As apartment hunting season finally arrives, my future roommate and I, like expecting parents, are constantly trading ideas about what our apartment will be like. Our vision is there: a cool, welcoming environment with a big living room and kitchen to entertain our friends, bedrooms the size of closets since we’ll always want to be out, and one bathroom that we’re fine with sharing because rent prices are very real. It’s like a page out of a coloring book—which we have yet to color in.
The color scheme of your first home seems like an arbitrary detail in the grand scheme of things: school, extra-curricular activities, careers. Yet, the hues of everything from your walls to your couch seem to have a major effect on your mood and general emotional wellness. Not only has our cultural conditioning trained us to associate certain colors with feelings and concepts we see in nature and our society—like how red is associated with passion and anger, and green with success or envy—but the way they’re presented also affects us.
A particular someone said, “Let there be light;” and in the context of color, light is a bigger factor than we realize. Interior designer Rose Ann Humphrey, founder of the firm Home Life, emphasizes the importance of light and color inasmuch as they affect individuals. “The energy that light brings to color is amazing […] without light, there is no color,” says Humphrey, who recommends considering regional palettes before personal tastes when deciding on colors. This includes taking the temperature, lighting, mood, and energy of the environment into account. While homes in sunnier locales can use more richly pigmented colors like terra cotta on the walls since the light brings them to life, doing so in places where light is more difficult to come by can come off as depressing—a reminder of how brilliant the color could be but isn’t because of that missing sunshine (think of how Seasonal Affective Disorder affects people during the winter months when there are shorter days).
Instead, Humphrey suggests neutral colors such as beiges, browns, and golds as background colors that dominate the room. Since the colors have less pigmentation, they don’t need as much natural light and provide a needed air to the room. Then you can use those “shots of [rich] color,” says Humphrey, in the form of accents, whether they be pillows, plants, tables, or chairs.
You can also decide to play tricks with light. Dimmers (Lutron, $24) are an incredibly affordable way to manipulate how much light a room gets when transitioning from daytime to nighttime, helping you transfer your mood from a working environment to a restful or social one. Playing with textures is also an attractive method of managing color intensity; how you choose to upholster your furniture can either brighten or mute the colors. Using metallic and shimmery shades also adds stylish bursts of light without using radical colors or techniques. According to Humphrey, even painting different walls in the same room with various shades according to where the light hits them can subtly amplify the space without doing too much to it. “The right color brings luminosity to any place,” she says.
There is a slight risk, however, should one decide to use bolder colors where they do not fit. “Full-on intensity isn’t harmonious,” Humphrey says, especially when decorating public versus private spaces. Public spaces should always be welcoming and can be more whimsical by taking inspiration from the outdoors. Meanwhile, bedrooms should have restful, easy-to-look-at colors like blues, whites, and other soft shades. So while it’s okay to make a red dining room, you probably wouldn’t want to do the same for your bedroom (unless you fancy yourself Christian Grey).
If you’re really into a particular trend, try to purchase decor like you would with clothes from fast fashion stores. “Classic always comes back,” Humphrey says, so feel free to invest in pieces that are in shades of red, blue, and green, that you can use forever.
In the end, however, it all comes down to balancing between your wants and needs as an individual when decorating your new apartment or house. With each paint choice, you’re opening yourself to many possibilities. With each fabric comes another opportunity to show the world a different side of your personality. The process of decorating your home can seem daunting, but with the right-colored glasses, finding your ideal shades can help you discover more about how you can live the most satisfying life.
Photo by: Maddie Weinstein-Avery