Seasonal color disorder?

indygoAugust 13, 2014

Is this a thing? About two years ago I painted my dining room a buttery yellow. Most days I love it so much I think of extending it to the whole first floor. This is true primarily in the summer.

But there are days that the color yellow (and not just this shade--any shade) almost makes me nauseous. Oddly enough, it's on gray days. I live in the Midwest, so this includes much of the winter.

I had a darkish green living room. Felt cozy in the winter but a cave in the summer. And don't get me started on my love/hate relationship with blue! Do I have to paint my whole house and keep all its furnishings beige? Is this a Midwest thing?

Anyone else relate?

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Annie Deighnaugh

I can relate....when spring comes, I want light and bright. When winter comes, I want warm and cozy. Hard to mix the two, but when I was growing up, Mom had slipcovers made for the furniture in the family room and she had 2 sets of drapes so she'd have a bright look and a warm look she'd change twice a year. It made a big difference in the room for sure.

I haven't had the issue with blue or yellow though. For me, yellow adds sunshine on a gray adds clarity that helps warm up a winter day. I usually hate rainy days, but in the fall when all the leaves are bright colors, it seems as if the sun shines even in the rain....

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:17AM
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Yellows can be problematic in the wrong light or in some artificial light. I don't think using (most) yellows to brighten up a dark room or a room that doesn't get good light works very well, and sometimes it backfires. What you may be experiencing is that with the different angle of the light and the darker days is this effect.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:30AM
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I remember that as a kid growing up in Michigan! Mentally, I think that many of us need certain visual comforts around us at different times of the year. Kind of like comfort foods for the brain. When we moved out here to the Southwest, I ended up painting all the inside adobe walls in our home a warm cream color. At that time (1983) the popular colors were mauve and a medium blue. I used them throughout our new home . . . and quickly came to hate them once Autumn rolled around! I realized then that, while I was still loving my cream colored walls, I needed other accent colors around me during the various seasons.

Over the years, I've collected them. Pillow covers, throws for chairs, art, other different accent pieces . . . although nothing major, such as drapes, bedspreads or furniture slipcovers. This seems to work for me. Pastels in the Spring. Strong primary colors now during the Summer months make me happy. But around mid-September I need my rusty reds, sage greens and other Autumn colors. Right after Thanksgiving, I can't stand those colors around me anymore and opt for traditional Christmas colors. But, right after New Year, all red and green are gone! My happy colors for the Winter months are dark blue and white and I pull out my silver and pewter pieces to use with them. It may sound a bit crazy, but I very much need to feel happy and comfortable in my surroundings and this is how I make it happen. To this day, though, I still hate that mauve and medium blue combination!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Lynn and Annie: Glad to know I'm not alone! Lovely memories. It sounds as though the answer may lie in pillows and slipcovers and curtains rather than in this constant repainting I tend to do. In my previous houses I had very neutral walls, and as I think back I realize that the rooms were also very clearly east light or west, north light or south. In this house the light is more mixed and there's more foliage close to the house. So the colors in the windows go from bright emerald to oranges and yellows to months of gray and then spring green. Maybe the frame (the walls) for the windows needs to be more consistent. Or maybe I should just wait until the seasons change again!

And Pal, thank you for the comments about yellow. It does seem to be the most problematic.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:20AM
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Like others have said, I find I am happier if my walls and major pieces of furniture are in the white-cream-taupe range which allows me to change color accents with the seasons. In California, we only have two seasons, warmer months and cooler months, rather than the four seasons that other areas have. I like using cooler colors and lighter fabrics during the warm months and warmer colors and heavier fabrics during the cool months.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 1:05PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Yeah, I think it's a thing. And the first thing I'd look at is whether any of the wall colors used black colorant in the formula.

Not necessarily looking for a full spectrum paint color, just if there was any black.

Going forward, I'd experiment with only choosing colors that were toned without black.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 8:16PM
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We have a Devine brand paint (Northwest) color called Oak in our living/dining rm We inherited this color & bought our home in mid summer & LOVED the paint color & the warmth & cheer it brought to these rooms. It's kind of a yellowy/gold, for lack of a better description. We still have it 8 years later & when it's sunny out, I still love it. However, I don't love it as much when it's cloudy! When we repaint, not sure what to go withâ¦greenish blues seem to do well for us. Color is SO interestingâ¦but hard to choose!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 8:45PM
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My Mom did the same- summer and winter slip covers and drapes. It was the official change to the seasons when I'd come home from school and the decor had changed!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 8:56PM
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Lizzie: I think it's so interesting that the warm color looks good on sunny days in cold/rainy climates and not as good on cloudy/gray days. That's the same thing I'm experiencing. I have yellow paint in two rooms actually. One is a full-spectrum paint, Buttercream, and I actively love it most of the time, meaning that I stop and look at it because it's so beautiful. It's clearly richer and more beautiful than the Montgomery White I have in another room. But in the past few days--one a very dreary November-looking day and one where the light is clearly changing to a Fall light, they both seem throbbing with yellow and at their worst, bilious. I'm sure it's the light, and perhaps some seasonally related sensitivity in some rods or cones or whatever those color-sensing parts of the eyes are. (Or maybe I'm staring at the walls too much!!!)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:15PM
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bilious? Yep its the green. Just find some color that doesn't have the green hue going for it. We are building a new house surrounded by nature and sky and outdoor weather and color. Lots of windows too. The colors I've tried that have anything like a greenish gray yellow just look depressing if cloud cover comes over. That took out most of my off whites and boy my whole house had to change.
I'm a plains state gal myself now living in the dreary mid-atlantic area. Of course it's SAD.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 10:51AM
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I notice the color shift too here in the northeast. Our area is heavily wooded, so summer light is quite green: pretty in some rooms, not so pretty in others. Plus my house has big windows, so the green view (lawn, trees, garden) becomes part of the interior color scheme. In winter when the leaves drop, the light is clearer, but the windows are like big framed pictures of gray bark and pale blue sky.

I painted my lr with milk paint. Pumpkin is the color. The color shifts depending on the light source, but it shifts beautifully. Right now it looks a rich coppery brown because of the greenish light, and shifts back to a warm burnt orange at night with incandescents.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 11:18AM
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Color is a fascinating topic in and of itself. Funny story: when DD was in middle school, the entire school was required to create and present a project, with an accompanying term paper, for their science fair. No student is going to do well on a science fair project unless they find a subject they like and can get enthusiastic about. Pretty tough for some kids, like our DD who long claimed that she "HATED science!". We finally hit on a psychology-based one:"The Psychology of Color". She loved it . . . and she won and went on to regionals with it! We all found her research fascinating . . . and it was in depth research, not the simplistic stuff you might expect from a kid her age. Her next two years' science fair projects were "The Psychology of Music" and "The Psychology of Scents". She placed with both of them. Funny how things like that can lead you to different paths in life. She found her passion and is now starting her junior year at college and is on track to becoming a clinical psychologist.

But, back to the Psychology of Color. I don't recall too many details anymore, but do remember these :
1) babies cry more in yellow rooms/nurseries and people in general lose their tempers quicker/more in yellow rooms.
2) That Red stimulates your appetite, which is why it is often used when decorating restaurants. It's also thought to be a power color in Western cultures, which is why red is the most popular color for men's ties.
3) Hospitals used to paint their room pale green because green is relaxing in stressful situations. Many probably still do. I got so that I used to hate all those dull, boring green walls when I worked in hospitals!
4) With young K-4 grade school-aged kids, girls are more likely to choose pink or purple for their favorite colors. Boys that same age tend to choose red, orange or bright blue. Both are hugely influenced by toys and clothes available to them at that time of their lives. By fifth grade, though, girls start to develop their own unique color personalities and favorite colors become more individualized. Boys tend to choose those same colors through high school and beyond. As adults though, men are more apt to choose blue, green or brown as their favorite color.
5) In Western cultures, Pink is considered very romantic and girly. It's also very relaxing to the psyche. Because of that, some sports teams have painted their visiting team locker rooms pink, in hopes of neutralizing some of their energy before the game.

Sorry, like DD, I find the psychology of color fascinating!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:54PM
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I've heard of SAD but never SCD. lol I'm not one for a lot of color, but do like things lighter during the warmer months. For the cooler months I use a lot of black in rooms, lampshades, pillows, accessories, even the area rug. When the warmer months arrive, I switch out those things to ivory, and also cover the 2 leopard print slipper chairs in the GR with ivory colored Matelasse coverlets to keep the fabric from fading. Just these few changes make quite a difference w/o using colors I normally wouldn't use.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 5:43PM
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