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The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness

By Ingrid Fetell Lee
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Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

Joyful (2018) embraces aspects of color, shape, playfulness and whimsy that surround us in everyday life. These blinks make a positive case for the role that design and architecture can play in making lives more happy and joyful.

Key idea 1 of 9

Color can make spaces more joyful if you follow some basic guidelines.

In the fall of 2000, something seemingly odd began to take place in the run-down and crime-ridden city of Tirana, Albania. Painters began painting a nondescript building bright orange.

The work was carried out at the order of the city’s mayor, Edi Rama, and it was the first building of many to be painted in bright colors. This bold project helped encourage the city’s population to take better care of their neighborhoods and also of their own lives. For his efforts in helping to regenerate the city, Rama received the 2004 World Mayor award.

It just goes to show that even a little smudge of color can be a powerful thing.

Specifically speaking, the power of color comes from its ability to make spaces more joyful.

Now, joy is a difficult thing to define, but we all know it when we see it. Simply put, joy arises as a vigorous moment of positive emotion. And it can be triggered by color.

One couple known to the author, Ingrid Fetell Lee, had just such a color-induced experience. They were sick of living in their monochromatic home, so they hired New York architecture firm Stamberg Aferiat and Associates to redesign their living environment.

The architects fulfilled their brief by introducing elements of color into the couple’s home. And it wasn’t subtle: they began with a bright yellow front door. This decision altered the aesthetics of the whole space, since the yellow door also transformed the quality of light within the house itself, making the house more joyous.

It is the interaction of color and light that leads to the creation of a certain atmosphere within a space. Therefore, the atmosphere in an environment can vary wildly depending upon its color.

Look at it this way: dark colors reflect less light, and so result in darker, more somber rooms. On the other hand, brilliant, light colors reflect light, affecting the quality of the light in a room, and making spaces airier and more joyful.

And there are some simple rules you can follow to get the most joy out of color.

Start by clearing the large surfaces, such as walls and floors. These should be painted in light hues, either white or something sitting very close to it on the palette.

You then need to introduce a few elements that bring in a burst of color. These could consist of a piece of bright, colorful furniture, a few decorative objects, or even a few stripes of color painted on a wall.

Even these simple steps will make your space much more joyful.

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