The Psychology of Colour: A Karen Haller Masterclass

Colour psychology Karen Haller

It’s another masterclass over here on the blog today! A few weeks ago, I wrote about a recent London trip, when I visited the beautiful interiors store, Olive Loves Alfie, as part of the #MakeYourselfAtHome campaign with Get Living London and East Village, turning the former Athletes’ Village (y’know, from the Olympics!) into trendy urban accommodation.

Read PART 1 on how to add personality through your home with advice from Interior Stylist and Designer Ashlyn Gibson

Today, I’m covering the amazing advice from Karen Haller, the UK’s leading Applied Colour Psychology Specialist following research that says:

  • 95% of Brits are too scared to go all out with colour in their homes
  • Despite 60% admitting it would improve their wellbeing
  • Renters across the nation struggle the most with colour as rental restrictions leave them stuck in boring spaces

In a bid to get rid of boring beige interiors, keep reading to see how you can properly add colour to your home…

Colour psychology Karen Haller

Colour psychology Karen Haller

Colour psychology Karen Haller

“People are living in homes they don’t love because they want to be fashionable. When you shut the door, it doesn’t matter what other people think.”

Wisest. Words. Ever.

Interiors are trend-led, which is a wonderful way to activate change and try new things. But it’s important to remember that you can also throw away the rulebook and find a style that suits you!

A corner of my home, told through a toddler’s fingerprints on the mirror.

A photo posted by Karen Clough (@karenanita) on

Whenever someone walks into my home, they comment on how colourful it is and that’s been a conscious decision, but finding a way in which it works for our property has taken time. Like us, there are plenty of Brits who want to have a more colourful home, but just don’t know where to begin. 

This is what Karen had to say about taking the plunge.

Think about the purpose of the room

On a purely practical level, I’ve never understood the latest trend for monochromatic living spaces. Huge backdrops of white with black wall decals – the trend taking over our homes one Pinterest-board at a time. Certainly beautiful, but as a mum with a toddler who has smushed banana onto every available wall in our house, I look at those homes and think: HOW? WHY?

When Karen asked us about our homes, I thought about my lounge. It’s a space that needs to be social, but should cater for adult company at the end of the day, where we can switch off and wind down. And by day, it’s a safe and welcoming family-friendly playzone. It needs to be both energising and yet calm – contradictory ideas I suppose.

And yet totally achievable through manipulation of colour. We’ve done this through calming colours on the walls, but pops of bright colours which, to us, scream happiness, and reduce its dungeon-like appearance.

What feelings & behaviours do you want to associate with the space?

This is about to get deep you guys…I’ve suffered with anxiety issues for many years and I wonder if on some level the fact that I’ve got blue in 80% of my home (and even the garden fence panels!) has anything to do with trying to become more calm when at home.

We were asked to bring in something with colour to the masterclass. Mine was this postcard below. It’s the dark blue (almost black) I am consistently drawn to, whether it’s interiors or clothes or nail polish. And by funny coincidence the little pops of pinks, teals and white contrasting against it, are pretty much the combination colours used in my lounge.

Deep blue is meant to be a way of adding calm, and is often used by those who feel mentally exhausted at the end of the day and needs to switch off their mind. I completely resonated with this ideology, and it’s probably why I’m not AT ALL productive when I’m in there – I’ve encouraged lazy behaviours as it’s my place to vegetate.

If you’re not sure which colour is “you”, Karen has created a colour quiz at www.getlivinglondon.com. I took the quiz and got…you guessed it, blue.

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Colour Expression

This is probably the easiest one to consider when you’re decorating because you either like a colour, or you don’t. But Karen had a good point – It’s not always the only consideration.

Colour has connotations – both culturally and psychologically.

Take pink for example. Psychologically, pinks are good for those looking to bring in feelings of love, warmth and support, whilst it can also aid in relaxation. It can help with grief and feelings of loneliness. Culturally, pink is associated with young girls. I personally loathe this type of gender stereotyping but it’s stuck following a marketing campaign in 1940s but actually, the psychology of it sits well with why the colour is used in this way, helping to give that warm fuzzy feeling you want for your daughter’s first room. Personally, I’ve never loved the colour pink but I do have a soft spot for dusky hues against a dark blue, explaining why I have lots of pink accents around my home – which is painted mostly blue! A total personal preference.

I’ve added below the psychological meanings of each colour if you’d like some more insight into narrowing down your colour choice and making sure it fits your space.

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Final Thoughts

In true Jerry Springer style, here are a few nuggets of wisdom Karen gave us, and I hope you find them useful!

  • If you want a colour to stand out, make sure it clashes in a way that is complimentary; a great rule of thumb for accents in a room. Karen explained that fashion designers will often pick a colour dress for women on the red carpet which doesn’t quite match their skin tone, because they want you to notice the dress, and not the beauty of the woman – cheeky!
  • If you want to switch off in your space, go for the deeper shades of that colour.
  • Lighting is key. Daylight is in the blue spectrum, so using blue-based or “white” lighting is a no-go for rooms intended for calm, such as the bedroom. Lighting in the bedroom should be yellow-based to encourage sleep.
  • When you shut the door, it doesn’t matter what people think. It’s all about matching a colour that’s right for your personality, giving you the confidence to get more adventurous with your interior. The better connected you feel to a colour, the happier you’ll be returning to it.

Happy decorating everyone, and thank you so much to Karen Haller for the wonderful advice.

Further Reading

Home Etc

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  • Old Fashioned Susie

    Love this post- colour theory is so interesting! I did the quiz and got yellow… I do have a lot of yellow and mustard accents…

    • Thanks Susie. I love yellow! And on their guidelines it says it’s ideal for a hallway which is exactly what I’ve done. So switched on 😉 x

  • Jen Stanbrook

    Such great advice, love that quote about living in a fashionable space that we don’t really like! Wow.

    • Absolutely. It really spoke to me as well! It was a fab sesion. Thanks for stopping by, Jen 🙂 x

  • Brilliant advice, I was given a book on modern living, completely devoid of colour, I loved the homes and spaces but the lack of colour made me so sad! Thanks for joining #happyandhome

    • Absolutely! I feel the same with showrooms – even if they’re beautiful spaces, there is something which just doesn’t feel home-like to me. Thanks for commenting, lovely 🙂 x

  • I love your blue and orange, and toddler finger prints too!

  • Jane Taylor

    Karen, stopped by from #happyandhome today and so pleased i did. Some lovely tips and the quote about it not mattering what other people think once you close the door will stick in my mind for some time. Wise words. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Jane! So true isn’t it? Words to live by! x

  • Caro Davies

    I’m such a fan of colour but generally use it on accessories rather than on the wall or floors, so I can easily change the look without having to change everything. Such great advice about decorating for yourself!! 🙂 We totally do and people always say how lovely the house is. I think it’s probably because we really love everything we’ve chosen — it’s all meaningful. Thanks so much for linking up with us Karen #HomeEtc — Caro xx

  • Caro Davies

    PS — I’ve just gone and done that quiz and apparently — due to my answers — my fave colour is red!!!!! NOPE. Yellow!!!! 😉