November 18, 2021
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The Art and Science of Color

Color is one of my favorite things in the whole world. It enriches our spaces and our lives. It makes my heart sing. When you think about places you have been, often it’s the colors that come to mind first. Color brings about emotional and physical responses. That is why when designing a space it is essential to consider the colors.

When I am playing with my kids, I can’t help but organize their toys by color. My favorite color is rainbow.

Oftentimes a brand color will be a driver in a space. We recently worked with a charter school and incorporated their signature color – a brilliant blue – into the classrooms by painting accent walls and ordering blue desk chairs. According, blue is associated with a calm serenity. It can result in lowered heart rates and slower metabolisms. Blue may not be the best color for a fitness center, but it’s certainly useful in a school or a bustling workplace where adding a sense of calm can help.

Farrow & Ball showroom, Boston Design Center (Ebbrell Architecture + Design)

Another client’s brand color is bright red. As I learned in grad school—red makes people hungry and that’s why you see red used in the logos of most fast food companies. Red is also associated with strength, power, determination, and passion – all of which are great characteristics for a company. But, on the flip side, red’s ability to cause agitation and hangriness (hungry anger) means in business spaces it is important to use color sparingly, but meaningfully. In this case, we used red in the upholstery textiles but not as a wall color.

One of the hardest parts of my job is helping clients choosing the right white or neutral paint. This is an overwhelming task because there are SO many options!  White can look totally different depending on the lighting (natural/artificial) and it also reflects other colors around it, so it’s always best to test a white on site.


This tenant amenity gym uses yellow which is associated with energy and is known to produce a warming effect and generate muscle energy. Gray is a great anchor color that can soothe nerves. (15 Court Square amenity space- Ebbrell Architecture +Design)

A trick I use when I am feeling stuck while selecting paint colors, is to browse a paint company’s website—Farrow and Ball ( beautifully curated colors, and I also love the Benjamin Moore Williamsburg collection (  Both websites make suggestions of coordinating colors, which is really helpful!

When working with a client on choosing color, the design team at Ebbrell will look holistically at what the space will be used for, the available natural light, the company culture and brand, and, of course, client preferences. Color is very subjective, so I always like to take litmus test of how bold a client might want to go. If a client wants their space to be color forward, we will use it in strategic ways for wayfinding or delineating spaces. If a client is color-averse, we find ways to layer in textures and shades to provide depth and personality. Either way, in the end, we will make your space beautiful, productive, comfortable, and on brand!

Lauren Helman Foley is a licensed interior designer and LEED green associate.