ColorTherapy Palette: Choosing the Right Yellow

ColorTherapy Palette: Choosing the Right Yellow

Mark Chamberlain
Nov 25, 2008

As I continue to build up the ColorTherapy Palette archive that began with choosing the right white, I’ll note in this addition that I doubt I’ll ever paint a yellow room in any property I design for my own personal use. That makes me uniquely qualified to recommend a few favorite yellows. Allow me to rescue you from a sea of pancake-batter colored paint chips…

The hallways in my apartment building are painted a gross yellow that look like, as one client has suggested, where yellow goes to die. I loathe them. If you want to paint something yellow, it better be specific, well considered and interesting. As I’ve said elsewhere, I tend to like my yellows dirty and green, but I have options here in a variety of tints. Start with these, and then get more specific depending on your own décor and lighting.

Let’s begin with Farrow & Ball. These tend to be adult, English and pleasantly muted even in the brighter colors:

Hound Lemon No.2, from their catalogue: “Neutral/Cool. Best used in well lit spaces.” No argument here. Or try Pale Hound No.71 for same effect in smaller rooms. They’re both slightly cool, never flabby.

Citron No.74. F&B calls it a “strong, fairly acid yellow,” but it’s actually one of my warmer suggestions. By the second time I used it, I said to myself, “Oh, I get it…” For something fuller try Orangery No.70, an orange-hued 18th century color used in orangeries; and someone should use mustardy India Yellow No.66 (“this pigment was produced by reducing the bright yellow urine of cows fed on a special diet of mango leaves”) just on principle and send me the pictures.

These Ralph Lauren yellows feel much more contemporary by comparison:

Mango Gold VM34. I think of this as a late mid-century color, slightly Brady Bunch without the heavy quotation marks. It’s brighter than that era’s champagne beige, but not obnoxious. I’ve used it in the same room as wood paneling (!) but it also stands alone.

Beach Yellow. IB71 (above). Looks green on the wall until absolutely dry, runs cooler than many of these colors but still vivid. This is the opposite of a school bus yellow.

And I’ll add two more from the “not the right project, yet” list — Cinnamon VM35, CypressVM27. Both look old and contemporary at the same time; try in a room with an oxblood leather sofa.

For a safer bet, try Benjamin Moore’s historic colors. They’re elegant but not splashy, and will match a variety of furnishings and fabrics. Time tested, they won’t steer you wrong. I’ve used Castelton Mist HC-1 and Beacon Hill Damask HC-2, but look at any of the first six HC colors.

I’ll close with Monet’s dining room…

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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