We’ve all been caught in a public waiting room, corridor, holding area, or classroom that make us really restless, agitated, edgy, and impatient! Not the one in the picture above!! Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it… is it the lighting, lack of windows, or the only view is to the parking lot out of the window?  Perhaps it’s the drab furniture, the utilitarian fixtures, or lack of maintenance to the space. Most of the time the paint colour is drab, dirty, old, and some sort of off white neutral that is really dreary. It’s like reading a text book from the 1960’s, with no visual interest whatsoever and black and white diagrams.  How are you to stay interested??

When a space can’t keep our interest, it’s generally an under stimulated environment. These can be spaces that have weak colours, monotone colours or a monochromatic palette (all of one colour family), or are without colour or interest. These spaces can cause adverse physiological effects like restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, and just plain irritation.

Everything in this office is monochromatic-
white, black, or grey… accept for some blue desk top partitions.

There have been numerous studies done outlining that under stimulating environments can cause stress producing effects, specifically in healthcare. This can have a detrimental effect on patient healing, recovery time, and staff morale. In these cases, it’s not just about changing the wall colour (even though, this is a good start) but creating an environment that has good colour balance and harmony, visual interest and some visual stimulation.  This can be done with creative signage, a mix of warm and cool colour, creating a focal point, artwork, a mix of textures, greenery (though not always fitting), introducing some pattern, or contrast. The key is to have balance and not to go overboard and create an over stimulating environment (next blog!)

Here’s a photoshopped white hospital corridor, just added in some appropriate colour to the walls and trim.

Classrooms and schools are another key area that we don’t want to be under stimulating.  No one wants to learn or be in a room for hours on end, that is white or grey, and lit with bad fluorescent lighting. Thankfully architects are on top of this, and new schools and educational institutions being designed today have lots of natural light, texture, shape, and interest. It’s the schools and education centres from that 1960’s & 70’s and even some 80’s that require attention. Keeping a student’s attention is key while at the same time not creating overstimulation by adding in too much colour or the wrong colours to liven up an area.  I have been in many older schools where someone may have good intention in adding colour to brighten a space, but had no idea that the colours being chosen were doing the opposite to their intention. 

The left classroom is under stimulating while the classroom on the right is bordering on overstimulation…

This is where hiring a colour professional is so imperative.  Getting the correct colour or colours when simply repainting a corridor, classroom, patient room, waiting area, or exam room is crucial.  That colour will probably stay on the walls for at least 10 years, so getting it right is so important for the well-being of the patients, students, staff, and anyone that uses that space!

Sheri Peterson, IACC, Vice President- IACC-NA

Accredited Colour Consultant/Interior Designer

[email protected]