Color psychology

Color is a factor in design that is as enigmatic as nature.  Color Psychology is the study of how color affects the human mind and behavior, and it is especially relevant when it comes to architecture and home design. Color is the first thing people notice when they look at an object or walk into a room, so the color palette your choose will affect peoples mood and emotion. Gast Home suggests color palettes based on your individual preferences (there are infinite options for color palettes), but you need to be methodical to select colors and a color palette that achieves the mood you are looking to create.

Many people have researched and written about color theory and color psychology.  In 1798, Goethe and Schiller published “Theory of Color,” and created the color wheel below to depict and link the relationship between colors and the character traits of people.  He placed the primary colors blue, red, and yellow placed opposite in his circle, with the combination of these shown as secondary colors between them.  There is nothing unusual about this.  But then he denoted positivity with the warm colors on the right side, and negativity with the left.  Additionally, he tied the twelve colors on his wheel to twelve occupations grouped within four temperaments: tyrants, heroes, adventurers, hedonists, lovers, poets, public speakers, historians, teachers, philosophers, pedantic, rulers, grouped in the four temperaments: choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic.  

Goethe called it a diagram of the human mind, attributing color aspects to explain the complex behavior of humans, believing that colors contain emotional content.  While Goethe’s color theory is not science, and his occupations and categories are questionable, it does provide an interesting launching point to discuss the emotional attributes of individual colors.  


Tones of red lead to feelings of arousal, passion, excitement, aggression, and importance.  As a dominating color, red adds gravity to a room and heightened awareness.  The color red has been shown to increase breathing rates, blood circulation, and metabolism.  

The color red should be used cautiously.  When used sparingly, red can successfully attract attention, but when used excessively it can prevent relaxation.   

Darker red can provide an impression of dignity and gravity.  Lighter red can transmit an impression of grace and emphasize the energetic aspects of red.


Happy, friendly, warning.  Yellow is the closest color to white.  Therefore by nature it has brightness, so it is able to stimulate and revitalize.  It can have a gentle nature but also be exciting. Lighter shades play on happiness, reminding people of the sun and summer.  Darker shades (including gold) give a sense of antiquity.

Like red it is able to stimulate, but yellow should be used sparingly because of the potential negative connotations (think safety warning signs).


A mixture of red and yellow, orange has the qualities of both, but to a lesser degree.  It is the color of energy and enthusiasm.


Green is comforting and balancing, and the color is pleasurable to the human eye.  Green most direct representation is nature, the environment, and the outdoors.  As a bridge between the stimulating warm colors (red, yellow, orange) and the calming, cool colors (blue, purple), green is the most balanced of all colors, projecting stability.  


Blue has a unique and almost indescribable effect on humans.  It is a contradiction between excitement and repost, but it is the color of trust.  Certain tones of blue lead to feelings of relaxation, while others lead to stimulation.  To read more of our research on the color blue, click here.


Purple, a mixture of blue and red, displays maturity and experience.  In a lighter shade it expresses mysticism and even melancholy.  Darker purples express luxury, royalty and dignity.


Interior wall colors

The default color for interior walls in new homes is white, and we feel that ignores a lot of opportunity. It is worth discussing the basic emotions of different colors.

Interplay of different colors

One of the most influential books on color ever published is Josef Alber’s Interation of Color.  The original book published in 1963 had 150 silkscreened color plates.  It showed Alber’s revolutionary color exercises, explaining concepts like color relativity, vibrating and vanishing boundaries thru the use of color, shape, movable flaps, and die-cut forms.  Alber’s main point was to demonstrate the changing and relative nature of color, depending on the surrounding context.  Often, the success of a color choice is dependent on the surrounding colors.

Colors for cabinets, countertops, and backsplashes

Understanding how colors work together is especially important when choosing your cabinets, countertops, and backsplashes.  You can choose bold colors to make a statement, but they need to work with the existing colors in the room.  This is why many people choose neutral colors, however even so these colors should be chosen with all of the other colors in the room in mind.  Even if you are choosing a white color for cabinets, all paint suppliers will mix true white with a range of colors, including green, yellow, gold, so every “white” will lean towards one or two colors. Also, if you have a lot of natural light, you can use more of an off-white color, but if you lack natural light, you want to stay lighter in color to reflect the maximum amount of light.

Furniture and accessorY Colors

The colors of your couches and chairs, and even pillows and lights are important and need to be selected in tandem with your surface colors.  They can add emotion if they work well with the colors of your walls, ceilings, and floors.

Lighting Effect on color perception

The perception of color is highly dependent on lighting. Sunlight intensity affects how the colors of walls and other objects are seen. For exterior walls, reds and oranges work better in sunny areas, while blues and greens work better in cloudy areas. Different light sources also affect the perception of color. Hues of colors seen under natural sunlight may vary substantially when seen with incandescent or LED light-bulbs. Darker colors may appear even darker, and light colors may appear more orange or brown.

Temperature Affects color perception

At the same time, color preference may depend on ambient temperature. People who are cold prefer warm interior colors like red and yellow, while people who are hot prefer cool colors like blue and green.