Beat the winter blues with Yellow

If you’re feeling sluggish after all the Christmas and New Year festivities, the best thing you can do is give yourself a good dose of sunshine yellow. I’m not suggesting you paint your bedroom custard or your loo canary but an uplifting pop of this happy colour will instantly make your home feel optimistic and welcoming.

Have you ever wondered why so many people hang decorative birds outside their houses in the Algarve? It’s because the swallow (andorinha) is a Portuguese symbol of love, loyalty and family. Swallows mate for life and raise their chicks together, not leaving the nest until all of the babies do (awww). So, swallows represent the importance of family and fidelity. That connection to “the nest”—to a home or a homeland—is so important in Portuguese culture that there is a word for it: saudade. A recurring theme in fado music and Portuguese and Brazilian literature, saudade refers to an intense longing for someone or something that is absent or unattainable. It’s a word I’ve just learnt and it has no English translation so I’m going to add it to my limited vocabulary because it describes exactly how I feel when I’m in England: I have saudade for Portugal. 

Yellow sunhat wall art
Yellow ceramic birds

Anyway, enough sentimentality! The yellow ceramic swallows pictured are handmade by Carmen Pratas in Lisbon. For the best decorative effect, use several of them in different sizes and place them on a wall as if in flight.

Yellow sofa
Yellow crochet placemat

January is the coldest month of the year in the Algarve with an average of five hours and thirty- eight minutes of sunshine per day (don’t moan, in England, it’s a measly one-and-a-half hours). Savour every precious ray with this sunflower window panel made by Ukrainian stained glass artist Vitaliia Karelina at her studio in Porto.

Yellow still life wall art
Sunflower stained glass

According to psychologists, yellow is mentally stimulating and improves functions like memory, analysis and problem-solving. Yellow also enhances free-flowing creative thinking, which makes it a great colour for a home office or work space – unless you have xanthophobia (a fear of the colour yellow). Yes, it is a real thing. Experts are not completely sure why some people are frightened by yellow, but that’s another story.

Yellow chest of drawers
Yellow abstract painting
Yellow patterned seat pad

Whatever your relationship with yellow, it is undisputedly an invigorating colour. Yellow is known to make the brain produce serotonin. I know I get a huge rush when I step off the plane in Faro and see that dazzling yellow sunlight, especially when I’ve come from the gloom of London. 

Speaking of gloom, yellow goes really well with grey. I’ve just finished a set of warm yellow abstract paintings for my neighbour. Everything in her house is grey and she’s ever so minimalist, but she announced after a few Baileys that her New Year’s resolution is to be more daring and she asked me to paint something colourful for her living room walls. I thought she might chicken out when I presented her with two bright yellow canvases, but they’re still up there sitting happily above a sea of grey and beige.

Photo taken in Burgau by Flora
Yellow glass candle holder

Yellow also makes you hungry (there’s a reason why the McDonald’s arches are bright yellow). I stumbled across this yellow house in Burgau last week. What a lovely cafe, I thought as I sat down under the yellow umbrellas and made myself comfy on the candy-striped cushions. I wondered why the waiter inside was taking so long to serve me until I realised he was ironing his shirts in front of the football. I apologised and scurried off, but he just rolled his eyes. I wasn’t the first person to be drawn in by his symphony of yellow. That’s proof enough that yellow is the most inviting of colours – let’s welcome it inside and bring a little sunshine into our homes (but don’t blame me if you find hungry strangers sitting in your front room!).

Yellow pouffe
Yellow paint pot and yellow bedroom wall

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