The science of colour

The science of colour

Posted 27th May 2015

New research from DFS has revealed the nation’s favourite living room colour schemes. According to the findings, blue colour schemes, teal themed décor and grey combinations are the most popular, with blue coming out top. DFS commissioned the Colour Match Experiment to explore the nature of people’s psychological relationship with colour and ultimately discover how colour impacts people’s mood and emotions in the home. The unique study revealed precisely why people intrinsically prefer certain colours.

Boost your mood with clever colour choices

The research revealed that blue, teal and grey proved popular precisely because of their ability to enhance our mood. All three shades were found to be associated with positive emotions: blue is energising while grey makes people feel comfortable and on-trend teal is perceived as relaxing.

Concerto 4

Calm your nerves with DFS’ Concerto range: green is the colour for stress-free living


 Calm your nerves with DFS’ Flora range: green is the colour for stress-free living


Make your living room comfortable with DFS’ Vista range: grey is one of the nation’s top three decorating shades


Feel content with DFS’ Itsy range: women pick pink and stay on-trend

The colour scheme no-nos

The findings demonstrated the importance of getting the colour scheme right when making decorating choices. Two colours in particular were highlighted as shades to shun due to their association with negative emotions. Red was found to make us feel agitated while orange was strongly associated with feelings of lethargy and tiredness.

Stay in-tune with nature for stress free living

From worrying about work to fretting over finances, 21st century living can often prove incredibly stressful. In a world full of worry, choosing the most calming shade is a must for many, but fortunately help is at hand. Green was found to make people feel most serene and with botanicals and ‘bringing the outside in’ both key interiors looks this season, the natural approach could help keep your home on-trend and your life in balance.

Battle of the sexes

Women proved themselves to be instinctively in vogue when it comes to picking interior colour schemes. Their top colour choice for living rooms was pink which featured heavily in a number of Autumn/ Winter 2015 Fashion Week collections in February, including Mary Katrantzou, House of Holland and Christopher Kane, while copper blush is Dulux’s colour of the year.

Whilst women are likely to get it right when it comes to picking stylish and mood enhancing shades, they shouldn’t be afraid to let their man take charge of the decorating as men were found to prefer blue, a shade that tends to be popular in interiors every season due to its versatility and timelessness. Girls should watch out if their man wants to pick the furniture however, as their top sofa shade of choice was orange, found to be primarily associated with fatigue.

The perfect hue for your personality 

Easy-going types, who tend to be naturally calm, showed a preference for white living rooms. They associated this colour with feeling energetic (25% more than the UK average), indicating that they might not feel the need for a relaxing home environment quite as much as the average person, but instead seek out an energy-enhancing palette.

Highly strung personality types, on the other hand, were found to prefer the colour green for their living rooms and associate this colour strongly with feeling calm and relaxed, suggesting that they are looking to surround themselves with colours that will help offset any feelings of stress.

Avoid extravert interior designers 

Those looking to make over their home in order to enhance their mood should beware of picking a designer who is ultra-outgoing, as energetic extraverts have a tendency to prefer oranges and reds for their living rooms, colours typically associated with negative feelings of tiredness and agitation. Introverts, on the other hand, showed a preference for energising blue and on-trend teal.

Helen Leigh Jones, DFS designer, commented: “For many of us, it’s really important to create a living space that looks great from a style perspective and allows us to relax in comfort, but rarely do we think about how our decorating choices might also impact our mood.

“By teaming up with Mindlab, we wanted to discover how we could optimise the latest on-trend colour themes in a way that allows people to have the best of both worlds: an on-trend design aesthetic in their living room and a mood enhancing colour boost. Blues, teals, greys and greens all gel very well together from a style perspective and are particularly popular in interiors at the moment so if you’re looking to makeover your living room, pick a mix of soft greys, deep teals as well as bright pops of green and blue in order to stay on-trend whilst feeling positive.”

Dr David Lewis, neuroscientist at Mindlab, who partnered with DFS to conduct the Colour Match Experiment, commented on the findings, “It’s clear from the results that there’s a very strong correlation between certain shades and specific emotions. What that means from a psychological perspective is that people should think carefully about their colour selections when decorating, particularly in the living room where the majority of us spend most of our time at home.

“Psychologically, it makes sense that people’s choice of colours link to traditional gender stereotypes. Women’s preference for pink rooms may well stem from the familiarity they have built with this colour, starting in their childhood, with girls traditionally being dressed in pink and playing with pink toys. Equally, it is also likely that men’s preference for blue is largely influenced by culture and how these men were brought up, with parents dressing and surrounding boys in blue.

“We may have certain ideas about how colours make us feel, and some of these are reflected in our language (e.g. ‘feeling blue’, ‘seeing red’, etc.). The results from this study show that how people feel about colours is extremely personal – some colours that may not work for one person can be perfect for someone else.”

DFS’ Colour Match Experiment analysed over 1,000 people’s responses to colour to determine instinctive and intrinsic colour preferences as well as the relationship between colour and emotion.

The online study of over 1,000 people was supplemented with an offline trial that used cutting edge electroencephalography (EEG) technology to monitor real-time brain activity and map participants’ mental response to colour inputs including a range of on-trend colour themed living room sets styled by DFS’ expert in-house design team.
Helen Leigh-Jones colour tips:

“Here at DFS we're not afraid to be bold with colour and at this time of year in the studio we draw on the natural inspiration of Spring. For many, we recognise that when it comes to decorating, bold colours can be scary, but it’s key to remember that colour can be used in a variety of ways.

“For the less adventurous, opting for pops of colour by introducing one or two new pieces, whether that’s a new sofa, rug, or lamp shade, can be great solution and help create a vibrant fresh feel.

“For the more daring colour-seekers among us, bold colour statement sofas or chairs paired with complimentary accessories and vibrant patterns set against a neutral background can deliver real wow results.”

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