"If you want to sell your home, paint your rooms beige." That could be the rallying cry of real estate agents across the country, and for good reason. Presentation and first impressions mean everything when selling a home, and the men and women who make their living selling homes know that neutral colors will generally spark more interest from buyers than bold colors.
Human beings are sensitive to color on a deep, emotional level. This makes sense: Our earliest ancestors relied on colors to tell them if a plant was ripe or safe to eat, for example. Those deeply ingrained senses of what colors mean in nature stay with us in our cities and suburbs; we may not need to make life-and-death decisions based on the color of a strange fruit, but we still carry the emotional cues that kept our ancestors safe.
This trait can complicate things when painting a house, however. A certain hue that you think looks perfect in your living room might trigger a deep sense of discomfort in a visitor. The deeper the color you choose for your walls, the stronger effect it might have on others. Conversely, the closer your home's colors are to pure, neutral white, the less they will emotionally affect visitors -- or potential buyers.
But an all-white home can be dull, not to mention extremely hard to keep clean. With a little awareness of color theory and some creative restraint, you can have the best of both worlds: a home in which color brings out each room's best features, and a house that's likely to sell without requiring major repainting.
Color psychology is the study of the emotional cues prompted in humans by various colors. These can be quite strong: Bold yellow, for example, can upset small children, while light yellow is commonly used as a gender-neutral color for babies' rooms. Blue is often associated with calmness, serenity and cold temperatures. Red, on the other hand, may symbolize excitement, love, anger, warfare or energy. These are useful traits to understand as you plan how to show off your home's best features to potential buyers.
But how do you turn an understanding of color psychology into an attractive, sellable interior design? The process is easier than you might think.
The Power of Color
The first step in applying color theory to your home is to understand what you want each room to say. Is a bedroom used for rest and relaxation for the adults in the home, or is it a bright, happy playroom for the children? Is the kitchen a family gathering place, or is it an area where high-tech styling makes meal preparation fast and efficient? Asking questions like these will help you define moods for your rooms. Compare these moods to the emotions evoked by different colors, and you'll quickly create a list of general hues that are most appropriate for each room of your house. Narrow your color search further by looking at the paint colors in the middle or lighter ends of these ranges, since this will help you avoid painting too much wall space with a too-bold color.
Now comes the fun part: designing your rooms with color and furnishings to capture the moods you've identified. There are countless factors that play into making each room right, including the furniture and decorative items, the flooring, the quality of light through the windows and your desire (and budget) to change these. In general, you can often create stunning effects by choosing one or two items to showcase with bold color, offset by neutral complementary colors in the rest of the walls and furnishings.
It helps to keep a sense of restraint when choosing color and design layouts; a bold color can quickly become overwhelming if used too much, and too many complementary colors in one room can make even sparse furnishings look busy and cluttered. Try to limit each room's color palette to no more than three colors: a bold accent, a middle-tone that can be used to frame the accent and a more neutral color for the background, like the walls. This will ensure that, while you will be able to break free of the all-beige, neutral-color blahs, you will still have a home that has a good chance of selling without major changes.