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Textures and Patterns for Interior Design: a Study in the Use of Colour

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The Role of Colour in Public Spaces

In the 1930’s, Alvar Aalto skillfully used colour in the interior spaces of the Paimio Sanatorium: yellow for the distribution elements to facilitate orientation during the night; blue for the walls of the common areas to create a relaxing atmosphere; light green on the ceilings of the patient’s rooms, excellent for rest. 


Colour coordination is important in interior design: read our e-book and  discover how to get the best out of it!


The Humanisation of Colour

Beginning in the last century, scientific studies have shown that a large percentage of human reaction to constructed interior spaces is based on colour. It follows that appropriate colour design in a building (and therefore the choice of materials) can broadly contribute to the psychophysical wellbeing of its users who become the starting point for the development of a humanised colour design, as well as the intended recipients of the project, and must therefore be attentive to human emotions.


Floor and wall applications from the Rilievi collection

Floor and wall applications from the Rilievi collection by Zaven
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On the one hand, if universal associations exist relating to colour perception (blue is associated with the sky, green with nature, yellow with light, red with danger), this also can vary based on age, social and cultural aspects, character and personal experience. Each of us subjectively interprets the stimuli coming from the space that surrounds us; consequently the ideal environment with regards to colour design can take on very personal features and vary from case to case.

Public Spaces - Shared Suggestions

The choice of colours in a domestic space can be dictated by taste and the needs of the architect in agreement with the client; in public spaces, on the other hand, it is advisable for colour to be carefully planned relying on the most universal chromatic suggestions possible, allowing users adequate emotional comfort:

  • White - communicates the concept of cleanliness and neutrality
  • Yellow - encourages attention, learning
  • Red - has a stimulating effect, attracts attention
  • Maroon - conveys warmth and tradition
  • Azure - has a relaxing effect
  • Blu - instills security, reliability
  • Green - encourages calm and reflection
  • Orange - induces enthusiasm and cheerfulness

The Choice of Colour

Nature provides a vast chromatic range, how do you choose the most appropriate colour for interiors intended for public use? To make a prudent choice, it is necessary to evaluate numerous variables, moving according to objective, subjective and functional criteria.

Objective criteria

The effect that a colour creates in a space depends on light, positioning and the arrangement of the environments: if the room is north-facing, warm colours will be recommended; if, on the other hand, it faces to the south, neutral and cool hues are effective. Light and colour create volumetric effects and influence depth perception: lighter colours tend to give the idea of breadth, darker colours of calm. The tones accessed can play an active role in composition, highlighting architectural variations.


"Materia" Project collection by Casamood

"Materia" Project collection by Casa dolce casa - Casamood
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Subjective criteria

 It is useful to generalise as colours can influence the mental state of those who use the space: warmer and brighter colours communicate a sense of confidential proximity, whereas warmer dark colours lend a classical, elegant aspect; cooler, brighter colours offer a sensation of freshness, cleanliness, linearity, calm; cooler and darker colours symbolise stability, security and respect.


Floor and wall applications from the Storie collection by Giorgia Zanellato & Daniele Bortotto

Floor and wall applications from the Storie collection by Giorgia Zanellato & Daniele Bortotto, CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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Functional criteria

 For an appropriate colour design, compatibility with the space’s function must be assessed: in working spaces, frequented for long times, lighter colours that encourage concentration are preferred. As regards health, everything should communicate warmth and welcoming, not technical coolness or hostility and the most appropriate colours are muted tones that encourage rest and calm. Dark or full shades go well with environments frequented for short intervals of time, for example restaurants, to create contrast, wonder, joy. Neutral colours and natural shades are appropriate for cladding and facades or for public flooring to avoid contrast with the surrounding environment.

The Trends of the Moment

Colour perception and the feelings that it gives rise to are conditioned by contemporary trends, capable of leading to experimentation and appreciation of unprecedented colour palettes. The use of fashion nuances in an architectural project is more than legitimate. However, it is always advisable to opt for colours that reflect the client's spaces and way of being: this guarantees a look that will last over time.

Therefore, it is ascertained that the use of colour in architecture goes beyond mere aesthetic and decorative needs. Nevertheless, we would do well to remember that recommendations relating to the functional use of colour are filtered through a personal creative process, for the purpose of avoiding spaces acquiring monotonous and depersonalising features. The objective is the humanisation of tone and the skill of the designer rests in considering the ergonomic and emotional factors without sacrificing the complexity of the design and operating contextual choices using most appropriate materials.