Color and Food: Tasty Colors For Your Eye’s Appetite

The idea that our appetites, and our choices in colors are connected is pretty well established by now. That’s why yellows and oranges are so popular with fast food chains; they make you wanna eat! And can you think of a restaurant chain or fast food joint that uses blue in its logo? No? Well, that’s because blue is known to suppress the appetite.  It’s science! And it’s a bit of marketing too, I suppose.

But, let’s set that aside for a moment and talk about how appetite, food as a sense of comfort, and our choice of colors can (or cannot) intertwine in an interior. Maybe I should qualify that by suggesting that these would be my impressions of those relationships. Because, even if there are some broad associations with colors that seem to be universal, a lot of the ones that are the most powerful are those that we carry with us as individuals, with personal memories carried along with them.

Here are mine.

Red: spaghetti bolognese

When I was a child, my daycare arrangement was with an Italian family who made fresh pasta every day – or, my memory tells me they did. As a result, when I think of the richness of red incorporated into a space holds these memories of tasty pasta and rich, red Bolognese sauce.

red spaghetti bolognese

image: Alpha


Red is full of boldness and passion. It demands attention, like a zesty melange of tomato-y flavor. And whether you’re using it as an accent or as a main course, red adds these same visual effects as a good Italian meal does. That’s why red is an important addition to kitchens, to tableclothes, and really anywhere where a passion for eating is important.

Blue: fresh blueberries

There is not a lot of blue food. I think this may be because of that earlier point that blue suppresses the appetite. Maybe still that’s because blue food doesn’t very often occur in nature, unless you’re talking about mold (hmmm… that could explain things …). But, blueberries are the most notable exception for me. When I eat blueberries for the first time in a season, I know that summer is here.

bowl of blueberries

image: Maira Gall

In his book Fates Worse Than Death, American writer Kurt Vonnegut recalls a time when picking frozen blueberries off of the bush in Northern Finland, letting them thaw in his mouth, and thinking it was “as though something somewhere wanted us to like it here”. Remember, even if blue isn’t associated with appetite, it certainly is associated with contemplation, and deep thoughts. Blue in the study, in book nooks, in home offices are popular locations for a reason.

Yellow: Korma

The first time I had a korma, it was in a curry house in Hampstead in England. It was a “where have you been all my life” time of moment for me, with its mild spices and creamy coconut flavor. And when it comes to Indian cuisine in general, I’ve never looked back.


image: cyclonebill

One of the things about it is it’s rich dark yellow color, a color that is associated with friendliness, with warm and welcoming feelings, and a sense of simple pleasures. For that same effect in your spaces, especially when you’re looking to create a space for these same sorts of purposes, like family rooms, or recreation spaces, then muted korma-like yellows might be a range to consider.

Green: pistachio ice cream

I could have put something more leafy and healthy in here, I know. But, when I think green food, I’m primarily reminded of my childhood once again, with the icy greeness of pastachio ice cream, modeled after the striking green of the pastachio nut. Not really knowing what it might taste like, I was always intrigued by the color, as if the taste wasn’t about the nut, but about the color. I wanted to know what green tasted like.

pistachio ice cream

image: madlyinlovewithlife

Green is associated with the natural, the nurturing, and with a certain cool (maybe that’s why I went straight for the ice cream!) and lush vitality, too. It takes the deep thoughts of blue, and mixes it with the friendly energy of yellow. As such a lot of people turn to green shades for accent colors, or even as a dominant range of color in a space where capturing these strengths in blues and yellows all at once is important.

Brown: chocolate

Right. Maybe this one is more universal than some of my others here. But, the connection is so strong that when I see certain shades of brown, I almost want to eat whatever it is that holds that color spectrum.


image: SKopp

It really is that richness I think I’m responding to. Maybe that’s why brown is associated with richness, and with a certain kind of strength. Front doors and other common elements found in exteriors are a good place for brown for these same reasons.

Orange: Cheddar cheese

When I lived in England, some friends and I took a trip to the West Country, which included a trip to the town of Cheddar in Somerset, the site of the invention of the most popular cheese in the world (spot the Python reference, you geeks)! In touring the cheese factory there, the sight of the wheels of cheddar made a big impression.

cheddar cheese

And although most cheddar is more yellow or off-white than orange when it’s made, the sight of deliciously sharp cheddar cheese in all of its orangey glory just activates my tastebuds, and imagination!

I’m also reminded of my trips to Neal’s Yard in London, specifically Neal’s Yard Dairy, where you can see the cheeses on display in all their orangey goodness, capturing the friendliness and cheeriness of yellow, mixed with the passion of red. If you’re looking to create these same effects in a space where people gather, especially to eat, then orange is a great color spectrum to consider.

Purple: Cabernet Sauvignon

A good meal wouldn’t be the same without a flavorful and full-bodied glass of Cab Sav. I can’t remember the first time that wine became so central to my dining experiences. But, the color of red wine has captured my imagination for as long as I can remember.

Cabernet Savignon

That’s where the shades in the purple color spectrum tends to live; in the imagination and the world of creativity. For any space where you’re looking to think creatively, or outside of convention, purple shades tend to help get our creative brains turning.

Colors are powerful ingredients

Just like in a good meal, colors can create a powerful alchemy in a space. Since we were born, colors have made an impact on us, sometimes when it comes to food, but in many other areas as well. If you’re looking to imprint your experiences and personalities into your spaces, the right color combinations can make your rooms into truly appetizing locations.

What are your personal food colors?

Which foods and their colors resonate the most for you?

What are some of your earliest memories of foods and their colors?

Which areas of your home were inspired by your associations with food?

Tell me all about it in the comments section.



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