Show your colours: Understanding how walls shape a room's atmosphere

By Agency

Colours on walls can help you create optical divisions within a room. You'll need to match it to the furniture though. Photos: Christin Klose/dpa

Colours have a direct impact on our well-being. If you paint all the walls of your home in white, you shouldn't be too surprised if you end up with a cool, somewhat sterile atmosphere. Needless to say, colourful walls have more of a lively and vibrant effect.

Does that mean we should banish white and switch to colour in every room?

"It depends on what effect I want to achieve," says interior designer Ines Wrusch. This should be the basis for choosing a paint colour.

White walls are widespread, given that they're practical and can be jazzed up and combined with furniture and accessories of almost any style.

"That's pretty much true. But pure brilliant white just looks neutral and boring. Softer, pastel colours are much more interesting," explains Wrusch.

Colour researcher Professor Axel Venn goes further: "Life is not much fun in all white rooms, they even create an inhospitable environment." Those who grow up in a home painted white tend to choose this supposedly practical option later on.

"In doing so, they forgo design and experimentation."

Natural-looking colours and pastels will create a feeling of comfort for most people.Natural-looking colours and pastels will create a feeling of comfort for most people.

But be careful: too much colour is not only unpleasant, it can also affect physical well-being. "Experiments have shown, for example, that a small room with red walls increases the heart rate," says Wrusch. If you want to relax, red is not the best choice.

Not only that: A colour usually only has an effect when combined with other colours. "It's like music. A single note is fine, but only through the composition of different notes and tones do you get a melody, a harmonious whole," says Wrusch.

When choosing new colour elements, the interior designer says it's essential to take into account what's already present in the home. "This is often underestimated."

Nature can be an inspiration for paint colour ideas. "It produces tones that are harmonious at any time of day: in the morning, at midday and in the evening. It could serve as an orientation," says Venn.

People feel most comfortable with light pastel colours, as they are spring-like, sunny and warm.

As a general rule, for a room to appear balanced it shouldn't be designed with too many contrasts. One idea is to incorporate the colours associated with the cardinal point in which the room is facing, for example red for north-facing.

Even if someone has found their favourite colours and has furnished the home according to their own ideas, one can still get tired of certain colours at some point. "This is pretty normal," says Wrusch. The person and their tastes change, but the surroundings don't.

"A light blue wall that once seemed soothing can suddenly seem like a reason to dispair." So, it's time for a new look. It doesn't take too much effort, and it will change the whole room.

"If you change just one wall from blue to burnt orange, for example, a whole new spatal dimension is created," says Venn and explains: "While the room appears larger with blue, the wall painted orange moves visually closer. The room appears more intimate."

He advises anyone who has redecorated or changed the colours in their home to invite their family or friends over. "If they're having a good time and the conversations flows, if the evening is cosy and relaxed, then you've done everything right," says Venn.

Wrusch also advises paying attention to quality – it's worth spending more money to get the right product. For example, paints that contain natural pigments instead of chemical ones are of a high quality. The small mineral or vegetable pigments make the colours appear deeper and richer – and they are also environmentally friendly. – dpa

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