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Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Color preference and selection can spur some surprisingly heated debates. Just recently I repainted my office and the response was decidedly mixed. What I thought was a neutral color (I've used it many, many times) looked a little green due to a reflection from some metal trim on the exterior of the building. Although I've been interviewed about the effect of color in the workplace, this recent experience led me to do a little more research on the subject.


Color preference and the effect of color on mood is one of those "What came first the chicken or the egg?"questions. Can color have an effect on your personality or does your personality affect the colors you choose? I'm not a scientist so I can't answer that question, but I can give you a little advice when it comes to choosing an office color scheme.


The power of color is not a new concept. In fact the phrase "color your world" comes from Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese design technique that some say dates back 2000 years. Technological advances have allowed scientists to confirm what the ancient Chinese already knew; the colors you surround yourself with can have a profound impact on your mood (and heart rate). So how do you know what color is best for your workspace?


While there is some predictability in response to color, human beings are complex, so proceed with caution. Life experiences, basic personality traits and even cultural differences can alter a person's response.


With that said there are some basic guidelines.


First consider your objectives for the space and the effect your office color will have on coworkers and clients. For example, researchers found that red caused people to work faster. If that's the case then shouldn't everyone paint their office red? Definitely not, those same workers had more errors and higher heart rates. A red office would not be the best choice for a CPA.


Once you've figured out your objectives you need to decide on a color or colors. This should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway - test a color before you commit. Whether it's a storage box or a paint color, live with it for a few weeks before you make a final decision. Also consider color combinations for balance and experiment with different color tones to achieve the desired effect.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Pink has a relaxing effect which is surprising considering it's just a lighter shade of red. Nonetheless it can help with anxiety or aggressive behavior. It also looks great with green so if you're feeling a little uptight, a green and pink color scheme could do wonders for you.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Blue has a calming effect. It can slightly lower blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. For balance and style combine blue with orange. Some shades of blue like turquoise are said to promote communication.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Green is soothing and relaxing so if you're prone to anxiety at work, a predominately green office could be helpful. (It does curb the appetite, so if your office is a restaurant, green isn't the color for you.)



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Yellow is considered a memorable color. Is this why basic sticky notes come in yellow? Yellow is also a good color for concentration and self-esteem, perfect for a study area. When choosing a shade of yellow try to avoid the school bus look by selecting muted shades or simply balance with grey.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Red, like Orange and Yellow, has a stimulating effect. Studies have proven high cortical arousal in red rooms. It increases the heart rate and blood pressure, not a good choice if you suffer from high blood pressure. The color red is also associated with vitality, energy and ambition.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Violet or purple is considered to be the most versatile color. It promotes peace, wisdom, intuition and artistry. (I hope they have plans to paint all the walls in Washington D.C. violet!) Some say it can even help with headaches. No scientific tests have confirmed this, but if you suffer from headaches at work it's worth trying.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Black is associated with strength and confidence. That's why your black suit makes you feel powerful.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

Orange is stimulating and can reduce fatigue. It has a warming effect that can work wonders in a room that is perpetually cold. It can also stimulate your appetite so I'll be avoiding orange walls in my office.



Choosing an Office Color Scheme

White is a combination of all colors so while an all white room can be sterile, it can soften and illuminate other colors in the spectrum. If you have floor to ceiling windows in your office (I'm jealous) white walls can balance the colors coming in from the outdoors.


Choosing colors is still more of an art than a science. Studies seem conflicting and the results are complicated. In one study participants heart rates were lower in a multi-colored room than they were in a grey room. This seems to conflict with the evidence that red increases heart rates, but could provide scientific evidence that Jonathan Adler is on to something. The good thing is that color is easy to change. If you invest in neutral basics and accessorize with color you can make adjustments till you find the color scheme that's right for you.


by Holly Bohn Weiss - Copyright © 2013