Roger Hargreaves’ storybook character, Mr Happy, could only ever have been yellow. A bright, glorious, uncomplicated yellow. This is the colour of children’s crayons, the sort they use to draw the sun replete with stick spokes of shine. It is such a jolly, joyful hue, and yet one that I feel I see little of in interiors. And I found myself wondering why?
If you live in London (or Manchester or Birmingham) then you’ll surely know that Selfridges use a sunshine bright yellow for their carriers, and very splendid it looks too. Instantly recognisable from a distance, it is literally brilliant branding. If you ever spot someone wearing yellow, I guarantee you’ll end up smiling hello, such is the innate warmth of the shade. For me personally, it’s my absolute favourite colour in terms of pure pigment, and it’s dotted around my home in the form of several chartreusey yellow-toned cushions bought over the years. It also lives large in my son’s bedroom as I deliberately wanted him to always wake in a happy vibe space. It must be said, he is of a particularly sunny disposition; whether nature, nuture or room colour, who knows?!
Colour theorists talk of yellow as representative of optimism, creativity and enlightenment; and it’s associated across the globe with the sun and its life-giving warmth. To give a gift of yellow roses is a token of freindship. And in many Eastern cultures yellow additionally signifies joy, wisdom and power. (To note, in China though, adult movies are often referred to as ‘yellow’ films!). However, it is also almost universally used as the colour of caution, as the human eye processes this hue first, making it perfect for traffic road signs that urge us to slow. Odd then that’s it’s often the colour of choice for mid-life crisis souped-up sports cars? Or perhaps not…
This sense of it as innate curtailer perhaps begins to hint at its dark side. The corollary to all that positivity is that yellow is said to be associated with cowardice, egoism, betrayal, decay and madness too, the latter I imagine because it’s also considered the colour of malady — think jaundice, malaria and pestilence, all colouring the skin to indicate the sickness within. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the common sources of many yellow pigments are acutely toxic metals: cadmium, lead, chrome — and urine.
All that aside, I maintain that yellow’s good traits far outweigh its negative. Nevertheless, because it’s a colour that attracts attention, both physically in the eye and specifically in application, it pays to use it judiciously. Thus the images within this post indicate my text book usage examples: either highlighting a single plane, accenting a particular detail or as top notes in an otherwise neutral scheme. All three work wonders, adding a super sweep of sunshine into any space.
PS at the end of the day, no one puts it better than Morecambe and Wise… remember this fabulous duet…?
“Bring me sunshine in your smile, bring me laughter all the while.
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness.
So much joy you can give to each brand new bright tomorrow.
Make me happy through the years, never bring me any tears
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above;
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine and bring me love.”