Designer Kristin Peake chose soft greens to create a bright, fresh space for a Potomac family. "The clients love the happy, cheerful feel of the space and spend a lot of time hanging out and playing board games with their children here," Peake says.

Interior designer Lynn Madyson once had a client who loved purple so much that she previously had painted her master bedroom grape and added a rug the color of a ripe eggplant. The woman wanted to create a romantic atmosphere, but found she couldn’t relax in the room.

That’s when she turned to Madyson.

“I explained the colors were too intense to be relaxing,” says Madyson, who owns Lynn Madyson Designs in Bethesda. “I chose a softer, more sophisticated, silvery lavender that she initially thought was too light.”

The result was a soothing, romantic space that the client and her husband look forward to spending time in every evening.  

Color is a powerful interior design tool that can set the mood of a room and have an effect on any activities that take place in it. Choose warm colors, such as orange and red, and you may find yourself eating more.

Paint your office blue and you may experience spurts of creativity and productivity. Not feeling well? Pale blue appears to promote healing.


Marketers and product manufacturers have long understood the importance of color. It increases brand recognition—think red for Campbell’s soup and brown for UPS—and influences shopping behavior, with yellow and red tending to attract shoppers’ attention.  

Color has similar effects in the home. Professional color consultant K.C. Cohn, who works with homeowners at Strosniders Hardware in Potomac, says customers often feel overwhelmed when choosing paint because of colors’ emotional impact.

“There are a thousand different colors out there, and they’re afraid of making a mistake,” says Cohn, who owns Room Color Schemes in Bethesda. “They’re worried they won’t be able to live with the color in the long term.”


Cohn, who has undergraduate degrees in interior design and psychology, helps homeowners choose colors based on color theory as well as on their personality, lifestyle needs and feelings about color.

Favorite hues are important, but the mood a client wants to evoke in a space matters more, says Cohn, whose own house is decorated in shades of white.

“Some people want to feel energized in their homes, and some are looking to feel more relaxed,” she says. Warm colors—including red, orange and yellow—are energizing.


So a family that likes to cook and spend a lot of time in the kitchen might consider painting the walls pumpkin or gold to create a warm, nurturing feel. Cool colors—green, blue and some shades of purple—evoke calm and relaxation. So a family with a hectic lifestyle might choose a serene gray or green to promote a more laid-back mood.