In the New York City offices of design and architecture firm Spacesmith, natural light pours in from windows that offer sweeping harbor views. The walls in the main office gleam clean white. But in the hallways, there are unexpected bursts of color. “We call it ‘New York City parking ticket orange.’ It acts like a shot of espresso,” says Ambar Margarida, a principal at the firm.
It’s a bold example of how highly saturated colors can be instantly stimulating. Margarida experiences energizing color when she visits her native Puerto Rico. “The trees and flowers are so vibrant. It’s uplifting,” she says. At home in her apartment, a huge photograph of a green parrot, wings spread, hangs above her sofa.
Red is another go-to for energy. Studies have shown that viewing it improves alertness and athletic performance. The color of blood, fire, and lips, it rivets us: “It’s the most salient color out there,” Conway says. While warm colors, like red and orange, are classic energizers, “any bright color–red, blue, green– will be arousing when you use a lot of it,” notes Jill Morton, director of the International Color Research Institute in Honolulu.
One shot of espresso may be a pick-me-up. A whole pot can make you jittery. So add energizing colors in small doses. “It could be overwhelming to work in a bright orange room all day,” Margarida says. Use it in a vestibule, suggests Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental psychologist, Paint the wall across from your dumbbells red, she adds: “It can give you a burst of strength every time you lift.” Or paint just one wall in your home office a bold color and swivel toward it when you need a boost.