Colour Story: Yellow
Yellow. It’s a happy colour and commands our attention and often makes us smile. However when it comes to using this strong colour in our homes I think we can have a marmite relationship with it. We either love it or hate it. Often when we think about any colour we immediately think of a particular shade and so with yellow we may be remembering that primary yellow used in poster paints at school which doesn’t have much depth or a dull desaturated Magnolia that has been on our walls for years. Both these examples give yellow bad press. However there are hundreds if not thousands of variations within each colour bracket (which we as a civilized culture have defined) and there are a myriad of yellows that we might not have even discovered yet which could really work in our rooms to bring a little sunshine and joy. What about a deep India yellow, a vibrant chartreuse or a rich gold? It’s a colour I feel that commands attention and maybe we should heed its call in our interior decision-making.
Let’s get a little bit technical...
The scientist in me likes to understand why things behave the way they do so let’s do some homework on yellow. Apparently our eyes are particularly sensitive to yellow wavelengths of light and so something yellow appears much brighter than it really is. This may be to do with our primitive ancestors needing to distinguish yellow and oranges fruits in among green leaves contributing to our means of survival. In Chinese tradition for some reason yellow was seen to be a superior colour and an important shade in relation to other colours and this race surrounded themselves in various shades of it from their clothes to their homes. However in more recent centuries it can be sometimes used as a derogatory colour often associated with more sinister historical events such as the star of David and the Taliban marking hindus with a yellow armband. However in Buddhism it seems to signify hope. So you see my hypothesis of our love-hate relationship with yellow seems to resonate throughout the ages. More recently taxis in New York became yellow so they could be easily spotted after studying what colour would be most effective to be noticed in a busy urban street. Journalists use this trick too to direct attention to headlines when a non-transferable yellow ink was introduced in the 80s. I like the power that this colour seems to command but how is this useful in our humble abodes?
Is yellow the happiest colour?
Recently I’ve been reading a great interiors book by Victoria Harrison called Happy by Design which has a unique approach to interiors and home by considering how scientific research can inform how we decorate as we understand different elements of interior design and its effects on mood and well-being. This is so up my street! Possibly my favourite chapter was discovering that yellow was chosen as the happiest colour. Maybe this isn’t a surprise. Yellow for me is most associated with yellow tinged light which reminds us of the sun (which never fails to lift our moods) as well as firelight which imbues that cosy feel. It’s a good reminder that warmer more yellow-tinged lightbulbs are always a good choice for our homes as blue light can be too cool, harsh and unwelcoming. But thinking about our rooms there are so many ways we can integrate this colour and it’s up to your preferences of this colour how much or how little you go for it!
So what does this mean for our walls?
Should we all go out and paint our rooms yellow? Definitely not! Although it may be the best colour for our moods I am a huge advocate of choosing colours to paint our rooms that resonate with us and mean something personal to us. I love that paint companies are realising this too and using it in their marketing such as Crown paints who have a new logo - ‘It’s personal!” Yes indeed it is. However if yellow is a colour that gives you all the good feels then there are definitely ways to integrate into the wall colour. This can work really well for a badly lit space too. (However my previous post about Interior Design Myths explains why embracing dark colours in a dark space can be a good call sometimes too!)
I could definitely be persuaded to really go for yellow after looking at these sunny rooms below from Farrow and Ball’s brilliant book How to Decorate. A fantastic read especially if you want to learn more about the elements and tricks of interior decorating.
I had a Room Service client recently who had a small Victorian living room with glorious high ceilings which was not only north-facing but also had a shadow cast across the bay window from the neighbouring building so it really was a very shady room. We talked at length about their style and what they needed from the room and were so delighted when I came up with this yellow botanical scheme. It was something that neither of us were quite expecting but Nicky said it’s the first time that her and her husband have ever agreed on anything in their home. That’s got be a winner! Also they were lucky to have picture rails in their period property so they could just paint up to there. This is a great trick if committing to a more daring colour than you have before.
I’ve mentioned it before and it’s worth reiterating that I get so much interiors inspiration from Instagram and here is a local home that caught my attention. Robyn AKA Almost Everything Off Ebay a fellow vintage and colour lover has gone for a rich deep India Yellow in her spare bedroom and styled it with some brilliant artwork covering the whole wall. I just LOVE this look!
A colour never exists in isolation, it is always in reference to another shade and this discovery of complimentary is one of the most exciting things about interior design for me. How about some yellow and blue? I love this deep Sudbury Yellow from Farrow and Ball.
A bit more subtle please!
I hear you.. I understand that going full out yellow on the walls isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and as a lover of dark interiors we can inject a little sunshine through furniture or accessories and have pops of colour. Here’s one of my favourite greys (Downpipe from Farrow and Ball) which looks ace with this yellow light. This is a powerful reminder that a dark backdrop allows colour to really pop in front of it due to the higher contrast between the two shades. Contrast for me is an important and useful aesthetic both in my rooms and photography to add depth and interest.
In my own home I’ve used yellowcake (now an archived Farrow and Ball colour so you can still get it even though it’s vanished from the new colour card) to add some colour to a large neutral landing wall. Here’s the original image that inspired me. Who knew that this bright yellow would compliment gold so well?
And here’s how I used it for my gallery wall. Still makes me smile every day I walk past it…
Now if you’re more keen on the darker yellow tones in the spectrum then going deep mustard can really exude sophistication and calm. One of my favourite interior designers at the minute Sophie Ashby has used it brilliantly and subtly in this bedroom. She always uses art as the starting point for a room so don’t forget that you add a pop of yellow in this way too.
Award-winning and all round lovely lady Medina from Grillo Designs has gone yellow in a really creative way in her living room. The tag for her blog is upcycle your home and boy does she do it in style! I love how she marries newer modern items with vintage and I’m sure you know by now I’m a big fan of galleries walls (even though some would argue they are on their way out). The art, throw and sofa are such a great use of yellow here.
One of the easiest ways that you can infuse a little bit of yellow joy into your home is to add yellow flowers. Everyone knows that adding some vibrant sunflowers instantly cheers up a room. But I’ve also used yellow roses or daffodils from my own garden which has its own special joy.
Actually I love it really bright!
Ok if you’re really ready to go for something exciting then let me introduce you to Karen Knox from Making Spaces. Also an ex-dancer and self-taught designer, I love her really innovative approach to interiors. Here is Trumpet by Little Greene used to brighten a dimly lit bathroom and then continued in such a creative way into neighbouring rooms.
Another inspiration on Instagram (a great platform for finding inspiration and you can search via hashtags) is liznylon designs. Coincidentally she has used the same Little Greene paint colour Trumpet as Karen on her mural walls. Yet another fun way to incorporate yellow into your room schemes, not only for kids rooms remember! Image credits here.
If you’re still chomping at the bit and want some more ideas you can hop over and see my Pinterest Board bursting with yellow room inspiration. And if by a stroke of serendipity, my next client wants me to help update and re-design her yellow kid’s bedroom in time for a new arrival to the family!
So there you have it! Did you realise that there were so many ways to incorporate yellow into your home for positive effect? I’ve just scratched the surface on some of my favourite yellow rooms and I’m feeling really inspired myself to add a little sunshine to my rooms especially as the weather is drawing us even further away from summer (though the bright winter sun has such a divine quality to it!).This was such a joy to write. If I ever need a pick me up I might just scroll through these images to perk me up! Have you used yellow in your home? What was your favourite shade from this post? Let me know in the comments below.
If you’re enjoying the colour series then check out the following ones below:
Yours in colour and creativity,
Disclaimer: Photography belongs to me unless otherwise stated. This isn’t a sponsored post, just sharing my passion for colour with the world!