Did you know color is a mood?


photo cred: ninetyfourdesigns.com

Can color really be a mood?  Yes, it can and once you understand the mood and feel of color you can better understand color theory.  That is color theory for design.  I am going to give you a few tips from the trade to better equip you to choose color when designing your home.  Designing your home can be a very fun and exciting thing to do, but sometimes it can be really stressful.  So let me take the guesswork out, and help you to make the design process fun and easy by giving you the knowledge and confidence to accomplish such a visual task.  So first, let’s start with mood.  If you follow me on Pinterest, (@cottonandchaos) you will see I have a board full of pins labeled “moody colors to own in 2019”.  While it is a zippy name to use it is also 100% true…colors are very moody!  What do I mean, well colors can portray a mood and once you figure out what mood and vibe you are looking to express, the rest is really easy.  So ask yourself do you want your room (in this case lets say bedroom) to be relaxing or energetic?  Most likely, because we are talking about a bedroom where one rests, I am going to say you would choose relaxing…right?!  Well, let’s think of some words that mean the same as relaxing; calm, quiet, and soothing, these are all terms that describe “cool” tones when speaking of color.  What are cool tones?  Well think of the color wheel (go back to kindergarten) and remember the three primary hues along with the three secondary hues.  We have red, blue, and yellow as primary hues and green, orange and violet as secondary hues.  So thinking of cool tones think of something “cold”…ice cubes in water, the cool blue-green lake in the mountains, and you will find the answer.  Cool tones are blue, green and violet, however, violet can be a tricky hue as it is made with blue and red, so looking for a violet on the cool side would mean looking for a violet with more blue than red.  Now think of the red hue, red is strong and energetic, like a fire burning, it is considered a warm hue.  Red isn’t a hue that gives off a soothing vibe so this would be a hue to navigate away from when looking for a relaxing mood.  So to better emphasize what I mean, I have some eye candy to check out:

Look at the pictures above, these pictures all display a cool color scheme using cool-toned hues.  Everything in the first picture from the blue velvet round ottoman, the black-grey painting above the sofa and even the bright blue-white of the couch are all cool-toned.  The second picture displays a color scheme with about 90% cool-toned hues.  The cool grey walls along with a cool grey rug pair nicely with the cool blue-green sofa.  The sculpture above the sofa displays cool browns with a cool white pearl-like center.  The gold table and lining of the sofa do show some warm tones in a yellow-gold hue but for the most part, this room is a cool color scheme.  The third picture is on par with the second picture with a 90% cool-tone scheme and a meer 10% warm-toned scheme.  Everything from the cool white rug, cool brown flooring, cool grey sofa matched with the cool green-blue accent chairs.  Topped off with cool white walls and a painting with cool-toned hues of green, blue and black.  The warm tones are coming from the natural wood in the coffee table that shows some warm yellow undertones alike with the stem arrangement resting atop the table.  Starting to get it? Great, let’s move on to some warm-toned hues.


Here we have warm-toned color schemes pictured above.  In the first picture, we have what seems to be a neutral color palette but look again.  This is a warm-toned palette because the white hue in this room actually has some warm yellow undertones which lend its hand to the warm wood flooring as well as the warm animal rug and warm-toned chair in the corner.  The first picture is 100% warm-toned.  Now look closer at the second picture above.  While 90% is a warm-toned palette there is a small percentage of cool tones in this living room.  Everything except the cool grey cushions on this platform sofa is warm-toned.  The third picture is again a warm-toned color scheme with most everything pictured having a yellow undertone.  The actual plants are the only “cool” color of green.  So now that you can see the difference between cool and warm color tones let’s look a little further into what they express.

Cool tones tend to express more relaxing and comforting vibes, a place for rest and calm.  Warm tones tend to be more energetic and vibrant keeping you awake and focused.  So ask yourself what kind of mood you want to express.  If this is still a hard question to answer, consider your climate.  If you live in a hot place, say, the coast in Florida, you will most likely choose a “cooler” color scheme as this will balance out your inner and outer environments.   Likewise, if you live in the cold mountains of Montana, you might choose a warm color palette to equal the balance in your environment.  This is why you see the coastal themed rooms on your Pinterest account in blues and blue-whites, too cool off the people that are drawn to this vibe.  Ski resorts tend to be designed with warm hues and accents to literally warm their guests up visually.

Okay, just in case you are still struggling with the concept of what mood do I want to portray, let me ask you one more question.  An old rule of thumb used by designers would be to figure if the room you are designing is north or south-facing room.  Why?  Well, north rooms get a softer morning light with more blue undertones, so if you felt that your north-facing room needed more warmth you would decorate with warm-toned hues.  Vice-versa with a south-facing room.  South-facing rooms tend to get the afternoon/evening light which leans more toward your typical warm undertones, so in order to cool off, you will want to use a cool-toned color palette.  By now I am more than confident that you can answer what kind of mood you will want to portray in any room you desire.


One more tip for creating a cool or warm-toned room that is inviting and allows the eye to move through your room with interest and ease; using complementary colors in an almost equal or a little less than equal percentage to each other.  Again, lets head back to kindergarten, remember the color wheel.  Compliementary colors are the hues that are opposite eachother on the color wheel.  Don’t remember the color wheel, simply google it, (I google everything).  Let’s explore this concept:

Let’s take a look at photo 1- The blue-hued cushions mixed with the cool-toned rug and painting hues are at a very pleasing 30% to 60% with the room being primarily warm-toned.  Photo 2 – is a perfectly balanced 50/50 with the cabinets being cool-toned and the bar stools being warm-toned, all balancing out nicely.  Photo 3 – This photo is more cool-toned than warm-toned, but still displaying an interesting balance between the two.  The warm tones of the wood stool and wood-based accent chair really compliment all the cool-toned shades everywhere else throughout this room.  Photo 4 – This photo is really quite fun as it is hard at first to dissect this room into a cool or warm-toned palette which leads me to believe that it is at a perfect balance.  The cool blue-toned wall mixes well the cool-toned painting above the sofa.  The sofa is green (which typically means cool-toned) but leans more to the warm side of green with some yellow undertones.  The cool white table with cool blue vases balance the warm-toned leather accent chairs.  VERY nicely done.  Photo 5 – A cool-toned room at large except for the warm blush/burgundy tones of the pillows and wood stool pairing nicely with the warm candlelight behind the sofa.  Another pleasing balance between warm and cool tones.  Photo 6 – This last photo is yet once again a perfect balance.  A perfect mixture of warm accents, such as the mustard pillows, warm-toned light fixture, plant stand and table pieces resting atop the coffee table complement the cool tones throughout the rest of the room.

With all the design eye candy listed here today, what is your favorite?  Do you prefer a tonal room with a solid cool or warm-toned scheme?  Or, do you find yourself pulled to a more complementary style with a perfect or somewhat perfect balance of complementary colors?  Knowing what you like will help you to determine your color scheme and mood.  Once you have decided on the mood you want to portray, you may then move forward in the design process with ease and confidence.

Pop Quiz:

Which Picture has a cool-toned color palette?


Which photo displays a warm-toned color palette?

This article is something I wish I would have had at my disposal years ago as this would have made all my design endeavors much easier.  Instead, I guessed my way through many projects hoping, in the end, it would feel “right”.  Many turned out great and many did not.  This would have made my design process so much smoother had I known how simple the break down is.  I hope this helps you in any design adventure you are undertaking.

Have a great Sunday and start to the week ahead.




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