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Utilising Colour and Design For Mental Health

8 October 2021

Health and wellbeing is extremely important and should be a key consideration on any design project in order to counteract the stresses of modern life. This World Mental Health Day, we’re highlighting the positive impact colour can have on emotional states and how it can impact audiences.

90% of our time is spent indoors – either at school, work or home – therefore, the emotional impact of design should be a key consideration for any project. Holistic therapy focuses on a person as a whole – the mind, body and spirit – the inner and outer environment. Holistic design follows the same principles – a comprehensive review of everything from furnishings, layout, lighting, colour and then the things we don’t see, such as air quality, odours, sound and temperature.

Balance in interiors is key for successful design – tactile fabrics, decorative lighting, appealing smells, attractive colour schemes and natural elements e.g. plants all interplay to create a positive multisensory experience. In contrast, harsh sounds, nasty odours, mess, hard lighting and distracting patterns can overwhelm the senses and cause stress. A lack of stimulation can be just as bad.

When designing a space, it is essential that it meets the needs and requirements of its users, whether that be for learning, social interaction, dining, exercise or relaxation. Colour psychology explores the impact colour has on human behaviour, and while this remains an area where there is so much more to learn, continuous research is enhancing our knowledge and understanding of colour.

“Colour is so incredibly personal and we all respond differently to it. We can use it as an extension of our personalities – loud and expressive or calm and understated. It can set the tone and create a mood. All aspects of a colour can affect how it is perceived – light colours are fresher, chalky are quieter, dark tones are more grounded, mature, refined and vibrant colours are loud and energetic.”

Jemma Saunders – Crown Colour Consultant

Use these insights to inform your colour choices when designing a space:


Strong, deep red hues symbolise tradition and history and when paired with subdued lighting can create an intimate and relaxing atmosphere. More contemporary vibrant reds can make a statement and stimulate excitement.


Soft hued pinks are welcoming and can create feelings of warmth, serenity and calm, whereas strong, vibrant pinks are vivacious and fun.


Orange symbolises health and vitality. It sits on the warm end of the spectrum and like red it is regarded as a warm colour. There are many variations of orange, in addition to the bright orange colour of the fruit, from coral, to clay, copper and burnt sienna.


Yellow is regarded as uplifting and is often used in children’s classrooms or in areas of creativity. Lighter shades of yellow are gentle and fresh whereas darker, mustardy tones of yellow can insight grandeur and opulence.


Greens are seen as restful and harmonious. Paler shades of green are perceived as fresh and cooling; yellow-greens tend to be energising and are more playful; blue-green shades often evoke calmness and clarity; and darker greens can be reminiscent of forests and are seen as stable and constant.


Blue sits at the opposite end of the spectrum to red and where red is warming and energising blue is cool and calming. Dark blues are sophisticated and serious whereas pale blues are seen to have tranquil effects as they suggest openness and air.


Purple is a colour long associated with royalty. Dark purples create a moody atmosphere and work well combined with rich sumptuous textures. Lavender is often used in holistic therapies for its sedative and relaxing benefits.


White walls styled with minimal colour or accessories create an understated and tranquil ambience. White in an interior can make a space feel larger as it reflects more light and opens up a space or it can act as a backdrop for stronger colours.


Neutrals refer to a broad spectrum of colours that contain little colour pigment. Neutrals are classic and timeless colours that can be used as a backdrop allowing statement colours in furniture and furnishings to shine and is definitely not just limited to magnolia!


Greys are versatile in an interior, they work with a multitude of hues and are regarded as low intensity colours. They can be warm or cool and lend themselves well to modern spaces.


Over recent years there has been an increase in black interiors, black walls, finishes and furniture, and contrary to popular belief, small spaces can suit dark interiors. Monotone schemes can be restful and calming when balanced with a sympathetic use of light.

These guidelines are not set in stone and will be slightly different between various audiences and cultures. Afterall… it’s not just paint, it’s personal.

Speak to a Crown Colour Expert today to get expert advice on utilising colour to its full potential to create the perfect environment.

If you or someone you know are looking for mental health advice or support at this time, visit Mind for expert guidance.