Why Color theory in Decorating is important

Color is the third element we are learning about in our ELEMENTS OF DESIGN SERIES. Although some might think color is a straightforward topic, let me say, it is NOT! Not by a long shot! Color is complex with both emotional, psychological and physical ties to our very selves. Let’s talk about the elements of design… color!


Make sure you see the first two-part of THE ELEMENTS OF INTERIOR DESIGN series. The Element of Balance and The Element of Space.

As home decorator’s it is so important to realize that color has a direct effect on our environment and the environment on color! The best way I can describe it is to pull a word from nature and say that color and our environment have a symbiotic relationship. They are mutually dependent upon each other.

Color has an immense effect on me. Most people would probably think I am “not a color person”. Actually, just the opposite. It affects me so greatly I am better living with neutral colors and adding a pop of some color I love and relate to into the decor mix. Too much gray makes me feel sad and too much red in a room makes me almost crazy!

Depending on the time of day and the kind of light, color is seen differently. Sometimes this difference can be dramatic! And our environment depends on color to evoke a reaction.

Color words like primary, secondary, complementary, tertiary, warm and cool are essential to create beautiful color palettes for our homes.


Colors are often associated with words that describe the feelings they evoke. This is called color psychology! Color is sending off a subliminal and very powerful message!

Here are a few words and feelings associated with color…

  • red- excitement, love, passion, daring
  • black- evil, sophisticated, power
  • yellow- friendly, happy, hope
  • pink- kindness, romance, playful, feminine
  • green- earth-friendly, envy, renewal, energy
  • white- purity, innocence
  • purple- wealthy, wisdom
  • orange- attention-getting, enthusiastic
  • brown-strength, reliable
  • gray- moody, dull
  • blue- relaxing, loyalty, intuition

These color feelings transfer to the colors we put in our homes! What an important concept to be aware of!


Take a color’s temperature! Every color is either perceived warm or cool!

For time’s sake let’s talk about warm, cool, and neutral colors. Warm colors like red, orange and yellow can actually energize a room. While cool colors like blue, green and purple can make a space feel relaxing.

Neutral colors are black, white, gray and brown. But even neutral colors are not totally neutral. They tend to be warm or cool too! Even white!

Why is knowing if a color is warm or cool so important? Because it’s all about how a room is used. Warm colors are best used in spaces where people are active, like the kitchen. And cool colors are preferred in spaces where relaxation is desired, like a bedroom. Like all things in decor, these are just guidelines.

And warm and cool colors and tones and shades must be very carefully mixed together or the room can look confusing!

Neutral tones can balance out warm and cool colors.


Color also has a profound effect on how we see the space in a room. Darker colors tend to have a visually heavy value and look smaller. Light colors tend to expand the space we live in and make objects in color seem larger. This is a very applicable concept when creating a room. Do we want a room to feel cozy and sophisticated or do we want a room to feel airy, large and light? Both rooms have their place in decorating!


We could talk about color and the effect it has on our homes and lives for hours and not scratch the surface! So here’s the takeaway nugget… pay attention to color and chose it wisely in your home! Color is part psychology, part science, and part preference!

It’s really more than how much you love a color!

Do you have a favorite color to decorate with? I’d love to know!

By the way, can you tell what color I love?

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  1. Carrie L Stanley says:

    Excellent post! I love pops of color but tend to be afraid to use color in my home. If there was a decorating love language then the photo of the bed would be mine! I simply can not stop myself from staring at the photo. And that gray chip paint urn is to die for…. would love to know where you got it. Love your blog and have been reading it for years.

    1. Hi Carrie, the urn came from HomeGoods several years ago. Hope this helps.

  2. Dianne Miley says:

    I love to decorate with blue, green and white. White/ivory walls for an airy, neutral background with blue accents and lots of green plants. I also collect blue & white dishes to use and decorate the shelves in my kitchen. I’m all about a relaxing atmosphere.

  3. I LOVE color and it makes such an impact on my mood. After the dark red & black plaid at Christmas, I’ve pulled in pops of yellow in my living room, my favorite bring faux lemons in an old wooden bucket. In my gray & white bathroom, I’ve added green, natural elements. Pussy willows stand in a metal floral bucket on the garden tub. It’s so soothing.

  4. I’ve also read that blue promotes creativity. For me, it’s a unique feeling combining, peacefulness, harmony and a punch of pizzazz. 🙂 As an artist and mural artist I also learned that the amount of light a pale neutral–even white–reflects depends on how many parts of black are in the basic recipe. I always ask the guy mixing paint how many parts black are in the white or neutral and then I steer away from much of it. Black is powerful and while it might help mute, it also deadens and absorbs light.

  5. Cecilia from Georgia says:

    I just love all shades of aqua. I grew up when turquoise was big in Florida and my mother loved it too. I try not to get to carried away but somehow find myself adding aqua accents in my house. I tried to work with other colors but keep falling back to what makes me happy! I guess I am an aquaholic! Thanks for the color lessons, they are great!

    1. Good morning! StoneGable has become part of my morning routine! The photos are superb and the advice/teaching is even better! Your explanations of design concepts are clear and easy to understand. Today’s post is very timely. We live in a 1970’s ranch style house with standard 8’ ceilings and no architectural details. I felt like our house was updated until I realized that I have used our color scheme for 20+ years! I like the airiness of white walls but wonder how they will look in our style home. What would you suggest?

      1. Hi Sarah, here are a few posts you might find helpful:https://www.stonegableblog.com/6-tips-for-decorating-with-neutrals/, and https://www.stonegableblog.com/6-tips-choosing-perfect-paint-color/

        I think starting with neutral walls will go a long way. Then either slipcovering or buying (depending on how old your sofa is) a neutral color sofa. Changing styles and color in your home is a PROCESS! Enjoy every little step you take towards getting the right colors for you home! Hope this helps Sarah! Happy Decorating!

  6. I LOVE color and luckily so does my husband. No white or neutral walls for us! Our hallways are a twine, but the downstairs is predominantly shades of orange, green and yellow. My husband’s upstairs tv room is eggplant, a color he picked out. The best comment I get when someone comes into my home is that its welcoming and ME!

  7. We have a small home on a waterfront property just outside of the city. We’ve been here almost 3 years and are working on making it feel like a cottage/farmhouse style. I love using navy and dark green as accent colors in the winter and mustard yellow, white and dark blue in the summer. I love bringing in red at Christmas of course! I absolutely love changing up the feel of a room bringing in new pillows and throws for a pop of color. I must admit that I’m addicted to pillows and throws…and am acquiring quite a collection. Our walls are a light warm grey/beige that play off the warmth of the chestnut color of engineering floors and medium grey tiles in the kitchen and front entrance.

    By the way, I’ve purchased large wicker baskets to tuck away our pillows when not in use as you discussed previously in one of your posts, Yvonne. I love that idea!!! It took me a while to find big enough baskets, but managed to find really nice ones from HomeSense. I live just outside of Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) and we don’t have any Targets or Homegoods so HomeSense is my go to store! I love following your blog and listening to Decorating Tips and Tricks too! I’ve learned so much from you lovely ladies! Thank you for continuing to inspire me! Decorating is my passion and always look forward to hearing what great new ideas you have!

    1. I love your eye for design and your colours. I am a neutral gal. Mostly creams, beige, dark wood, and touches of colour – mostly greens. Although I am really loving the yellows they have out. I’m not much of an”follow the trends” gal and prefer a comfy yet classic home. In need of an update to our 1994 home. I want to plan out the kitchen then work from there for the rest of the design. Even if I have to wait on the kitchen Reno.

      1. Hi Lisa, I’m planning a kitchen redo right now. It’s so so exciting!!!! My best advice is to choose someone who can translate your dream into a reality!

  8. Julie Briones says:

    Great post about color and decorating, Yvonne. As you know, I love aqua, but I’m trying to curb it a bit and work more with the neutrals. I find I’m liking the look more and more these days (but aqua/green/blue will always have a little place in my home!) Can’t wait for the e-course! Hugs!

  9. Marianne B Pletcher says:

    I’m so excited to finally be signed up for the decorating course and that I can do it at my own speed! It took me several days and trys to get past the “I am not a robot”. Thanks for offering it!

  10. Yvonne, I’ve read Stone Gable for many years, and I’ve always appreciated your design advice, but I have to tell you that you’re hitting it out of the park with this new design series! You’re such a wise and kind teacher, and you make the elements of design really accessible for anyone who wants to create a beautiful home.

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

  11. I love neutrals especially blacks and creams with a touch of gold and green.I am trying to add touches of “farmhouse” to my home.The older I get, the more I feel I need tranquil colors ! Thanks for all your tips and tricks !

  12. I too have a neutral home, which I find soothing. But having said that, my touches of colour are red, which you’ve said is daring, exciting & passionate. Why then does my home still feel serene, Yvonne?

    1. If you are using a very limited hand with your red and your walls are white it should look serene.

      1. Yes, I have very little in red and my walls are off white. Thank you for explaining.

  13. I love everything about this post! We are in the process of updating our 1980’s home. A long process! I’m trying to find a neutral paint color for the main part of my home and then add pops of color. This was perfect timing. Thank you!

    1. What a great sounding project! You will have so much fun! So happy to help!

  14. I can’t stand walls painted red, or red furniture. I like blues, green, and purples, and have managed to incorporate them into our decor….I’m sure I’m breaking some rules! And I have yellow and gray in the kitchen. It’s definitely not boring at my house….. hmmm I wonder if they energy my kids have come from all this color….maybe they would be a little calmer if it were a more neutral environment. Something to think about. Thank you.

    Liberty from B4andAfters.com

  15. As usual your ideas are fantastic. I enjoy every article and every picture you show. Thanks again for all the great information. Happy Thanksgiving.
    Betty Whatley

  16. One of the best design secrets is to follow your blog and do what you do! My kitchen update is nearly finished and my cabinets have been painted BM’s Simply White. After having a dirty looking glazed deep cream color since we moved here, having the all white cabinets is a breath of fresh air. If I had known how good this would make me feel, I wouldn’t have waited 4 years to tackle the problem.
    There is, indeed, a great deal of psychology associated with the colors and decor we surround ourselves with and I’m simply amazed at the power of this change especially this year when I have been nearly overwhelmed with anxiety. I’m so grateful for having found you and Lory of Designthusiasm a few years ago. It’s such a pleasure to follow you both!

    1. Oh, Margo! I’m so happy for you! You are right about the psychology of color! Color is such a mood changer!

  17. In your Description of color I don’t see black as evil. I see black is “mysterious or elegant”

    1. I don’t think black is evil, black is used sometimes to depict evil. Like a witch’s costume.

  18. Love, love, love your beautifully decorated Christmas home tour. All the colors are so soothing & gorgeous. I wish I had your amazing talent & ability to design & decorate the way you do! I enjoy your videos & pics so my h! Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Keep reading, Joann! In 2022 I am going to concentrate on showing home decorators how easy it is to decorate their homes.

  19. Yes, I agree there’s a lot more to color than just personal preference.
    I’m a bit stymied as to how I can use color accessories, etc. when it comes to a living room full of formal furniture that I inherited from my mom. The sofa (Victorian) is a white brocade with with :just a hint of soft pink accents. Two wing backed chairs are upholstered in mauve velvet.
    Although it’s definitely not my style, I’d like to do something that would soften the formality of it if possible. Any ideas?

    1. I think if you would add a bit of texture that might help. Victorian is such a strong style that it’s hard to make it something that it is not.

  20. Love your ideas. I love teals and blues and greens. Hard not to put in too much color. I just purchased a new leather sectional beautiful but the colors was supposed to be more of a saddle color and is more ginger love some of the colors you have

  21. Sara Cetorelli says:

    I have a warm yellow as an accent color in my bedroom. I want to add a yellow lamp on my dresser the lamp I picked is a cool yellow. It seems to work to me, but I am concerned my love of the lamp might be overriding my decision ( I often do this). Is it appropriate to mix warm and cool shades of the same color in a room? Thank you! I really enjoy your articles.