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The Little Book on Colour - Interview with Karen Haller

A lot of us interior bloggers talk about colour trends all the time and always look at the work of colour experts like Karen Haller for commentary and ways to apply the latest trends in our homes. Having met Karen in a colour psychology workshops a few years back, I was really excited to hear that this month she is publishing her very own book, The Little Book on Colour, a definitive guide to using the power of colour to improve your happiness, wellbeing and confidence. 

Karen Haller is the leading international authority in the field of Applied Colour Psychology - how colour affects and influences our behaviour.

Applied Colour Psychology is all about working from the inside out. How do we want to feel, how do we want to behave in a space.

With over twenty years of experience, she teaches, consults for businesses, interiors, healthcare and wellbeing; and has worked with prestigious global brands such as Marks and Spencer, Dove and AkzoNobel Dulux. She has also been interviewed for Cosmopolitan, the Stylist and The Times, contributed to the Huffington Post, and appeared on London Live and Channel 4's Sunday Brunch.

What is "The Little Book on Colour" all about and who should read it?

KH: At its absolute essence The Little Book on Colour is helping people how to use colour to live authentic, joyful and natural lives – how to use colour to express the essence of who you are and how to live from the inside out in your own unique style. Through the psychology of colour I’m showing you how to do this - to shine more brightly, to express essence of yourself, using the power to transform your Life.

This book was written for everyone who loves colour, wants to fall back in love with colour again and who really wants to understand how powerful a tool it is. To actually get to use it in their daily lives to feel better in their clothes, create homes that feel harmonious to be in, who want to use colour to actually feel better and boost their wellbeing because these are all the things that colour can innately do.

So if someone wants to improve an area of their lives and find out how to use colour to do that, then that’s who would love to read this book.

How long has this book been in the making and what prompted you to write it?

KH: I have wanted to write this book for years. It has been bubbling inside me for years now. The more I have learnt about Applied Colour Psychology the more I knew I really wanted to share this incredible tool, this special magical tool that I sometimes call it with people. I want to put it in their hands so that they can actually find out that’s what they could do with colour.

My mission was to share the power of colour psychology with the world so I had already started to write a book outline and then Penguin publishers approached me. That was back in November 2017. It’s been an incredible journey writing the book with them and I am now so thrilled it’s being launched into the world and it’s actually going to be published in 12 other languages.

My mission was to share the power of colour psychology with the world

Is wellbeing just a buzzword in interiors or the very concept around which we should be designing our homes?

KH: Wellbeing is being bandied like a buzzword. But in terms of the essence of what wellbeing means it is in fact what we need to be aiming for when we are designing our homes.

What is missing is the core of wellbeing: human centred design. It’s putting the human at the centre of design for the purpose of wellbeing. It’s what Applied Colour Psychology is all about – working from the inside out. How do we want to feel, how do we want to behave in a space. How do we want to be thinking in a space. Working from the inside out and then being able to creating a design that supports that wellbeing, the creation of harmony in those spaces and in our wardrobes.

Part of my mission I feel is to help people understand the depth of these words because they are words that can have longevity. This work has such longevity creating transformation change where people really understand what wellbeing means and how they can go about doing it using something like Applied Colour Psychology.

This book was written for everyone who loves colour, wants to fall back in love with colour again and who really wants to understand how powerful a tool it is.

How does colour influence our emotional state of mind?

KH: How doesn’t it influence us… One of the things that people are always surprised by is the fact that colour influences us all of the time because when we take colour in through our eyes it goes to the part of our brain where our emotions reside. So colour cannot help but actually make us feel something.

Will using the right colours in interior design improve our wellbeing?

KH: When we surround ourselves with the colours that we resonate with, that we connect with the wonderful by product of that is that we feel good about ourselves, we feel nurtured and supported and happy – this is all wrapped up in wellbeing.

Can some colours make our home a happier and healthier place to live in? Are there certain colours we should be avoiding?

KH: The one colour I suggest avoiding is the one called Brilliant white – it is a manmade colour that is literally lifeless. It creates a discomfort and a dis-ease and it’s the very antithesis of wellbeing. Other than that, I always recommend you pick the colours that resonate with your personality, not because your neighbour or friends have it or because it’s in fashion.

If you surround yourself with colours that don’t resonate with who you are then you’ll feel a disconnect, a dissonance and you’re likely to not feel comfortable in your own home which is why this is so important. Grey is a perfect example of this. So many people used grey all over their home because it was on trend and yet it left many of them feeling tired and drained.

What do you see as the main challenge when choosing colours for our home?

The main challenge besides people being afraid of ‘getting it wrong’ and worrying what everyone else will think, it choosing colours that reflect our personality and how we want to feel in our own home – knowing how to create an environment that nurtures and nourishes us. That’s what my book shows. How to tap into this for yourself.

What about the workplace: should it be more colourful in order to improve productivity and wellbeing, and reduce absenteeism? And is a colourful working environment becoming more important and relevant thanks to millennial employees?

KH: I know what you mean. Some companies that have very colourful workplaces have had success in improving overall wellbeing that has led to reducing absenteeism which in turn increases productivity. However this is not about throwing colour everywhere, it’s using colour with purpose and from an Applied Colour Psychology perspective that is about looking the combination of colours, the proportion, placement.

I believe millennial attitude isn’t an age, it’s a state of mind. However, we have seen far more colourful, dynamic, fluid workspaces off the back of the ‘millennial generation’ that is giving the rest of us better workplaces focusing on human centred design.

It’s not the millennial employees that are driving this, it’s the changing way that we are working which just happens to suit the ‘millennial generation’ and is also reflected in the millennial industries such as tech and creative start-ups. They embrace change quickly so they are likely to be more adventurous with their use of colour.

Just like a person, when a business is really clear on their personality, who they truly are as well as their work culture, ethics and positive behaviours they wish to see, then they’ll be able to select the colour family, the colours and design style to create the right environment that fosters positive wellbeing.

A brightly coloured office with a slippery dip might look great in a creative start up but it’s likely to lose trust for a traditional financial institution.

In the last few years we have seen a number of colourful homes become really popular on social media. Has this helped us regain our confidence to use colour in the home?

KH: There’s always the bold and the adventurous that do what they like and don’t care what others think or say about their colour and design choices.

For some of us social proof is important to know that it is OK to use colour. This often is the confidence boost they need to be a bit more adventurous and experiment.

This doesn’t mean to paint your home like a colourful kaleidoscope – for some that is just way too much emotional energy and utterly exhausting. This is about connecting to your true authentic personality and finding the colours that make your heart sing. I share this with you in the book.

Finally, should we be using the same colours in our home as we do in our wardrobe and why?

KH: I really love this question and I have a story to illustrate this well. I’ve heard people say all you need to do is open up your wardrobe and they’re the colours that you should go and use to decorate in your home.

But what that doesn’t quite say is that the colours that are currently in our wardrobe reflect perhaps who we think we should be or who we opt to be in the world right now and not necessarily who we really are. We are in the rift between who we opt to be and who we really are.

If your wardrobe is a reflection of who you really are then yes, that is absolutely the colours you should be using in your home. But the first port of call and this is why we start here in the book, is really getting in touch with what colour family and which specific colours reflect our true essence, who we truly are, because once we know this foundation you can then go and use those colours anywhere in your life to create a positive influence.

When you have colour as your foundation you can naturally express your personality everywhere, whether that’s in your wardrobe, whether it’s in your office space or it’s in the home.

Want to order the book and join The Colour Club?

Head over to The Little Book on Colour to order the book, read more about Karen Haller or find out more about The Colour Club which Karen set up to support people who love more inspiration, guidance and joy in bringing colour into their lives. Follow Karen on Instagram here


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