In a down economy, one affordable, easy-to-execute home improvement is to give your walls a fresh coat of paint. But what color to choose?

The decision can be much fun, as you luxuriate in the knowledge that anything is possible for your kitchen, living room, or bedroom. But it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re the kind of person who wants to know what your choice says about your mood, psyche, spirit, et. al. I know it took me months to settle on “Pickle” for my muted green living room (which I still love 8 years later).

The Boston Globe had a great article last week about color psychology, and how the major paint companies are infusing their 2009 colors with various aspects of the national mood: from a citron yellow that Benjamin Moore is referring to as “The Color of Hope,” to the grays, beiges, and other subdued colors that provide a restful retreat to those coping with layoffs, stress, and fatigue.

Color choices can be emotional: reds, oranges, and yellows stimulate the senses and energize the body, whereas blues, greens, and purples soothe and relax.

Your choices can also relate to your spirituality: I have a friend who painted each room of her house in a color that represents a particular chakra (click here for why these colors are good to eat, too!). The experience of walking from one room to another really highlights the vivid, primal reaction that we have when we drink color in through our rods and cones.

If you’re thinking about painting, you might want to use the color wheel (first created by Sir Isaac Newton!) to choose accenting or complementary colors. Maybe you want your kitchen to be bright and energizing, but your breakfast nook (if you’re so lucky as to have such a thing) to be an island of calm in an otherwise busy space. For the nook, you might try a lighter, more muted shade of the main color, or go across the wheel and find a matte purple to set against the kitchen’s apple green. Not that I’m mentally decorating my future home or anything….

As you ponder, check out the video below as the Globe reporter shows you the difference between “crazy bright” and “soothing retreat” colors. And please share – how do you choose paint colors, and what do you feel they say about you and your home? 

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