Bright and energising or warm and relaxing: how different colours affect your home

A colour chart for wall paints lies spread out on a table: when decorating and furnishing your home, colour selection is critical.
Selecting colours is hard when there is so much choice – which is why you should consider their effects. © istock

You not only want your walls to look good; you want them to make a lasting impression too. So as well as choosing the right furniture and lighting, you should carefully consider which colours to use. Here’s how colours can create just the right atmosphere in any room. But there’s no need to repaint your entire home either – you can easily add colour with new decorative elements instead.

Use colours properly

If you want to make your home more colourful, you should first think about a colour concept. Bare in mind that you don’t have to make an entire room one colour. It’s more important to have a mix of energising and soothing shades, and the right balance of colours. The rule of thumb is to decorate two-thirds of a room in calming colours, and the remaining third in a more bright and vibrant shade.

To prevent the room from being too over the top, use a maximum of three different colours. You can vary shades by mixing in black or white paint to make a colour darker or lighter, all while sticking to the same colour scheme.

If you don’t want to repaint your walls straight away, there are a few clever ways you can quickly transform a room with a new colour, at very little cost.

Define the purpose of the room

In colour theory, every colour is associated with a specific effect. You should therefore select a new colour scheme based on what you want to use a room for. Colours can alter the entire atmosphere of a room, making a room appear bigger – or smaller – than it actually is.

Generally speaking, bright, bold colours make a room look smaller. They are, however, real eye-catchers that can be combined nicely with accent colours. Meanwhile, light, pastel shades make a room seem larger, but may not make as big an impression.

  • Light, cool pastel shades or glossy colours can make a room seem bigger than it is.
  • You can make rooms with low ceilings seem bigger by painting the ceiling in a light shade, with the wall paint finishing right at the edge of the ceiling.

Want a room with accent colours?

Yellow furniture and cushions add a touch of colour to a lounge-diner.
Yellow accents really catch the eye. © –

You can achieve bold, vibrant contrasts with complementary colours – so colours that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. Take blue and orange, green and red, or yellow and purple, for example. Too much for you? Then experiment with a bold accent colour instead: furniture and cushions in striking yellow hues are easy to add and will really catch the eye. Red combined with light shades such as white, beige or vanilla also creates dynamic accents. Your kitchen or living room would be the ideal place for optical highlights like this.

Want your room to be uplifting and energising?

A clock and a shelf with kitchen utensils on it, mounted on a yellow wall.
Just painting one wall in your kitchen yellow will make it much more vibrant. © istock

Bright yellow is a good choice: it lifts the mood, boosts creativity and, when combined with green or blue, can make you feel more cheery. Paired with red, orange or pink, the room will have an energising effect. For rooms where you spend more time, pastel yellows are more suitable. After all, too much of an energising effect can become exhausting over time.

For rooms that get little daylight, or for the office, ideal colours include yellowish shades of blue such as turquoise.


Want your room to be peaceful and calming?

A living room with light colours and blue accents has a calming effect.
Blue is peaceful and invites you to relax in a room. © istock

Earthy tones such as brown or beige can make a room warmer and have a soothing effect, as they emit a sense of well-being and comfort. Green is also calming, while cool blue radiates tranquillity.

If you want to use contrasts, take care to choose colours that are close to one another in the colour wheel. You could also decorate a room in different shades of the same colour, for a relaxing and calming harmonious contrast.

Cool blues or a nice green colours are particularly suitable for bedrooms or living rooms as they have a relaxing effect.

Want your room to be warm and cosy?

A bedroom furnished with light-coloured furniture and light pink bedding.
Pink decorative elements and brown shades make a room more cosy and provide a sense of security. © istock

The combination of brown and yellow radiates warmth, whilst pink has a homely effect that makes you feel safe. Painting the walls a yellowish shade of red also creates a warm and homely atmosphere.

You can also create cosy corners in a room with lighting. The right kind of lighting is crucial when decorating a room, to help achieve the desired effect.