If you have ever walked into a room and felt instantly zen, you might have to give your thanks to the walls—especially if they’re painted in just the right hue. There’s an entire scientific field dedicated to how people are affected by colors, and you can use it to infuse your home with some seriously good vibes.
In color psychology, experts study how different hues impact human behavior. “We know that some colors can be tied to specific emotions,” explains Leslie Harrington, Ph.D., a specialist in color strategy who worked as Benjamin Moore Paints’s color and design director for 16 years.
There’s plenty of research backing color psychology, making it helpful to turn to when you’re blanking on which shade to paint the bathroom. First, you’ll have to figure out how you want a space to feel, explains color expert Deanna Minich, Ph.D. That said, your kitchen will likely have a far different vibe than your den—so the prescription for each room in your home will vary. According to Minich and Harrington, these are the best colors for every space of your home.
Whether you’re stepping in for your morning shower or winding down with a nice, hot soak, your bathroom shouldn’t stress you out—which is why Harrington recommends colors that are “soothing and feel clean,” like blue and white—though white alone, she notes, might be just a bit too stark.
According to Minich, light, cool colors are an ideal choice. “They reflect light and create a serene environment,” she says. “A seafoam green or an opalescent aquamarine may suit your taste.” There’s science to back it up: One study from the University of Georgia cited blue as a color that reminded participants of nature (the ocean, water, and sky), which created a calming effect.
Since one of the primary functions of a bedroom is for sleeping, Minich suggests using dark hues, as they don’t reflect light and therefore create an idyllic sleep environment. Dark blues, evocative of the night sky, are a solid option, but are certainly by no means the only choice. “Think of the richer reds, like burgundy, mahogany, or the more regal spectrum of violet,” Minich says. “I painted one of my bedrooms a deep plum color and feel very comforted in that space.”
Are you one for hosting big groups of friends and family, or do you prefer to veg out and watch Netflix? The way you use your living room affects what color you might be drawn to paint it.
“If you frequently socialize at home, I usually recommend a warmer color like yellow, and for a calmer environment, I’d advise cooler tones,” says Harrington. Yellows, coppery reds, and earth tones make a room feel warmer, which, according to Minich, “enhances personal connections.” Cool colors, according to a 2011 study focused on living rooms, enhance feelings of relaxation: Participants described them as making an interior feel spacious and restful.
If you throw frequent dinner parties, Harrington suggests warm colors like reds and oranges to encourage a convivial environment. “Look for sophisticated colors that look good in low lighting conditions,” she says. Deep, muted rust tones and soft ochres could be just the key to entertaining success.
Your home office is where you get down to business, whether you’re working or simply organizing your bills. Since this is a room in which you’ll want to concentrate, Harrington is a proponent of green, which she refers to as “the most balanced of all colors” and can therefore help you focus. A light sage green can instill productivity and relaxation.
Alternatively, Minich recommends choosing a color that inspires you. “My home office was previously a children’s bedroom and decorated with a scene from a storybook on the walls. I could have decided to paint over it when I moved in, but there was something special about it,” she says. “Seeing it every day has given me an uplifting feeling in a space designated for serious work.”
If you’re meal prepping for the week, baking for your family, or just whipping up a quick dinner for yourself, your kitchen should be a place that makes you feel content. For this, Harrington and Minich both recommend yellow.
Yellow, after all, has long been considered a happy color. In fact, according to one 2004 study, 93 percent of participants labeled yellow as energetic and positive. Consider this a fitting palette for the most nourishing place in your home.
More ideas based on your personality:
What Paint Color to Choose Based On Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type
The Best Paint Colors for Your Space, Based On Your Personality
Where to Shop for Dorm Decor, Based On Your Design Style