Living Color

How color, music and aromatherapy can improve the way you work

Man, do you feel cranky. You have a headache that threatens to implode your eyeballs, which are already bouncing around your home office like Ping-Pong balls. You're nervous and can't concentrate. What's the matter with you?

Well, you could be having a crappy day, or you could be improperly mixing wood tones. You may not be able to change the size or location of your home office, but believe it or not, your color scheme could make every bit of difference in how you feel and work.

"People don't give enough thought to color in terms of the color palette," says Meredith Gould, author of Working at Home: Making It Work For You (Storey Books). "There are colors that are conducive to getting work done, and there are colors that make you want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep."

So if you think choosing between blanched almond and eggshell is as far as color sense goes, read on for Gould's tips on the hues of your office:

  • Sizing it up: To make your closet of an office appear larger, use light, cool colors like blue, green and gray. A very deep color will cause corners to "disappear," making the room look larger. "Keep the walls relatively clean and clear," advises Gould. "An almost Zen-like décor will open up a small room."
  • Sizing it down: Dark, warm colors (orange and brown) will cozy up large rooms. Other minimizing tricks include dark floor coverings and border prints.
  • Mood swings: While you're visually readjusting the scope of your office, consider the effect of colors on your mood. Warm colors are stimulating, cool colors are calming, and mixing complementary colors can be energizing. Using a monochromatic color scheme will ease your eyes, and adding white will dilute and calm the color. Browns and grays enhance efficiency.
  • Knock on wood: Watch your woods as closely as you do the color of your paint. "Tone as well as hue need to be considered," says Gould of the wood on furniture, window trim, doors and floors. A quick rundown: Wood hue can be light (beech, pine, birch), medium (cherry, teak, pecan and some mahogany) or dark (mahogany, dark cherry, walnut and ebony). Woods also have a tone: brown (walnut and dark cherry), red (mahogany and maple) or yellow (teak, oak and beech). Avoid mixing light and dark woods because their different tones may actually vibrate when placed near each other, and your body will respond with a headache or a sense of discomfort.
  • Whiter than white: "White also comes in colors," explains Gould. "The temperature rules apply here, too, so a blue-white will feel cool. A yellow-white is warmer, cozier."

Get Into the Groove

Ever start typing the lyrics to "I Want To Hold Your Hand" while listening to your favorite oldies station instead of working on that pitch letter? Give your ears (and brain) a break with the true oldies. Meredith Gould personally contests to the researched "Mozart effect," wherein symphonies by 18th century composers Mozart and Haydn are said to boost your creativity and productivity. She also says the more repetitive mathematical strains will help you concentrate; try concerti and sonatas by Bach, Vivaldi, Torelli and Telemann. Gould's favorite mood-enhancing collections include Mozart in the Morning, Mozart for Meditation and Bach for Breakfast (PGD/Phillips).

The Nose Knows

Okay, your eyes are happy, your ears are conducting symphonies-but what about your neglected nasal passages? If you don't have potentially allergic office visitors, bring on the aromatherapy. Studies by The Olfactory Research Fund in New York City suggest that people doing repetitive tasks find peppermint can improve accuracy and alertness. Other helpful scents include spiced apple to reduce stress; vanilla, jasmine and lavender to relax and calm; and citrus, spicy and green fragrances for energy. Terry Molnar of the Olfactory Research Fund suggests you use intermittent spritzes of scents for mood therapy instead of long-lasting candles or potpourri, which diminish in effect over time.

Precious Aromatherapy sells Discovery Cards with pure oils and Essential Oil Blends for Home Fragrancing, such as Stress Relief, Rest & Relaxation and the brain-boosting Mindful. Attach the oil to an Aromatherapy Room Mist and spray away. Call (800)877-6889 or visit

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This article was originally published in the June 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Living Color.

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