(Not So) Mellow Yellow

(This post originally appeared as a blog post for Heidi Pribell Interiors.)

photo of yellow light bulb

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How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.  ~Vincent Van Gogh

Yellow is the lightest and brightest color on the spectrum, and it may possibly be the happiest. In the Western world, this primary color is linked to joy, warmth, and optimism. Although it has various meanings within different cultures, yellow is universally associated with vitality and life-giving sunlight.

shallow focus photography of yellow sunflower field under sunny sky

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Depending on the shade and the individual viewing it, though, it isn’t entirely a positive hue. Symbolic of cowardice and jealously as well as friendship and cheer, yellow can invoke an array of emotional responses––not all of them pleasant.

Detected by some people who are visually impaired, this light color is often used for ambulances, emergency vehicles, and cautionary signs. It doubles as both a helpful reminder and a warning of danger.

sign slippery wet caution

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Stronger, louder versions can annoy and overpower, particularly if used in larger doses. A little yellow can go a long way. This is particularly true while decorating a home or office space. It’s best to use bright and vibrant shades sparingly––as trim, an accent wall, or a well-placed decorative object.

Also, areas that tend to be dark and dim––hallways, basements, windowless rooms––could benefit from an uplifting splash of yellow. It’s best to use varieties that inspire and resonate with you.

closeup photo of turned on pendant light

New parents often decorate baby nurseries in yellow, rather than more traditional gender-specific pink or blue. However, if the room is too bright or lacks a balanced color scheme, the atmosphere can feel aggressive and create irritability. In yellow rooms, babies tend to cry more and adults often lose their temper more easily.

close up photo of yellow surface

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A client of mine wanted to change the feel of her living room on a limited budget and with minimal hassle. The dark maroon walls made the communal family space feel like a cave, so that was an easy starting point. I suggested keeping the color warm, but lightening it to a shade of orange or yellow. After several test colors, she opted for a cheerful, sunny yellow, which went well with the creamy white trim and neutral furniture.

With a lighter, more modern rug, and warmer artwork to adorn the walls, the entire feel of the room changed. The most drastic element, though, was the yellow paint, which created a more open, cheerful, and inviting space. Every member of the family prefers the yellow update!


geometric decoration

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TIP: Use yellow to brighten up small, dark spaces, but be careful not to overdo it. If you decide to paint entire walls, choose a calmer shade that resonates with you and your family members. Otherwise, liven up spaces with small splashes of color with accents, accessories, and pop-up objects.

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Filed under Heidi Pribell Interiors

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