How the colors of your home can lift your mood

How the colors of your home can lift your mood

Written by Jacqui Palumbo

In Sanctuaries, a new series of CNN Styles, the best experts share interior design tips to create relaxing and inspiring home spaces.

How do the colors make us feel? This question has driven color specialist Leatrice Eiseman since childhood. As executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, he leads color trends and forecasts, as well as the decision-making process behind the company’s annual Color of the Year (the choice for 2020, Blue Classic, is proving to be a soothing color suitable for an already anxious year.)

“Each color has an innate meaning more associated with it, but it can change depending on your culture, your background, your education and your personal associations with it,” he said.

Eiseman has always used color to turn his personal spaces into sanctuaries – as a young man, he was allowed to paint his room in any color he wanted, as long as he bought the paint and did the job alone. For the envy of her friends, Eiseman opted for bold color combinations and painted everything on the furniture. Subsequently, he chose to study design and psychology in college, pursuing color psychology as his specialty.

Below, Eiseman shares his advice on the little touches that can help revive a space.

CNN: What does a shrine mean to you, and why is it important to create one in your home?

THE: I feel that a shrine may be the most important room in a house, especially now. This is a special place where you can stop, reflect and feel protected and safe. I think of the innate need that children have, from an early age, to put a large cloth or sheet on a table and create their own small private “den”. I don’t think we’ll ever lose that adult need; we simply create it on a larger scale.

With so many people stuck at home right now, how can we take advantage of the color in our living spaces to help lift our moods?

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Most people aren’t out shopping right now and can’t change the decor so easily, but you can get creative in your home. If you happen to have sheets that you don’t normally use, with colder and neutral tones, you can create a space for yourself that promotes a sense of calm. If you can paint your walls, it would be one of the best things you can do and give you a new home business.

Warmer tones, such as yellow, can be energizing. Credit: @dabito /

Otherwise, you can be creative and look around. How many blue or green objects do you have? Do you have books in those shades? And the jewels? If you have kids, you can turn it into a game with them. If you have crayons or markers at home, this is also a great creative activity, with or without children. You can also print some images and record them on tape at home or create a color corner for you.

How can color improve or change our mood or well-being?

I think it is important to keep in mind that there are no answers to magic bullets. To say that blue always generates a specific sensation would be too broad an answer. But we know through our research that colors evoke certain answers on a general level. Many people around the world have very positive associations with the blue sky, for example, because since childhood we associate it with a beautiful day. Of course, as we age, we have other experiences with color and this can change the way we feel.

Paint isn't the only way to add color to a room: a smaller decor like towels can liven up a space.

Paint isn’t the only way to add color to a room: a smaller decor like towels can liven up a space. Credit: @dabito /

In general, warmer colors are the ones that produce the most activity. If you feel depressed or your energy levels are low, the general rule would be to opt for warmer colors on the spectrum, because they are a little more engaging. They produce more animation and activities. If you want to be calmer, choose some of the colder colors of the spectrum: blue, blue-green, lavender.

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If warmer colors have been found more energetic, would you suggest those nuances for people who have difficulty staying motivated to work from home or need to generate creative inspiration?

I would like, but at the same time, when illuminated, cold colors take on more energy. Royal blue, for example, is a blue in the electric range: electric colors are brighter and more intense. And it might seem strange to speak of a warm blue, but the periwinkle tilts almost on the purple side, because it has red as an undertone. So if cool colors speak to you, choose brighter tones or warmer tones within that color family.

Pantone samples to soothe and energize (from left to right): Skydiver, Scuba Blue, Green Tea, Primrose Yellow and Tangerine.

Pantone samples to soothe and energize (from left to right): Skydiver, Scuba Blue, Green Tea, Primrose Yellow and Tangerine. Credit: Courtesy of Pantone

How do neutral tones generally make people feel?

Neutral is always considered to be calmer than anything bright. The problem with neutrals – and I know many people live in neutral tones – is that you can get bored in that setting.

But neutrals make a good background. If you have a gray sofa and rug, throw something red against it, like a pillow. Put some splashes of color around the room, even if it means bringing the red kettle from the kitchen, putting it on the dining room table and sticking some vegetables on it – something to get your attention that will help you lift the energy level.

It also seems a good time to choose some green shades to remind us of nature.

Absolutely. Green is always associated with the outdoors. There have been studies that prove it in places of care, centers for the elderly and even in apartments, bringing greener and greener into the atmosphere can be therapeutic.

If you have your own yard or garden, you can go outside and cut the things you don’t plan on cutting, even the leaves on the trees, and bring them inside. If you live in an apartment, it may be more difficult to do, but perhaps there are things you can order online to help you. You can try different creativity exercises to bring more color to your space when you can’t go out.

Which room in your home Do you consider your sanctuary and what colors are important in it?

My sun room is my first sanctuary. It is full of greenery and also surrounded by it. The important colors in the room are green and purple, with some other floral colors in the mix. The room doesn’t seem closed; it makes me feel like I’m in a peaceful garden – a place to refresh, fill and breathe.

“My sun room is my sanctuary,” said Eiseman. “The important colors in the room are green and purple, with some other floral colors in the mix.” Credit: Courtesy of Leatrice Eiseman

My other sanctuary is in my bedroom, which is mainly periwinkle blue, balanced by some accessories in warm shades. This is my reading and resting space when I want to feel more closed and welcoming. Blue tones are the main color, bringing a sense of serenity and peace.


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