The research into the effects of color on psychology is not extensive or indeed conclusive, though there are many theories that have infiltrated common design practice according to their emotional properties and symbolism. Naturally, depending on the tint or shade – and indeed the personality – these psychological responses are heightened or muted. But here are the most common associations of the primary and secondary colors, and where and why you should use them.
Red is associated with energy and intensity. It is the color the eye notices first in the color wheel: it seems to jump out at us. For this reason, red makes time appear to pass slower since we are highly aware of our environment. It is also physical stimulant, increasing pulse rate and adrenaline. Moreover, some studies suggest that red impairs performance. For these reasons, avoid overusing primary reds in work areas, as it can be oppressive and disquieting.
Red can however help add warmth to a room and give it depth, for example with a feature wall or soft furnishings. When using red as a highlight, however, ensure that attention to detail is paid: since it the the color the eye is drawn to first, any flaws in paintwork or upholstery will stick out like a sore thumb.
When using red, it should be reserved it for large open areas only, and used sparingly. Aim for burgundies or muted reds, like the color of brick. Red is a suitable color for kitchens and dining areas, as it is an appetite stimulant – consider fast food logos, most of which include red.
While still promoting excitement and vibrancy,orangeis less shocking than red, and can be used more liberally in a workspace without overbearing the senses. Orange is a good color to use if your space is feeling lackluster, as it uplifts and energizes.
Blue is at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum than red. People are said to be more productive in blue rooms, though it is not a color that inspires excitement or creativity, and can make a room feel cold and uninviting.
In addition, blues, along with grays, are common hues used to decorate traditional offices. Typically, this is the image coworking spaces try to avoid. If using blue in a workspace, consider using a complementary color scheme and break it up with warmer tones. Avoid using blue in the kitchen and dining areas because it is an appetite suppressant; the rarity of blue-colored foods in nature reflects this.
Green is the color of nature and is said to calm and relax. It also relieves tired eyes, and a pale tint especially improves reading ability, so is a good choice for all sized workspaces. Green is associated with eco-friendly products.
Brown is the second color associated with nature. It inspires feelings of trust and fidelity, and makes a space feel comfortable and inviting. For this reason, having brown upholstery, a chocolate colored wall, or wooden furniture can be a good addition to a meeting room. Using raw wood in a large, open workspace is an easy way to create a feeling of comfort.
White invokes a sense of spaciousness. It is neutral, so goes with most things, though if not broken up with other colors, can be sterile and bland. Apart from walls, using white to furnish requires time and money, since it dirties quickly, especially in a high-traffic environment like a coworking space. In some cultures white is the color of mourning.
There is often a compulsion to try to make small, darker spaces appear larger by painting them white. An alternative is to embrace their qualities, and use these rooms to create cozy, warm and inviting atmospheres. Use browns, burgundies and bronzes to create a sophisticated and comfortable spaces, perfect for informal meeting rooms or chill-out areas.
While the color yellow in the western world is considered happy, it actually increases impatience and irrationality. Yellow is also the most difficult color to look at and causes strain to the eyes. Avoid overusing yellow in a workspace for this reason. Golds, on the other hand, are easier on the eye, and are a good way to add an element of finesse and luxury to a workspace without spending big. Think cornices and skirting boards.
Black absorbs all light in the color spectrum, so avoid using blocks of black which can be oppressive. It is also used for mourning in Western cultures, so can drain positivity from a space. On the other hand, black is considered a technical color, and so can be a good choice for hackerspaces and tech-oriented coworking spaces. It also denotes power and control. A few black cushions can give your space a strong and empowered feeling.
Pale purples, like lavenders and lilacs, are calming and relaxing, and do not promote enthusiasm or creativity, so should be avoided in areas dedicated to work. Royal purple, however, symbolises royalty (no surprises there) and wealth. As it is rarely found in nature and can appear artificial.
Despite the fact that up until the mid-20th century pink – as it is a tint of red – was a masculine color, modern associations link it to femininity. Pink is believed to have a calming effect, and many refer to the instance of pink-painted prison cells reducing aggression of inmates. This belief is contested, but given its association with femininity, it does not lend itself to a coworking space’s décor.
Whatever colors you choose
Decorate your space from light to dark, vertically – like in nature. A ceiling that is darker than the floor creates uneasiness and is inharmonious.
If you have a statement piece of furniture or a sizeable work of art that you know will adorn your space, consider these when picking color schemes and soft furnishings. Take our colors from the piece, or use complementary colors to accentuate it.
Work with the existing interior, and highlight interesting features. Much like artwork, columns, external gas and water pipes and stucco are interesting to look at and give a room texture. Use contrasting colors to highlight them, or paint them to help pick up other features in the room. These features are good ways to add warm hues – reds, oranges, and yellows – to a room without being over the top.
If your space has an abundance of natural afternoon sunlight, including orange in your color scheme is probably not a good move. Likewise, a dark room shouldn’t be painted blue. Colors change the perception of temperature, and so to help reduce the amount spent on air conditioning and heating, use certain color schemes to create a feeling of warmth or coolness.
Put thought into your WCs. Coworkers will appreciate a well-kept and attractive bathroom, both for themselves and any clients they receive. Feature walls in patterned wallpaper or bold colors can work well in these areas.
Decorating doesn’t stop inside – don’t forget about your building’s façade: it’s the first impression that anyone has of your space. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean a paint job. There are many creative ways to create a block of color on a façade.
Paying attention to décor is of the utmost importance for a coworking space. The more comfortable and relaxed, yet motivated and enthusiastic they feel, the more likely they are to spend time in a space.