What are warm and cool colors? And why is it important to understand them when painting your home?
Warm colors are typically reds, oranges and yellows, and tend to advance toward our eyes. Cool colors are typically blues, greens and violets, and tend to recede when we look at them. However, there is such a thing as “cool” warm colors, and “warm” cool colors. It’s important to always work with colors in context. Because, for example, a burgundy red can look warm next to a navy, but cold next to a different shade of red.
Warm and cool colors matter because we make different psychological associations with different colors. It’s kind of like the weather - warm, sunny days make you feel differently than cool, grey days.
Paint colors in our homes can have the same effect. As humans, we are naturally drawn toward the sun, and colors that create that same warmth are just as enticing. When creating a color palette for the home, keep in mind that colors that have an overall warm feeling are going to, in general*, make us most cozy and comfortable. However, you don’t want the palette to be too warm, because too much warmth can be overstimulating. So don’t go crazy with tangerine orange ceilings and fire-engine red walls, or you’ll be running for the door. And that's not to say cooler wall colors won't work - I spec them all the time! It just means if you do opt for cooler paint hues, you're best introducing some warmth through other design elements to keep the space from getting too dreary.
And if you think sticking with “neutrals” or “white” is the safe way to go, and you’ll be able to avoid this whole warm and cool issue, think again. Every color, even beiges and whites, have undertones. Some are pink-y, some are green, some are yellow. So-called “neutrals” are anything but neutral.
*Yes, yes, I know. There are also personal associations and preferences that can throw a kink into this whole thing. But, for the purposes of this post let's keep this in general terms, ok?