The Best Color for Every Room in Your House, According to Science
Picking the perfect paint colors for your home can be a little like winning the lottery. Which is to say, between Pinterest trends and the rainbow of swatches at Sherwin-Williams, it’s really, really hard to do. If you’re looking to narrow it down, there’s another factor you might want to consider: science.
For guidance, we asked Sally Augustin—psychologist, principal at consulting firm Design with Science and expert in how environments influence people—to shed some light on the way different colors affect our moods, and how that translates to your abode.
Ahead, the psychologically beneficial shades you might want to put on your walls (and a few to avoid). Thanks, science!
For the Bedroom: Try Dusty Blue
Blue is universally a color we associate with calm and rest, perhaps because of evolutionary associations with clear skies and water sources. (Studies actually show that people get more sleep in blue bedrooms.) Keep the shade low in saturation and high in brightness (aka muted and not too dark) for maximum benefit.
It might be next to blue on the color wheel, but it can actually lead to the worst sleep quality.
For the Home Office: Try Sage Green
Green is associated with creative thinking, and primes your mental state for work. This may have something to do with the fact that it reminds you of nature, which can help clear your mind. Again, a less-saturated shade like sage is ideal, because you don’t want to over-stimulate.
Remember those red-pen mark-ups your teachers made on grade-school assignments? Believe it or not, we carry that association into adulthood. Augustin maintains that being exposed to red even for a short amount of time can degrade analytical performance.
For the Kitchen: Try Poppy...or Cobalt
This one’s tricky because it depends on the effect you want. Warmer, more saturated tones like red and orange stimulate appetite—but if you’re trying to curb your urge to raid the fridge, blue has the opposite effect. Either way, kitchens are one room where more saturated, vibrant hues are OK: An energetic vibe is usually welcome when you’re making breakfast.
Avoid: Greenish Yellow
Interestingly, yellow is the least favorite color overall worldwide, but often favored for kitchens. Once you add a hint of green, it reads as sickly (definitely not a feeling you want near food).
For the Bathroom or Vanity: Try Blush Pink
While white is associated with cleanliness and purity, it can also make a room feel stark. Pink, on the other hand, creates the most flattering environment for all skin tones, and can even make you feel slightly warmer when you step out of the shower. But you don’t have to go full-on Barbie to get the effect: A subtle rose quartz feels fresh and modern with the right fixtures.
Bathrooms tend to be small, and nobody wants to be trapped in an enclosed space that’s visually assaulting them.
For the Living Room: Try Warm Sand
Since this is a multipurpose space—you’re just as likely to spend time reading as you are chatting with friends—you could make arguments for both saturated and muted colors. However, Augustin says to err on the side of relaxing tones, because social situations (hopefully) generate enough energy, and a vibrant room can be overkill. Something on the warm side, like a pale sienna, boosts the coziness factor. (Psst: Exposed brick also happens to fit this profile.)
Avoid: Anything Too Dark or Saturated
While some bold colors can add drama to a living room, too many deep tones can feel oppressive. The one time that’s a good thing? If you have a snug alcove or reading nook you want to make cocoon-like. There, a dark taupe or slate gray might be just the ticket.