Harmonious Color Schemes and Mood

While there are rules to follow governing how to select particular color schemes, things become less clear when we start to talk about “mood.”

Harmonious color schemes and dynamic ones define the two extremes of mood that can be created through the use of color. Between those two is an almost infinite number of options.

Harmonious Color Schemes

Harmonious color schemes are based on balance and are used in places that need to feel restful, such as hospitals or meditation centers. Harmonious color schemes are often inspired by nature. They tend to use a gentle, natural and often neutral color palette.

Nature can provide guidance for this color scheme. Think about a forest, desert, beach or mountain. The colors you choose should be in the same chromatic range. Any of the color schemes mentioned above can be used to create a harmonious color scheme. The key ingredient is balance.

For example:

  • Monochromatic scheme in shades of Blue
  • Monochromatic scheme in shades of Green
  • Muted Yellow with Muted Red
  • Yellow, Yellow Orange and Orange—all in muted tones

Dynamic Color Schemes

In contrast to harmonious color schemes, dynamic color schemes create a stimulating, energetic environment. Dynamic color schemes are used when you want the room to make people feel awake and energized. They can be found in kindergartens, shopping malls, athletic clubs or many different kinds of businesses. Any of the color scheme types can be used to create a dynamic color scheme. The key ingredient is energy.

Examples of dynamic color schemes include:

  • Bright Yellow, Bright Red and Bright Blue
  • Bright Red and Bright Green
  • Orange, Yellow and Blue

Direction of Natural Light

The direction of the natural light source in a room should be considered when choosing colors. If you live in the northern hemisphere and your room faces north, the light it receives will be less direct and more diffuse. Cool colors such as blue or green could make the room feel too cold. Likewise, reds and oranges might be too warm for a south-facing room.

With different color schemes in different rooms, people often wonder how to create a sense of flow throughout the whole house. One possibility is to use complementary colors. The colors from a “cool room” can be used as accents in a “warm room” and vice versa. This helps maintain balance and continuity in your overall design.

Feature Wall

If your client is drawn to strong colors but doesn’t feel confident painting an entire room that way, a feature wall provides the best of both worlds. Within the room to be designed, choose one wall (preferably without doors or windows) and paint it the brightest color in your chosen palette. The color should then be picked up as an accent color throughout the rest of the room. A bright feature wall looks bold and contemporary without being overpowering. A pale feature wall—just slightly different from the other walls—brings some variety to a harmonious color scheme.

Appearance of Distance

Color can be used to compensate for uncomfortable distances in a room. Warm, deep colors appear closer; cool, pastel or off-white colors appear farther away. Many people don’t think of painting their ceilings. But color on the ceiling can have a wonderful effect on a room. A warm color will make a high ceiling appear lower. And a low-ceiling will look higher in a cool, pastel color or off-white. A narrow passage can seem larger if it’s painted a light, cool color. A hallway that seems too wide can be made more cozy with a darker or warmer color. A long passage will seem shorter if it’s painted a light color, but with a warm color at the end.

Harmonious Color in Public Spaces

Public spaces must serve specific functions and suit the many different people that will be using them. In a public space, such as an office building or shopping mall, be sure to consider characteristics such as size, direction and balance.