black and white, or by mixing complements. In either case it is the result of fusing opposites and therefore has no particular character of its own, except that in light tints it is gentle and serene, and in dark shades it is sober, gloomy, and dignified.

Grays may be warm or cool. A pale warm gray containing either yellow or violet makes an acceptable wall color with gray or painted furniture and woodwork, but is out of key with brown woods. A dark gray wall that would make a suitable background for etchings or drawings can be made by glazing a dark gray over a white wall and stippling. Gray-stained wood in doors and furniture is more unusual than brown, and is pleasant where a cool effect is desired. It prevents the exchange of furniture between rooms, however, unless all one's wooden furniture is gray or painted. A dominance of gray in a home too often indicates a lack of imagination on the part of the owner.



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