Mythology of Yellow

The Mythology of Yellow

By Zara Stender, CID, IDS, Allied ASID Member, Color Marketing Group

Copyrite 2005 all rights reserved

Yellow, ah-spring and summer, fresh and happy, energizing, isn’t it? We generally consider it to be the representative color of sunlight and uplifting things such as flowers, sunny days, lazy afternoons, picnics, beaches…

Yellow is all that…and a lot more! Let’s look at how you might use it more effectively in your home.

Some facts about yellow:

Yellow is the fastest color for the eye to see in daylight.

It is a difficult color for the elderly to perceive, although recent research indicates that is a condition brought on by inadequate diet.

Yellow is used in nature two ways: either transitory (flowers bloom then fade) or as a warning displayed by most poisonous creatures. (and those pretending to be poisonous.)

There is a biological reflex built into us that causes even babies to recoil from this signal.

Yellow stimulates the receptors in the brain, which trigger aggression. Now before you vehemently object, remember that aggression is expressed very individually. Aggression is a form of energy. If you think of it like that you will more clearly understand the concept.

Years ago, okay, decades ago, I bought a yellow and black Liz Claiborne dress that was dead sexy! I felt sexy and dangerous when I wore it. I didn’t realize at the time that I was robed just like any of God’s poisonous, stinging and venomous creatures. I had translated that unrecognized aggression (energy) into flirtatiousness.

Recently, I was consulted by a client who seemed to be in a constant state of nervous exhaustion. She was frazzled and depressed. When I visited her home, it clear to see why. It was done in bright ochre yellow top to bottom, putting her nervous system into overdrive.

On a biological level yellow alters chemical and hormonal actions in the body to the degree that larger doses of medicine or drugs are needed. Motor function is also impaired. This is especially noticeable in the elderly, where a marked loss of muscle control can be observed in the presence of yellow.

However, yellow combined with its complement, violet is said to be the most healing of color combinations. I have seen that proven true frequently.

Many years ago, I had a client who was dying of cancer. The family wanted the area of their home where they spent the most precious and private time together to be completely re-done as a symbolic celebration of his last year of life. It was so tragic that it was all I could do to maintain a professional demeanor. It broke my heart. Somewhere in the middle of the color selection process for their carpets, upholstery and paint, they shifted from reds and blues to lilac, yellow, and soft taupe. I had never said anything to them about the yellow/purple healing theory because, quite frankly, I didn’t think there was much to it. Six months after the job was done, I happened to stop by… and if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it. This client was now in full remission, had regained beauty, health and hair. It was astonishing.

My doctor, who has an excellent reputation for healing, has his waiting room done in red purple/soft yellow and taupe brown. Does this have any influence on the fact he is the most successful and respected orthopedic surgeon in the hospital where he practices?

Yellow can stimulate clear thinking. Combined with red, yellow will stir the creative juices and inspire brilliant thinking. It was said to be Einstein’s favorite color. Also Hitler’s and Jeffrey Dahmer’s. Examples like this have led some to conclude that yellow is the favorite color of mental extremes.

In home interiors it is best used in the transitional areas. Entry way, powder room, and hallways are good choices. Because it is the fastest color the eye sees, it makes a wonderful selection for any piece you wish to feature as a focal point.

Many color experts have pointed out that for a busy family with hectic schedules, yellow is about the worst color for the kitchen and other areas where chaos reigns in the morning.

The latest research says that even the lightest, softest shades and tints will have these effects.

Yellow with its sunny disposition used in measured doses, mixed with other colors in a palette that soften aggression, can give us a lovely boost of energy, refresh us, energize us, lift our spirits on gloomy winter days and send us out to conquer the world.

Excerpt from Designer Color Secrets© 2005 Zara Stender

Zara Stender, CID, IDS, Allied ASID, Member, Color Marketing Group [CMG], is a Certified Interior Designer and color specialist. She serves as Vice-Chair for the Western Region (CMG) and is past president of the Interior Design Society, Northern California Chapter (2002-2004). Zara is an independent member of the California Legislative Coalition for Interior Design (CLCID). She is the winner of three Bay Area design awards and the author of two books on design and color. She contributes regularly to several local, national and international publications. Her company, ZaraDesigns, is based in Redwood Shores, (San Francisco area) California, USA

Contact Zara at

Find More Knowledge on Color
Popular Color Schemes
Free Color Course
Color Articles
Color Information
Color Meanings
Color Schemes
Color Theory