image from iloveindia.com
I once met a realtor, who, as soon as she heard I was a feng shui consultant said, “I had someone come and feng shui my house!” She then went on enthusiastically, “she put red in my career corner and it’s really done wonders for me!” Now I need to find something red for my relationship corner because my husband and I aren’t getting along!” This particular practice of feng shui is called Black Hat or BTB. There are different schools of feng shui with different principles and practices. I do not practice this method, as it’s not a concept found in Form School Feng Shui. In Form School, color does not play a major role, but we do use it in some aspect. As an interior designer and Form School practitioner, I do understand that color affects us in many ways. It affects us psychologically, physically and physiologically.
Color affects our moods and thoughts in subconscious ways that we may not be aware of. To understand it’s affects, I have broken it down into five separate influences on how each individual responds to color:
1. cultural influences
2. personal life experiences
3. geographical influences
4. psychological influences
5. qi energy
Cultural influences: Each culture perceives colors differently. For example, in China, red is an auspicious color and is used for happy occasions. In Japan, the red circle on their national flag symbolizes the sun. Yes, the sun is red, not yellow as in the West, as it’s the land of the rising sun. Most Western cultures associate red with love and passion. Your own culture influences do affect how you perceive color, so although there are universal aspect of affects, we cannot say that red affects everyone in the same way.
Many times we subconsciously associate countries with certain colors. For example, if someone says, “Finland”, what colors comes to mind? Immediately, I imagine bright, neon colors. When I think of Thailand, I see gold and the bright, iridescent, beautiful colors of Thai silk. Japan brings to mind the muted, muddy, natural colors that are integrated in its culture. We are all influenced by our perceptions as well as our own culture.
Personal life experiences: Let’s say you have very fond memories of a happy childhood, growing up in a baby blue colored house in the countryside. You will forever associate that specific baby blue to happy thoughts. That is your story. On the other hand, if at one stage in your life you had a bad experience in a space with olive green walls, you may associate that color as having “bad” vibes, even though you don’t know why. It can be ingrained in your subconscious. So, how we see color is not always universal, we each have our own ideas and influences on color that is based on our individual experiences.
Geographical influences: Just as we associate countries with certain colors, we also associate geographical areas with color. In hot and humid areas, bright, bold and cheerful colors complement the weather. On the other hand, dark, earthy tones that look rich and warm in a colder climate look like they just don’t belong in the tropics.
How many of us have bought lovely tropical local clothing when on holiday only to find that they look totally out of place when we go home to our colder climate. Why is this? This is because color is strongly influence by natural light. Call me crazy but I believe light looks different in different parts of the world. It can be due to many factors such as the color of the landscape; mountains, water, soil, rocks, and trees. In cities, the landscape relates to the amount of surface area of concrete and buildings. Each material absorbs, transforms and reflects in a different manner affecting natural light.
Psychological influence: We all hear and learn about the psychological influences of color. There are basic universal generalizations that we can all relate to:
• black is depression
• rich red is passion
• bright yellow is cheerful
• sky blue is calming
• soft green is relaxing
But we must remember there are just generalizations. For we all know there isn’t just one blue. There are thousands of blues with different intensities and shades, each with a slightly different psychological influence.
Qi energy: In Form School Feng Shui we say all things in the universe are composed of 3 things: matter, qi energy and information. So, the qi energy of color is not only about the color itself, it is about the quality and quantity of the color. For example, painting a whole room orange has a completely different energy from painting just one wall of the room orange.
It’s very difficult to make generalizations on the influences of color as each circumstance, space and location is different. Your choice of color should reflect you as an individual, but also remember select colors based on your environment as well.
Here are a few questions to help you make color selections for your home. By asking yourself these simple questions you may be surprised what you learn about yourself!
• What colors do I like and why?
• What colors don’t I like and why?
• What does this remind me of?
• How does it make me feel?
• Does it look good in large or small quantities?
• What does it look like in natural light? Artificial light?
Back to the story of the realtor who hoped to fix her marriage with a red object. In Form School feng shui, we say relationships require communication and the forms of the room should encourage this. However, if the red object in her particular spot can act as a reminder to communicate and work on her relationship that is wonderful. But, placement alone without action may not achieve her desired result.