The Role of Colour in Public Spaces

The Role of Colour in Public Spaces

In the 1930’s, Alvar Aalto skillfully used colour in the interior spaces of the Paimio Sanatorium: yellow for the distribution elements to facilitate orientation during the night; blue for the walls of the common areas to create a relaxing atmosphere; light green on the ceilings of the patient’s rooms, excellent for rest. 


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The Humanisation of Colour

Beginning in the last century, scientific studies have shown that a large percentage of human reaction to constructed interior spaces is based on colour. It follows that appropriate colour design in a building (and therefore the choice of materials) can broadly contribute to the psychophysical wellbeing of its users who become the starting point for the development of a humanised colour design, as well as the intended recipients of the project, and must therefore be attentive to human emotions.


Floor and wall applications from the Rilievi collection

Floor and wall applications from the Rilievi collection by Zaven
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On the one hand, if universal associations exist relating to colour perception (blue is associated with the sky, green with nature, yellow with light, red with danger), this also can vary based on age, social and cultural aspects, character and personal experience. Each of us subjectively interprets the stimuli coming from the space that surrounds us; consequently the ideal environment with regards to colour design can take on very personal features and vary from case to case.

Public Spaces – Shared Suggestions

The choice of colours in a domestic space can be dictated by taste and the needs of the architect in agreement with the client; in public spaces, on the other hand, it is advisable for colour to be carefully planned relying on the most universal chromatic suggestions possible, allowing users adequate emotional comfort:

  • White – communicates the concept of cleanliness and neutrality
  • Yellow – encourages attention, learning
  • Red – has a stimulating effect, attracts attention
  • Maroon – conveys warmth and tradition
  • Azure – has a relaxing effect
  • Blu – instills security, reliability
  • Green – encourages calm and reflection
  • Orange – induces enthusiasm and cheerfulness

The Choice of Colour

Nature provides a vast chromatic range, how do you choose the most appropriate colour for interiors intended for public use? To make a prudent choice, it is necessary to evaluate numerous variables, moving according to objective, subjective and functional criteria.

Objective criteria

The effect that a colour creates in a space depends on light, positioning and the arrangement of the environments: if the room is north-facing, warm colours will be recommended; if, on the other hand, it faces to the south, neutral and cool hues are effective. Light and colour create volumetric effects and influence depth perception: lighter colours tend to give the idea of breadth, darker colours of calm. The tones accessed can play an active role in composition, highlighting architectural variations.


"Materia" Project collection by Casamood

“Materia” Project collection by Casa dolce casa – Casamood
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Subjective criteria

 It is useful to generalise as colours can influence the mental state of those who use the space: warmer and brighter colours communicate a sense of confidential proximity, whereas warmer dark colours lend a classical, elegant aspect; cooler, brighter colours offer a sensation of freshness, cleanliness, linearity, calm; cooler and darker colours symbolise stability, security and respect.


Floor and wall applications from the Storie collection by Giorgia Zanellato & Daniele Bortotto

Floor and wall applications from the Storie collection by Giorgia Zanellato & Daniele Bortotto, CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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Functional criteria

 For an appropriate colour design, compatibility with the space’s function must be assessed: in working spaces, frequented for long times, lighter colours that encourage concentration are preferred. As regards health, everything should communicate warmth and welcoming, not technical coolness or hostility and the most appropriate colours are muted tones that encourage rest and calm. Dark or full shades go well with environments frequented for short intervals of time, for example restaurants, to create contrast, wonder, joy. Neutral colours and natural shades are appropriate for cladding and facades or for public flooring to avoid contrast with the surrounding environment.

Colour perception and the feelings that it gives rise to are conditioned by contemporary trends, capable of leading to experimentation and appreciation of unprecedented colour palettes. The use of fashion nuances in an architectural project is more than legitimate. However, it is always advisable to opt for colours that reflect the client’s spaces and way of being: this guarantees a look that will last over time.

Therefore, it is ascertained that the use of colour in architecture goes beyond mere aesthetic and decorative needs. Nevertheless, we would do well to remember that recommendations relating to the functional use of colour are filtered through a personal creative process, for the purpose of avoiding spaces acquiring monotonous and depersonalising features. The objective is the humanisation of tone and the skill of the designer rests in considering the ergonomic and emotional factors without sacrificing the complexity of the design and operating contextual choices using most appropriate materials.


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The study of colour in architecture

Within the context of the study of colour in architecture, which material should you choose for your architectural projects?

Porcelain stoneware is an excellent ally in the study and design of colour in architecture, as it allows you to create very different colour solutions using a single material.

From surfaces with the most daring colours, suitable for eccentric environments, to those featuring neutral colours to create a more elegant and minimalist environment, porcelain stoneware offers many chromatic suggestions, as a rich palette of colours from which the artist-architect can freely draw to create their work of art.

Below, we have reviewed a number of porcelain stoneware products where colour makes all the difference:

Contrasts in black and white

With B&W_Marble by Floorgres, black and white find new expressive forms in porcelain stoneware: the slabs of this marble-effect collection sublimate the simplicity of pure black and white in a disruptive dualism consisting of sharp and irregular contrasts.

black and white marble-effect floor

B&W_Marble collection by Floorgres
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Colour, colour, colour!

Fuchsia, orange, bottle green, blue and coral, mauve, petroleum, aubergine. Buildtech/ 2.0 by Floorgres and Neutra 6.0 by Casa dolce casa – Casamood are the Florim collections that offer a wide range of plain colours in a total of 24 different shades. Florim thus promotes a winning combination between the neutrality of cement and the decisive character of saturated colours destined for architecture.


design with colored porcelain stoneware

bathroom with pink porcelain stoneware

Buildtech/ 2.0 collection by Floor Gres
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room with stoneware neutra collection

armchair in room with porcelain stoneware design

Neutra 6.0 collection by Casa dolce casa – casamood
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The Rilievi collection by the CEDIT brand goes beyond the two-dimensionality of the slab to offer a 3D coating where colour and material combine in a play of light, shadow and depth. The colours are bright and the relief tiles stand out with artistic contrasts on the surfaces of the large format tiles. Here, the slab itself becomes a work of art.


retail design with colourful details

Rilievi collection by Zaven | Enrica Cavarzan & Marco Zavagno for CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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Pure material

The saturated colours described above are contrasted with the minimalist collections: Industrial and Rawtech by Floor Gres and Studios by Casa dolce casa – Casamood present a neutral colour palette, inspired by the natural colours of the earth. Greys, beiges and browns in various shades pick up the cement material in its pure and rigorous form, or its lived and worn form for the creation of simple yet elegant environments.


bicycle near building with floorgres design

Industrial collection by Floor Gres
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woman in shop with floorgres design

Rawtech collection by Floor Gres
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The Matrice collection by CEDIT combines the simplicity of large format light grey tiles inspired by concrete with the preciousness of linear and geometric engravings in bright colours. The Matrice decorations, which are available in 24 variants (9 in the 6mm version), can be assembled in infinite combinations, creating signs that are always unique.

Retail design with porcelain stoneware

room with grey porcelain tiles coloured elements

Matrice collection by BRH+ for CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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The selection of colour in retail design

In retail design, colour is one of the most important elements that influence the selection of a particular product or brand. Indeed, when we look at something, we tend to give great importance to its visual appearance, which becomes a sensory point that guides us in our purchase decision. It, therefore, follows that in sales environments, the need for designers to create pleasant and welcoming places where people feel comfortable must involve the use of colour and covering materials.

But how can colours influence customers in retail environments? 

The purchasing behaviours suggested by the use of one colour instead of a different colour cannot be rigidly classified, as they are strongly influenced by the context and the numerous emotional variables of the customer. 

Broadly speaking, however, we can say that:

  • Red, orange and black are the most suitable colours for promoting impulse buying (we often find them used in fast food restaurants or outlets); 
  • The various shades of blue and green are associated with purchases based on savings and trust (e.g. banks and department stores); 
  • shades such as pink and purple are preferred by the female public and suitable for traditional buyers in the clothing sector; 
  • yellow is the most inviting colour for areas where customers are received.


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When we are confronted with the infinite criteria that can be used to select colours, which are often subjective, it is very important that we follow the common sense of designers and colour designers and – in particular – that we take into account the specific colour requirements of the brand image and the technical characteristics of the materials that will be used.

In a shop, for example, it is essential that the environment is dressed with materials that are easy to clean, resistant, and comfortable from both a physical and aesthetic point of view, and that the colours of the brand harmonise with those of the furnishings and architectural surfaces.

In this latter regard, Florim porcelain stoneware offers a wide range of surfaces, colours, and material inspirations combined with excellent technical characteristics.

Below you can see some of Florim’s inspirations for creating unique and characteristic retail environments.

Crayons of Cerim is a collection that enhances the coupling of colour and design through the brand’s characteristic fresh and functional approach. Eight pastel shades, designed to promote compositions that are lively yet balanced, chime with each other and with the context. They range from dusty colours that are clearly inspired by the 1950s, including turtledove, hazelnut, pink, faded yellow and sky blue, to the more decisive colours of dusty grey and moss green, all of which are perfect for creating environments with a retro style but a contemporary character.


design crayons of cerim collection pastel shades

Crayons of Cerim collection
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Artworks by Casa dolce casa – Casamood represents an excellent compromise between the use of saturated coloured slabs and the elegance of soft coloured slabs. Indeed, its small fragments of material and colour create a stylised texture featuring irregular geometries that subtly animate the surfaces, with a contrasting combination (black-white, blue-white, yellow-black, burgundy-yellow, etc.), that picks up elements that are typical of tradition, such as Venetian ‘battuto’.


walls and fireplace in porcelain stoneware

Artwork collection by Casa dolce casa – casamood
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The Les Bijoux de Rex collection, whose slabs are inspired by marble in bright colours (red, brown, blue) and which are so rare and precious that they are comparable to real works of art, can be used for sophisticated environments where colour intertwines with the luxury of the material.


floor in porcelain marbe-effect slabs

Les Bijoux de Rex
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I Filati di Rex” is a new collection designed by Florim in collaboration with Rubelli, which evokes the sense of craftsmanship of the centuries-old art of silk through ceramic slabs in large formats. The nine surfaces of the collection are inspired by precious fabrics by Rubelli which, in turn, have emerged from the contemporary reworking of a number of decorative motifs from the prestigious Venetian tradition of weaving.


luxury design with ceramic slabs large formats

I Filati di Rex collection
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On the subject of works of art, the CEDIT brand offers designers a variety of surfaces where design, history, art and colour take centre-stage. Think of the blend of bright, contrasting, and pure colours in the Araldica collection, the pastel gradients of the Chromatic collection, the saturated and deep contrasts of the Rilievi collection, the painterly references of the Euridice collection, where stoneware acts as a genuine and unfinished canvas that invites brushstrokes of colour.


retail design ceramic slabs contrasting colors

Araldica collection by Federico Pepe for CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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jewelry shop with pink porcelain stoneware

Cromatica collection by Formafantasma for CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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ceramic slabs rilievi by Zaven collection

Rilievi collection by Zaven for CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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retail design collection Giorgio Griffa

Euridice collection by Giorgio Griffa for CEDIT – Ceramiche d’Italia
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This is just a small selection of the porcelain stoneware products created by Florim to realise its own designs: you can discover the whole range on our website.


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