Today was the kind of drab gray day that is typical of this time of year in Maine. Snow melting on the ground, foggy air and leafless trees, damp and chill. The sun when it does shine stays low in the sky, so the light is weak even at mid-day. In this neutral colored world, I am reminded of how much I am fed by color. I know I am not alone in this need for rich saturated hues, whether they be the warmth of yellow, the passion of red, the cool depths of blue or the vibrancy of green. Did you ever notice how color affects your mood? On a gray day we may feel drab and gray ourselves. Sun and blue skies may uplift our mood. When I moved from California to Maine, I knew that the quality of light would shift dramatically in the long winters, so I painted the walls of my home warm sunny colors to offset the winter whites and grays. I am truly amazed that so many Maine homes have white walls when there is so much white here much of the year.
Color is reflected light and those light frequencies do resonate in us. We can actually be fed energetically by color. Likewise we can feel overwhelmed or jolted awake by color that is too intense or clashes with its surroundings. While we each may have our favorite color, there are properties to colors that are near universal. We see it reflected culturally in our use of language. We speak of seeing red when we are angry, having the blues when we are down or feeling golden when we feel enriched.
Notice what colors you have in your world. What does it say about who you are? Do the colors energize you, relax you or do you feel jarred or drained by them? Understanding how you react to color is vital to creating environments that are harmonious and effective for life and work. In one client’s office two walls were a khaki color, that felt oppressive and drab. Just shifting the shade to a clearer shade of celadon green lifted his mood while keeping a sense of calm in the space. Another client’s home office and meditation room had a large round red rug that filled the room. The magnetizing energy was overwhelming for the small 10’x10′ room, overpowering any sense of peacefulness that might have been created by the altar and furnishings. Putting a neutral rug in the space, especially a light colored one would brighten the room and create a sense of spaciousness and calm.
I am reminded of a great quote from master colorist, Georgia O’Keeffe in speaking about her paintings, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” Ultimately that’s where color affects us too. In the place that is beyond words. Our direct experience as a sensate being. Paying attention to how you color your world will help you in developing spaces that work for you on all levels.
If you would like help in coloring your world, I am available for consults, both on site and remotely.
For more information on the psychology of color these are some useful links.
As interior decorators, designers and architects, we work to create spaces that balance form and function with the comfort of the inhabitants. In these practices our greatest asset is not our mind, but our body. It is our senses that provide information about the qualities of light, temperature, color and feel of the setting and materials. The mind can then interpret that information and design solutions, drawing on our training and experience. So a practice that develops mind/body synchronization in the present moment could only be of benefit to us. Mindfulness developed through meditation synchronizes the mind and body through the simple act of resting the mind on the sensations of the breath.
With years of meditation practice, I have found my sense awareness is heightened with greater attention to detail, a holistic understanding of relational space and greater sensitivity to subtle energetic shifts in the environment. Contemplating questions like; how do I feel in the space? what attracts my attention? what feels uncomfortable? can provide feedback vital to the design process. By cultivating a connection to the present moment through sitting practice, sense perceptions are heightened and more space is available for the less obvious reactions to arise. This then provides more information on which to base any design.
Mindfulness to our inner dialogue without judgment makes active listening to a client without bias possible. This opens the possibility of dialogue with all the forces at work; natural, aesthetic and interpersonal. Out of this awareness, options offered and decisions made embrace things as they are rather than imposing a conceptual response based on previous experience. The result organically grows from the fertile intersection of people, place and materials, so that the final design is a natural outgrowth uniquely suited to the client’s needs, fresh and alive.
In my own practice, each design begins with synchronizing my mind and body, to be fully present with heightened awareness; open to the specifics of site, client and function. My role is as sensor, facilitator and conduit for the design to be born through skillful engagement with all the interdependent elements of the space. This is not about my personal creative expression, but an opportunity for the client’s vision to be exposed and realized. Dialogue and collaboration are key as we work together to create a place where one can settle the body, rest the mind and uplift the soul.