Color Meanings and Symbolism and the Use of Colors in Interior Design ...

Color Meanings and Symbolism

Introduction and Overview

When white light is passed through a prism the color spectrum of 12 basic hues is thus revealed - hence the claim that all colors are contained in the color white can be scientifically observed. This 3-dimensional prismatic "spectrum" is graphically illustrated as the 2-dimensional color wheel - a graphic chart subdivided into 12 equal parts. The underlying mathmatics illustrate an analgous relationship with that of the octave in the 12-tone western music system - each sequentially-occurring tone possessing its own distinct vibrational frequency as well as unique symbolism.

The Color Spectrum and Color Wheel

The Color Wheel consists of 3 primary colors, 3 secondary colors and 6 tertiary colors. The Primary colors - red, yellow and blue - are pure and cannot be derived from any other color, and, conversely, all other colors are created from them. The Secondary colors - orange, green, and violet - align on the color wheel equidistantly between the 3 primary colors and are derived from the combining of 2 primary colors. The Tertiary colors - yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green - are formed by mixing a primary with an adjacent secondary color on the wheel. Proceeding clockwise from the top the 12 hues of the color wheel appear in the following order: yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red, red-violet, purple, blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green, and yellow-green.

Fundamentals of Color Theory

Three terms commonly used in color theory are hue, saturation and value: Hue is the actual color, Saturation the intensity, and Value the brightness of the color. A hue (color) can also be modified by the addition of white - a Tint, the addition of black - a Shade, or the addition of gray - a Tone. Complementary colors - positioned across from or opposite each other on the color wheel - when mixed in equal amounts produce gray. Analogous color refers to the pairing of three adjacent colors while Triadic refers to the combination of any three equadistantly-spaced colors on the wheel. A Monochromatic color scheme is attained by creating an array of various shades (ranging from light to dark) from a single color by adjusting variables such as saturation, value, tint, shade and tone - - whereas the hue remains constant.

room settings with oriental rugs
Color palette using three related colors - brown, gold and green - in a formal setting [left] while example at right
features a monochromatic scheme with warm, light to dark, variants of an orange - or salmon - hue.

Colors and Color Schemes in Interior Design

Just as the composer in music, the designer "orchestrates" the individual elements (color and harmony) of the composition to achieve an aesthetically-pleasing arrangement. A successful color scheme can be the logical application of any of the aformentioned (i.e. analgous, triadic, complementary, monochromatic) formulae used for the combinations of colors based upon their proximity or interrelationship on the color wheel. Just as individual colors can be either warm, cool or neutral, so can the overall color scheme, more of less, ideally achieving a harmonious balance of both complementary and contrasting hues around a predominant color - or colors.

Colors and Color Sybolism in Oriental Rugs

Complementary Color Scheme using Blue and Orange-Gold - as seen (below) in Ocean Vibes rug from Nejad:

Often symbolizing serenity, stability, inspiration, or wisdom. Blue is the primary color associated with depth and stability spaciousness - the sea and sky. Blue is the color of trust and peace and can suggest loyalty and integrity as well as coldness and frigidity. It is also associated with wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, heaven and truth. "True blue."

Blue: cooling, calming, pacifying, expansive, heavenly, sublime, loyalty


Blue Ocean Vibes Rug #NN005 - Nejad Neo Nepal Contemporary Rug Collection

Often associated with romantic love and sensual passion Red is the primary color associated with physical energy, action, ambition, determination, passion, desire and even anger. Red is an intense color that can be used to signify danger or warning and has also been associated with both cupid and the devil. Additionally red is often used in an official, organizational capacity. "Red Carpet."

Red: Intensity, immediacy, passion, importance, stimulation, heat


Red / Black Le Cirque Rug #ML001 - Nejad Neo Nepal Contemporary Rug Collection

A primary color often associated with sunshine or joy Yellow is optimistic, cheerful, uplifting and energetic. In color psychology, yellow is the color of the mind and the intellect and sybolizes enlightenment. Historically, in western culture, yellow has a default association with cowardice or fear. "Yellow belly."

Yellow: cheerfulness, joy, purification, optimism, wisdom, enlightenment


Sage / Antique Ivory Ushak Rug #T085SAAI - Nejad American Home Designer Rug Collection

The color of earth, wood and stone, Brown is a neutral and warm color relating to security, protection, comfort and material wealth. It is the color of wholesomeness, reliability, home, grounding, foundations, stability, and honesty and is the definitive color representing the traditional values of the average American. "Brown ugar."

Brown: dependability, commonality, ordinary, natural, human nature


Brown Aubusson Rug #T103 - Nejad American Home Designer Rug Collection

As a secondary color Green is a dominant color in nature often associated with nature and ecology. Greens are soothing and cool because of their association with foliage and vegetation. The color of money, green can symbolize both the virtues of self-reliance and prosperity as well as the vices of possessiveness, greed and jealousy. "Green with envy."

Green: development, emergence, ripening, maturation, evolution, increase, gain


Venetian Green / Ivory - Kashan Rug #M054 - Nejad Signature Masterpiece Collection

Orange, in heraldry, is the color of communication symbolic of strength, endurance - and optimism. A secondary color associated with sunshine, Orange represents enthusiasm, happiness, creativity, attraction, success, encouragement and stimulation, but can also be a sign of pessimism and superficiality. It is the color associated with the tropics and tropical fruit. "Orange juice."

Orange: sunshine, enthusiasm, creativity, flamboyance


Rust / Gold Arts & Crafts II #M030 - Nejad Signature Masterpiece Rug Collection

Appreciated superficially for its sparkle, glitz, and glamour, the deeper symbolism of gold is more profound. Associated with abundance and prosperity, luxury and quality, prestige and sophistication, value and elegance, Gold is the color of success, achievement and triumph. The color gold is also associated with love, courage, illumination, magic, wisdom, wealth and grandeur. "Golden opportunity."

Gold: luxury. prestige. glamour. opulence. grandeur. precious. triumph


Black / Gold Fine Savonnerie Rug #M001 - Nejad Signature Masterpiece Rug Collection

Purple is the color of the imagination and is often associated with royalty, nobility, power and ambition. Purple represents of wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, mystery and magic. Purple can be seen as either spiritually elevating or threatening but also represents heroism and bravery. "Purple heart."

Purple: royalty, nobility, heroism, bravery, mystery


Purple Floral Damask Rug #NN010 - Nejad Neo Nepal Contemporary Rug Collection

Spiritual yet practical, magenta is a color that symbolizes universal harmony and emotional balance while pink is nurturing and represents unconditional love. Salmon combines pink with a touch of orange and is just on the lighter side of coral and is considered a hopeful color - a sign of health and happiness. "In the pink!"

Salmon: health, empowerment, instinct, survival


Rose / Blue Mahal Rug #T030 - Nejad American Home Designer Rug Collection

Implementing Color, Experiencing Color, Interpreting Color

The symbolism of color and its interpretive aspect is a relative property that is context-dependent while color itself can be used for purely aesthetic effect as well as for practical purposes - designed to influence mood and feelings - and often on a subliminal level. Not surprisingly, there is predictable variation in both the use of and the interpretation of color between cultures - but in the west the use of colors has been standardized and systematically maintained across an array of government, corporate and service industries. Even gender-based color preferences persist - it has been observed that while male hotel guests have preferred "masculine" color schemes, female guests favor "feminine" color schemes.


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