What is Colour Psychology? We Find out from Expert Karen Haller

Karen Haller is a Colour Psychology expert specializing in branding and interiors. She teaches and mentors interior designers and design professionals in applied colour psychology, works on a number of secret projects at a time and is frequently jetting off around the world to lecture corporate industries on how to get the best results for their businesses by improving their working environments. Karen also works with private clients on how to make their homes work for them and believes that mostly, people are unaware of just how much impact colour has on human emotion and behaviour. Here, she tells us a bit more about how she works and we managed to persuade her to share a few takeaway tips on the colours to avoid in certain rooms….Karen Haller | Colour Psychology | My Friend's House

Colour Psychology is the study of how colour influences how we feel, behave and interact with ourselves and others. 

I believe people are not always conscious of how colour affects them. If you’re surrounded by red for example it could be a very lively environment, but could become heated as red could start to annoy you. It’s best to avoid yellow in a bedroom. It lifts the spirits but also stimulates the nervous system and you do not want to do that while you’re trying to go to sleep. Green is considered calming, but then lime green is full of yellow, which makes it lively and intense. Blue is also considered calming. However turquoise is again lively. It’s all about the tone and saturation of colour.

What I do is not colour therapy or colour healing and it’s not connected to Feng Shui. I studied traditional colour theory and found it didn’t answer any questions surrounding human behaviour so I went on my own quest, studying under people who have made colour psychology their life’s work. I have studied interior design, fashion, design and business. Colour psychology is highly researched yet still under utilized, with colour often seen as nothing more than decoration – something happened last century when it was relegated to just being a purely decorative feature.

If I’m consulting a business it’s about questioning how they want people behaving in a particular space. For example, you probably want your finance people to behave in a very different way to your sales department or customer services. That comes from what the specific colour tones in combination with each other as we never see colour in isolation. There is no one size fits all.

My primary concern is how to ensure the authentic personality of the people who live in the space is being expresses, to give people a home that supports and nurtures them.

I work from a series of questions and intuitively. It’s not just what they say, it’s what they’re not saying – it’s their whole physiology.

Every colour influences a feeling, a behaviour. There’s not one colour that doesn’t have a psychological response to it. There’s no such thing as a right or wrong colour. I find it interesting seeing how our colour choices and preferences change over the decades whether that’s as individuals or as a society.

There are common issues. I’ve come across parents with a strong look that they also apply to their children’s rooms and find that they are subsequently behaving a certain way. For instance one mother had a son who wouldn’t stop wearing red. His bedroom was tones of beige, like the rest of the house and he was instinctively looking for more energy. By the same token, if a bedroom is very lively with a kaleidoscope of colours and is very highly saturated, how does a child sleep? It’s also what’s happening in the rest of the house. It’s not in isolation, it’s what we eat, what we do, how we interact with each other. It’s not all just down to colour alone, but people do underestimate colour’s role.”

Visit Karen Haller’s website to find out more about her work.

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

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