How to Use Color to Boost Productivity and Comfort in Commercial Spaces

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2019

Sherwin-Williams offers strategies for leveraging color in today’s blended spaces.

As work and home lives continue to intermingle, commercial spaces are blending along with them. When designing for spaces where we work, learn and more, using color effectively is key to creating interiors that help people be as productive and comfortable as possible.

The color choices on both walls and floors helped to make Expedia’s new British Columbia offices a showcase waterfront space in downtown Vancouver. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHERWIN-WILLIAMS

Here are some tips for making the most of color in blended spaces across business, education, healthcare, and hospitality environments. 


Today’s open offices often include both individual work areas and communal areas that encourage interaction and collaboration. These spaces may feature generous use of natural light and sustainable elements that provide an ecological vibe and a homey, comforting feel.

Such interiors lend themselves to rich, complex earth colors that are deep in value. For example, Half-Caff brown on an accent wall adds a warm feel to an entrance area and provides an ideal backdrop for a company’s logo or gallery of artwork; Cavern Clay behind a high-top counter evokes a coffee shop atmosphere; and a golden honey yellow creates a pop of interest alongside the grays of structural concrete in a collaboration space.


In schools, organic, chalky colors — beautiful in their simplicity — can create a soft effect that doesn’t distract, helping to foster a more comfortable atmosphere for learning. Colors like Sumptuous Peach, Copen Blue and Cascade Green provide a neutral backdrop while creating a visual and sensory connection to the outdoors. These colors can be used to create anything from a cozy reading nook to a hallway for showcasing hand-drawn art projects.  

Pops of bold colors, used sparingly, help add visual interest and stimulation to educational settings. Fun, energetic colors such as Invigorate orange or Calypso blue can bring life to an accent wall or a row of storage cubbies, or they can aid in wayfinding around a school campus.   


Different healthcare environments require different palettes to meet the needs of patients, their families and the healthcare staff. In pediatric and rehabilitation spaces, vibrant colors provide an uplifting sense of wellness. A sunflower yellow, an appealing Forget-Me-Not purple or a deep Begonia pink, applied to a ceiling, floor or walls in a waiting area can liven an otherwise clinical environment that has an abundance of whites and grays. For acute-care areas, mid-tones that recall earthy greens, sky blues, and sunset oranges create softer appeal, along with a clean, residential feeling.

Senior care centers lend themselves to colors that are more hospitality driven, creating a welcoming environment. Colors and finishes that are deeper in value and complexity, such as Blustery Sky blue, Tatami Tan, or Baked Clay, provide for an earthy, nature-derived atmosphere and complement many types of flooring, including soft, patterned carpeting, wood and stone elements. The effect is soothing and home-like, with a calm feel that beckons residents to sit and read or chat with friends and visitors.


When it comes to hospitality interiors, a variety of color moods — whether nostalgic or tech-driven — appeal to travelers seeking the best of the past with a look to the future.  

Playful colors that bring to mind the great American road trips of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s can provide a fresh take on retro-styled interiors. A wall of Parisian Patina green evokes the color of a classic VW van, while a breakfast bar painted in Youthful Coral brings back the aesthetic of a mid-century kitchen.

With the popularity of rugged mountain retreats and the desire to connect with the great outdoors, colors of the forest and desert, such as Copper Mountain terra cotta, Palm Leaf green, or Prairie Grass add a nostalgic, yet updated, complement to traditional Buffalo plaids and Western patterns, offering a welcoming appeal in a guest room, self-serve kitchen or bar area.

For travelers in search of what’s next, Instagram-inspired colors such as Eros Pink or blue-green Rivulet put a modern, buzzworthy twist on anything from hotel doors to walls in café dining areas.    

In today’s commercial spaces, using color effectively not only enhances the aesthetic but also impacts how well people work, connect and feel while spending time in them.  

For more information, visit s-w.com/marketcolors.

Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.