Rooms evoke emotions, whether we are conscious of them or not. For instance, libraries often make us feel calm, while bars and restaurants usually evoke excitement or happiness. Institutions where several types and ages of people gather may have areas that vacillate between a relaxed feel and an upbeat one. However, why is this? Psychological research suggests it may be because of the lighting and coloring people use when decorating. Exterior lighting, like that done by Texas Outdoor Lighting for the Alamo, can also have an effect on the mood of a building or property.
The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) explains that “warm” and “cool” lighting are not just terms invented to describe how a person feels around a blue vs. a red light. These are terms used to describe actual color temperature, measured on the Kelvin scale (K). Furthermore, the Kelvin scale’s interpretation of color temperature works conversely. That is, a lighting device with a low Kelvin scale temperature (3500K or less) brings out “warmer” colors like red and orange. To get the full effects of cooler colors, one needs a device of 4000K or more, whereas for a neutral color like white, one needs lighting to be in the middle range of these two numbers.
So then, how does color impact how we feel and interact? As with color temperature, this can sometimes be counterintuitive to what we logically conclude. Large public places, such as clubs or casinos, most often use red, orange, or yellow lighting. These “warm” colors cause subconscious reactions in patrons so they are more inclined to eat, gamble, speak loudly and generally act in a more sanguine manner. But these same warm colors can be toned down; if bright red lighting is turned to burgundy, it’s likely guests will feel less sanguine and more sensual.
In fact, some research suggests that because red is an “emotionally intense” color, varying degrees of it can lead to heightened sexual feelings. Similarly, a casino or restaurant that uses bright orange lighting may be catering to customers’ passions, but one that tones the orange down to gold is probably trying to show the establishment is high-end, respected, and expensive.
Green, blue, and purple—the “cool” colors—are associated with calm. This may be why you often see them in medical offices: the professionals are trying to reassure patients. But these colors can do much more than slow the heart rate and bring peace. For example, because “dark blue represents knowledge and seriousness,” many schools use blue in their decorating. Churches may decorate with dark purple, not only because of its representation of royalty, but because it can evoke “sadness or frustration,” which can lead to repentant feelings.
Even a color thought to promote negative emotions or deprive people can be useful. Blue is known as an appetite suppressant, so someone trying to lose weight may want to cook or eat in a blue room. Also, when making his 1995 film A Little Princess, director Alfonso Cuaron used dark green to underscore villain Miss Minchin’s “greed and ambition,” while using warmer, lighter greens to brighten the moods of scenes where Minchin did not appear. Cuaron also used a lot of olive green, which is “the traditional color of peace.”
Color does have a temperature, and that temperature can evoke emotion or even action in the people who see it. Used correctly, color can enhance everything.