Whether you are renovating your whole house or re-styling one room, deciding on the right colour scheme can be the trickiest part of the process. In this article, by the ‘right colour scheme’, I mean a scheme that will make your home feel how you want it to feel. That will bring harmony and positively support your wellbeing, emotionally as well as physically. Learning how to create a colour scheme for wellbeing at home perfectly combines the skills of interior design and colour psychology to improve your living environment.
By connecting with our instinctive love of the natural world we can follow the principles of biophilic design to improve both mental health and emotional wellbeing at home. Using biophilic colour schemes in interior design for the living room, dining room or bedroom for instance can affect our behaviour around what we do in those rooms. Is the colour conducive to minimising stress and relaxing in the living room, enjoyng food in the dining room or sleeping in the bedroom?
Biophilic colour considers how the different colours in nature work together in harmony. Outdoors in the natural environment, we see such an array of colours that vary from pale tinted pastels, to softer greyed tones, to richer darker shades and some brighter more saturated, or high chroma colours. Essentially nature never gets it wrong. These groups of colours are tonal harmonies which work together with the natural light and in nature, colours are always seen in tonal harmony.
Firstly let's start with the 4 different groups. I am going to talk you through 4 colour groups. By choosing one of these groups to work with – the one that resonates best with you and creates the feeling you want to create in your home – you’ll be well on your way to creating the perfect colour scheme for your home and your mental wellbeing.
Colours can be broadly described by how light or dark they are, and how brightly saturated they are. The four groups of colours are - tints, tones, shades and pure hues. Let’s explore these colour groups which are the key to understanding how to create the perfect colour scheme for your home and wellbeing. To do this, we’ll use nature’s palettes to illustrate the 4 colour groups.
Nature is a great way to explore colours for your home. Due to the characteristics of natural light, colours in nature are always seen grouped in tonal harmonies. This is due to seasonal changes, daylight variations from dawn to dusk as well as diffused light due to the weather.
The key to creating the perfect colour scheme for your home, which benefits your wellbeing, is to discover which tonal harmony group resonates most with you and creates the feeling and mood you wish to bring into your home.
Tints are colours with white added to them. They are low-mid chroma colours. They have delicate freshness about them. Delicate Spring flowers come to mind when we think of this group. Think of spring-like pastels, new leaf greens and primrose yellows or apple blossom pinks. These colours also have an early morning light quality to them. They can have a joyful and uplifting feel without being too vibrant and energetic. Imagine these colours. How do you feel surrounded by low chroma spring-like pastels?
Grey-toned palettes are in abundance in our climate. But this doesn’t mean a dreary grey scheme! As the sunlight is diffused by a scattering of clouds the skies and landscapes are softened and we experience a multi-tonal layering of colour. Imagine celadon, sage and khaki greens on a hillside in dappled sunlight, or the dusky apricots and pinks that mix with neutrals as the light filters through the afternoon clouds. Picture the journey through the seasons. As summer matures, the colours soften into an array of sun-scorched tones, which become gently faded towards the end of the summer into quiet and more muted colours. These lower chroma colours demand less attention and are often found to feel more relaxing and calming. How do you feel about these softer pared-back colours?
Shades are colours with some black mixed in. This may only be a hint, so these colours are not all dark, but they have a richness and depth to them. Autumn’s alchemical magic transforms the landscape into a rich glow and an array of earthy hues with a dramatic flush of colour. This spectacle is a great example of shades in nature. Reflect on these colours for a moment, what sort of mood do these rich shades create for you? The light has changed at this time of year and we see colours with black undertones. Also imagine witnessing the jewel-like colours of a dramatic sunset. How the forest leaves darken in the evening, or the ocean has a teal green appearance in the wintery light.
Imagine the lush green growth of an early summer meadow under a cobalt blue sky when the midday light is at maximum, strong and vibrant. These are high energy colours. Image a room filled with bright, energetic colours. Do you find this invigorating or slightly overwhelming? What sort of room would suit these colours? If you feel uplifted and energized by pure saturated colours, these may not be the best choice for a room where you wish to relax or sleep. They would be better suited to a social space.
Nature's tones give us a great starting point for home décor colours. But what is important is how nature’s tonal harmonies makes you feel and the behavioural responses they trigger.
Looking at the colours in the 4 groups is there one that resonates with you? Do you have a sense that the style of your home aligns with one particular group? Perhaps you recognise your favourite colours in one of the groups? Alternatively you may just feel inexplicably drawn to one group in particular. Most people experience this and are drawn to a particular one group within the tonal harmony spectrum. Be this tints or tones, or somewhere in between.
It is important to realise that there is no right or wrong answer in this process. Everyone will have a different answer. These exercises are simply guides in our journey to help us in understanding we react to colour. The key to understanding how to create the perfect colour scheme for your home and wellbeing is to work with your tonal harmony preferences. Choose the colour group that you think creates the right feel for your home.
Use these colour harmony groups as guidelines and you will create combinations that work beautifully. But these are not rules set in stone, feel free to shake it up a bit if this works for you and add an accent colour from another colour group, for example. It’s all about creating your feel-good home.
The next step is to play around with colour proportions and placement to find the right mix for you… deciding which paint colours to choose for the walls and ceiling, and which to add as flooring and everything else in between.
The Claire Gaudion Biophilic Colour Course is available for you to study online at home in your own time. Are you're a home owner looking to create harmonious schemes for your living spaces? Or perhaps you're an interior designer wanting to bring a sense of wellbeing into spaces you design. If you'd like to explore this topic in more depth to discover which natural tonal harmonies work best for your spaces and how to use them, click over to our online colour course to discover how nature’s colours can create a feel-good home.
"This course is delivered as a well balanced combination of text, videos and tasks that enables the participant to look at the use of colour from another dimension. The structure of the course gives a good understanding of Biophilic design principles, the flow of colour in nature and our emotional response. Combined it allows us to design a space that embraces all this knowing that the results will enhance our health and wellbeing." Anna Thomas, Interior Designer, Creative Interiors.
Learn exactly how to use nature's colours in harmony with your home. Explore the human relationship between colour and nature. This will unlock the key to how to confidently and effectively design a happy home which perfectly suits your personality whilst also promotes the principles of wellbeing at home. If you find yourself confused by the endless choices of paint charts and in a state overwhelm when it comes to making interior design decisions, this course will help you develop a sense of of biophilic colour and the effect it can have on emotional wellbeing .
You may also be interested in reading more around this subject. This approach brings together research findings from Colour Psychology experts Angela Wright and Biophilic design research by Terrapin Bright Green and Stephen Kellert. You may also enjoy Karen Haller’s Little Book of Colour, which further explores Wright’s colour work and Sally Coulthard’s wonderful book, Biophilia : You + Nature + Home.
Angela Wright, 1998, The Beginner's Guide to Colour Psychology Paperback. Kyle Cathie.
Karen Haller, 2019, The Little Book of Colour: How to Use the Psychology of Colour to Transform Your Life. Penguin Life.
Lisa Wilms and Daniel Oberfeld, 2018, Color and emotion: effects of hue, saturation, and brightness. Psychological Research, 82:896-914.
Sally Coulthard, 2020, Biophilia : You + Nature + Home. Kyle Books.
Dr. Stephen Kellert, 2018, Nature by Design: The Practice of Biophilic Design. Yale University Press.
Terrapin Bright Green, 2014, 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design– improving health & well-being in the built environment