Colour Meaning, Symbolism, and Psychology: What do different Colours mean

By guest author Jen Miller, Inhouse Designer at Jen Reviews

Understanding the colours on the colour wheel, and what they mean, is the first step to decorating your space satisfactorily.

  • Are you looking to decorate your space?
  • Do you wonder where to start?
  • Is the introduction of accessories and colour to your space or furniture proving to be a hard nut to crack?
  • Perhaps it’s because you have no idea of what colours to pick?
  • Do you understand the psychology of colours, their meanings, and symbolisms?

You should, you know. There is no need to buy that art piece, put up that wall hanging, or paint that wall, before you understand how each colour introduced to your space will affect how you feel.

And, that requires you to understand colours and their meanings, right?


Red is the colour of love and roses (All photographs courtesy by Jen Review)


What is the meaning of red?

Red is the colour of fire, drama, love, heat, warmth, power, strength, excitement, passion, blood, and lust. Red has meanings associated with shades of danger, violence, anger, malice, and aggression.

In addition to stimulating sexual passion (red is the colour of Valentine’s remember?), red also stimulates appetite.

It is attention-grabbing and thus intensifies an object or space. It is the colour of action, which is why it is used in call-to-action buttons to spur people to act and buy things online. It is the universal coloir used in stop-signs. Red-light districts around the world are used to refer to areas in which prostitution is rife.

Culturally, red is used in places like China in bridal wear because it brings good luck. The ancient Roman gods wore red robes. In Christianity, red is the color of Christ’s love, passion and blood. Its colour meaning centres around the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

The lighter shades of this colour can be used to bring in warmth and excitement into the room. But because it is such a strong colour, especially in its darker shades, then it would be a great idea to introduce it in accessories to avoid overwhelming your mind.

A red sofa perhaps? Or maybe a painting with shades of red to bring in the feeling of passion, rage, and heat? Furniture accessories like table covers, seat covers or cushions are also a great way to introduce this colour of fire. Or you could always use a vase of red roses or any other red flowers from your garden like poppies, petunias, marigolds, calla lilies, and tulips, among others.

The colour red is what you use when you want to emphasize certain aspects of your space thus making them focal points or areas of interest.


Orange is the colour of beautiful sunsets


What is the meaning of orange?

Orange is the fruit colour of vibrancy. It is a result of combining the best of yellow and red. What comes to your mind when you think of the colour orange? Probably beautiful sunsets, warm fires, and vibrantly-coloured healthy veggies, right? Energy, warmth, good cheer, excitement, and good health are also meanings associated with orange.

Orange is widely used in the U.S. as prison uniforms. It is the national color of the Netherlands, including the royalty there. It is also an auspicious colour within Hinduism. It is used as a common colour in safety vests for its visibility and brightness.

Some of the negative connotations of orange include exhibitionism, and youthful self-indulgence.

So, what do you use orange for in a space?

Nothing really matches with orange in the colour wheel. But, despite this, orange is an earthy colour that can be used to invoke a feeling of warmth and happiness in your room. Think of it as a way to help make a large space cosier.

Due to the fact that orange tends to stimulate appetite, it’s a good colour for eating spaces like the kitchen or dining rooms. It is precisely for that reason that restaurants tend to use orange within their colour scheme.

You can use it on the walls, table surfaces, table mats, kitchen dishes and flower vases or even the floors. In addition, you can incorporate orange in your area rugs, the fireplace mantle, your bedroom dressers, a rocking chair or two, the vanity table in your room and so on. Just find what works for you and use it well.


Yellow is the colour of fun, youthfulness, and happiness

What is the meaning of yellow?

To the human eye, yellow is one of the brightest colours. It is the most visible colour on the colour spectrum. It is a cheerful colour that exudes excitement and happiness. It is the colour of sunshine, youth and fun. Yellow is the colour of optimism.

Sunflowers, egg-yolks, lemons and daffodils are yellow too.

On the downside, yellow is the colour of cowardice (yellow streak running through one’s back), and madness. Deceitfulness and betrayal are meanings associated with yellow also.

Culturally, yellow is a colour that is important in Hinduism. In Russia, a yellow house is the colloquial term for an insane asylum.

Yellow, like orange, is a colour often used in reflector-jackets, school buses, and caution signs.

When decorating a space, do consider using yellow to bring certain aspects of your space to the attention of the viewer. But, make sure that it is not used all over the place. What makes it attention-grabbing can also make it disturbing, where the brain is concerned. And for that reason, yellow is better incorporated in form of accents

When used with white, yellow tends to disappear. So, when you want to highlight it, make sure that you combine the yellow with darker colours like black.

Use yellow in a room where you work and want to enhance your creativity. Add pops of the yellow color if you want to increase the warmth of a space. Painting one wall yellow can be a great way to create a focal point on which you can display family handprints, photographs or etchings for example.

Yellow seat covers can help accessorize your sofas and brighten up a room. A yellow clock can also act as a focal point if it is a work of art piece, a yellow settee can introduce that pop of colour you need to brighten your living room, yellow rugs can help add cheer to any space, etc.


Green is a great way to bring nature indoors

For many people the meaning of the colour green is easy to derive.

Green is the combination of yellow and blue and is the colour of trees and most plants. This colour represents the natural world, ecology, tranquility. It is the colour of refreshment and fertility, without which the earth seems lifeless and barren. It is the colour of environment and sustainability. It can also be used to represent growth and renewal especially in its lighter shades.

Green has a financial meaning too. It is used to represent the dollar currency. It is therefore the color of wealth and finance. Darker shades of green can be used to represent abundance and prestige.

Green can be overwhelming when overused. But, it is a wonderful colour for bringing in nature into your space. It is the perfect choice if you want to create a feeling of refreshment. Its meaning is quite clear even when you use it in small doses.

This colour can be included in form of artistic prints, or natural plants. Heavy green curtains can be used to invoke a sense of luxury.


Blue is the color of the oceans, the skies, and invokes the feeling of serenity

Blue is considered a popular color. And why not? The earth is made up of 70 % water, most of which is the blue of the seas and oceans of the world.

So, what is the meaning of blue?

Blue is the colour of tranquility, serenity, and calmness. People tend to associate the blue waters and its associated beaches with swimming, rest, and relaxation. Blue is also the colour of the sky and the heavens.

It is a colour that invokes loyalty, dependability, and trust. This combination of meanings might be the reason it is used by famous brands like Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and Twitter.

In its darker shades, blue is used to show professionalism, authority and sincerity. It is therefore a great shade for the clothes you choose to wear to an interview. It is also said to spur creativity.

The downside of blue is that it is sometimes associated with a feeling of depression. That is why the phrase “feeling blue” exists.

Culturally, in Egypt and Greece, blue was a colour that warded off evil spirits. In Hinduism, blue is the colour of lord Shiva.

Do consider using blue if you want to bring in the elements of relaxation and water. A nautical-themed space must have some blue for the whole space to come together. A meditation room also works great with blue. A space for a boy is also usually decorated in blue, so this color is great for the walls of a room for a boy.

For hints of the nautical theme, stripes of blue paint on walls can do the trick. And, so can blue area rugs, wall hangings, table and seat covers, shelves etc. A blue ceiling can be a great way to bring in the astronomy theme into your space. A blue desk may help enhance your creativity and productivity as well.

Since the colour blue tends to appear to recede and make things smaller. For this reason, you should consider painting the walls blue if the space you are decorating is large and intimidating.


Purple is the colour of sensuality and royalty

What is the meaning of the colour purple?

The colour purple is made up of a combination of red and blue and is the colour of calm, creativity, mystery, magic, and meditation. It is also considered the colour of royalty, nobility, and luxury.

Depending on the shades, purple has a meaning associated with sensuality and romance.

Doom and gloom, sadness, and mourning, and a world of hurt (Remember the book and movie The Colour Purple?), are however, some of the negative meanings associated with purple.

Purple is the colour to use if you are looking to invoke the feeling of wealth and luxury in your space. Think Purple brocade curtains, purple sofas, velvet-covered cushions and pillows, a deep dark purple carpet etc. You can bring in purple in your satin sheets to invoke sensuality or femininity in your space also.


Add feminine touches with pops of pink here and there

The meaning of pink is not really debatable in many parts of the world.

Pink is almost universally accepted as a feminine colour, except in Belgium where it is considered a boy’s colour.

Being a combination of red and white, pink is the colour of excitement, romance, playfulness and high energy, but without the aggression of the red. It is a fun, youthful colour that can add brightness to a room. It is a cute colour.

However, naivety and excessive optimism (idealism) are other meanings usually associated with pink.

Pink is a colour that is often used to paint the walls of a girl’s room or a baby’s nursery. But, you can use it to tone down an extremely masculine room and add a female touch.

Pink can also be brought in using flowers and flower vases, cushion covers, table runners, paintings on the wall, lampshades etc.

A little bit of pink can go a long way. Its meaning does not have to be shouted out. Everyone understands its power.


Black is colour of darkness and yet often invokes a feeling of power


What is the meaning of black?

Black is the colour of darkness. It can be used to enhance a theme of mystery.

It is often used to invoke the feeling of power, sophistication, mourning, and formality. Black is also considered an elegant colour.

On the downside, black is the colour of all things evil and death.

Black is a great background for anything that you want to draw attention to. Think of painting one side of a wall black to show of your photography, paintings, sculptures, and wall hangings. Black sofas tend to be elegant and sleek looking, thus making the colour a great go-to option for minimalist-designed spaces.

Black curtains can be a great fit for people in areas with long daylight hours. Hints of black can be incorporated in artworks, functional pieces like wall clocks, cushion covers for your seating areas, bed sheets and duvets, work desks, table lamps etc.

Be sure not to use too much black. Black implies the absence of any colour. If you do, instead of invoking a feeling of mystery, the colour will bring in a lot of darkness into your space – it is that aggressive.


Bring back the organic feel into your space with brown, the colour of all things earthy


What is the meaning of brown?

Brown is the colour of the soil –the colour of earth. It brings to mind issues like the earth and farming.

Brown invokes an organic feel. You should use it to bring in a feeling of simplicity, earthiness, stability, practicality, and wholesomeness. With brown, what you see is what you get.

Be careful however, not to invoke the feeling of mud and dirt with this colour. Use it in moderation.

Hints of brown can be incorporated on kitchen shelves, table tops, book shelves, floor rugs, paintings, curtains, painted walls, and wall clocks to tell the time in style. Most pieces of furniture can successfully feature shades of brown to bring in that earthy and cosy theme, especially when combined with colours like orange.


White is the colour of purity and innocence

What is the meaning of white?

White is the virginal colur of all things good, and the perfect opposite of black. With white, you can invoke a feeling of purity, innocence, cleanliness, simplicity, sterility, and winter.

In Eastern cultures however, white is the colour of death. And, in places like India, it is the colour usually worn by mourners.

Too much of white makes a space appear too sterile, empty, lonely and cold. So beware.

White is a combination of all colours of the spectrum and is therefore the colour that matches will other colours.

White can act as the perfect all colour if you want something that goes with eclectic accessories. When combined with blue it can be instrumental in pulling together that nautical theme you are going for. With black, white can be used to bring in elegance and sophistication to a room.

A white decorative cross art piece can be used in to bring in a Christian theme into a space. White curtains and sofas help invoke a clean feeling into any room. A white rug also helps bring in the same feeling. White picket fence help bring in the feeling of idealism.

Other ways of incorporating white include using a wall clock, white sheer curtains, white ottomans, white shelves and table wood surfaces etc.

And, there you have it. Different colours have different meanings, and symbolism. They also tend to invoke different feelings in us. It is important for you to understand what these colours mean so that you can ensure that you pick the right colour for the theme you intend to implement. Take the time to find the colours that work for your needs, regardless of whether you intend to use them on walls, accessories, furniture or even functional items because in the end, they will affect how you feel.