Using the Psychology Behind Color in Staging Homes

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

paintchoicesDid you know the color you choose for your home can at a subconscious level psychologically affect you or others? Choosing a wall color may have just gotten a little more stressful!

Scientific research has long pointed to the connection between color and its emotional or mental pull on our psyche, even if we do rarely realize it. And as a former psychology writer, I can’t resist the urge to bring back some of this scientific color research for you to consider when selecting paint colors.

After all, you can use such research to harness the positive energy of color when staging properties for sale.

A company called Colour Affects, based in London, is based on helping organizations and individuals learn how to draw from the psychological influence of color on human responses and behaviors.

Here are some of the insights they’ve drawn from color research, along with some of my “try it” tips for how you may be able to apply the information in your staging.


This powerful pop of color can grab a person’s attention first and foremost, and has even been found to raise a person’s pulse rate. A 2009 study by researchers Ravi Mehta and Rui Zhu also found that red can actually improve a person’s cognitive performance too, making a person even more accurate and attentive to detail.

Try it: We all want buyers’ eyes drawn instantly to those selling features, right? Maybe a red accessory on the fireplace mantel or a vase of red flowers on those sparkling granite countertops can help you get buyers’ eyes right to where you want them.


Blue is known as a soothing color that can be mentally calming. Blue actually tends to surface universally as the world’s favorite color, according to research, so you’re probably not going to turn off too many buyers by incorporating blue. However, you also don’t want to give people the “blues.” Sometimes blue has been found to be perceived as cold or unfriendly, so don’t overdo it.

Try it: A soft blue color in the bathroom or bedroom may just be the calming retreat you want to create in a home you have for sale.

Also, since blue has been found to make people more creative (studies have shown people in a blue room were found to be twice as creative than when they were in a red room), blue might be a good choice in a children’s room too.


This color is known as having the strongest impact psychologically. It can lift your spirits and is known as the color of “confidence and optimism.” Just don’t go overboard with it: Too much yellow has been found to make people feel emotionally fragile, depressed, or even suicidal–not the impact you want to have on buyers viewing your property!

Try it: Gold colors can liven up family rooms or hallways. Shades of yellow in a basement also may be a good choice in brightening an area of a home that often can be viewed as dreary.


A restful color and known as the color of “balance.” Most people are reassured by green on a primitive level, since it usually indicates the presence of life and water. Research that focused on treatments for seasonal affective disorder also have shown that people exposed to green colors (excluding greens with yellow undertones) actually were found to have improved moods–an important note to those of you who live in cold weather climates!

Try it: Shades of more neutral greens can give a restful, harmony in bedrooms. Also, scattering green plants throughout a home also may help buyers get that “reassured” feeling that this is the right home for them.


While it can communicate clean and hygenic, too much white can be a strain to look at and even send the message “Don’t touch me!” But you want buyers to not only touch but live in the property so too much white may be a detriment. However, white can give a heightened perception of space so for small spaces, you can use it to your advantage.

Try it: Use a shade of white (such as antique white or Navajo white) on your trim for a clean, contemporary look. But unless your design scheme is modern, you’ll probably want to choose a color other than white for your walls. White walls can make a home feel cold and plain. Color on your walls can psychologically do your buyers more good.

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Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Great points and again proves that staging is as much art as it is science….

  2. Barbwired

    Good info/article w/links to some AWESOME sites!
    I heard long ago about the effects of color on mood (green/blue in hospitals to be relaxing, altho’ I find it depresing). The moment I REALLY noticed an immediate effect of color on me was when visiting an Open House in which one bedroom was done in vivid yet sofy yellows and white. WOW!!! IT was like a shot of dopamine diect into me! I have never experienced anything like that before, but am much more in tune to it now. I’ve since taken a few Color Tests and inevitably turn up as a Yellow or Spring. Interestingly, I can’t WEAR yellow w/my complexion [prefer reds/melon] or teal/turquoise.

    I am also exquisitely sensitive to light and shades of light. People think I just have Seasonal Affective Disrder [true], but just one day w/o sunshine can dramatically effect my mood. Rain is not as bad as low hanging gray fog/clouds.
    I find the full spectrum lights to be depressing. They feel ‘cold’ to me. In big box stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.) where they have the diff fluorescent lights on display, I can easily look at them and put them in order of ‘lux’, which I’m thinking relates to wavelength.?

    Thank you for this article! Info will DEFINITELY be used in painting and decorating.
    Also, this brings to mind an article I read long ago on ‘Green Deficit Disorder’. I live in a desert area of SoCal where green is minimal and it feels like death in the hot summers.

  3. Richard

    This topic has driven me crazy for years. As a designer and homeowner, there is no way a color will keep me from buying a house. When you’re buying a house, you jot down priorities:
    1) Location
    2) Size / squarefootage
    3) Price
    4) Schools (If you have a family)
    5) Street
    6) Kitchen
    7) Master bedroom suite
    8) Den or TV room size and positioning
    If these items are met, there is no way a reasonable person would not buy the house.
    Now, if the house is overpriced, the color could be white,and it won’t sell!

  4. I’ve heard before that colors can have a psychological effect on people, but never had a detailed explanation as to why. Thank you!

    I’ve also heard that by painting certain walls in a room darker than others, it creates an illusion that the room is either larger/ smaller or wider/ narrower depending on which walls are colored darker.

  5. What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable knowledge regarding unexpected

  6. I’m glad you wrote this article, Melissa. I understand Richard’s response about priorities. However, it’s probably easier for individuals with an “eye” for design to see a home’s possibilities. On the flip side, others who just want a home to move into, may not understand why they prefer one home over another on their checklist. They’ll simply choose the house with colors that spark the right emotion to encourage a sale.

  7. Love it, live it! Sharing, thank you!

  8. E. Zach Lee-Wright

    I have a competitor friend who will suggest to the seller that they paint the front door – bright red. She only suggests this if the color “works” and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does it makes the homes jump off the screen. More showings. Quicker sales.

  9. Great post! The color scheme that inspires and calms is the best combination.