5 colors that repel heat – to keep you cool indoors and out in summer

These are the only colors to decorate with in the heat of the summer

colors that repel heat
(Image credit: Studio Peake / Sims Hildtich / Public 311 Design)

We all love the summer sunshine – the seemingly endless hours of daylight, open windows, and the gentle breeze. However, keeping a home cool in a heatwave can become increasingly difficult, especially if you’re overheating and want to look and feel your best. Learning how to keep a home cool – indoors and out – using only color will help you enjoy a more pleasant and restful summer. 

With temperatures set to soar this summer, we've compiled a list of the best colors to beat the heat and stay cool.

5 cool colors to decorate with in a heatwave

With the US weather being so unpredictable, we are never fully ready for when a big heatwave hits. It pays to be prepared, especially when investing in decor for your interior and exterior. These five color suggestions will help keep you cool whilst you are at home. 

1. White

A white living room with pale grey sofa, tree truck coffee table and landscape paintings

(Image credit: Public 311 Design)

It should come as no surprise that white room ideas are high on our list of colors that repel heat. Dark colors retain heat, so white is the best option if you want to stay cool indoors and out. 

Decorating with white offers a blank canvas that illuminates dark spaces and can make even small rooms feel spacious, light, and bright. White will provide a clean backdrop for a variety of additional decorative room ideas. That being said, the cool, undertones can also look too stark or sterile in some spaces. Off-white, on the other hand, leaves a softer, gentler impression. Introduce layers of beige, eggshell, ivory, and vanilla.

White linens, curtains, and plenty of sheer fabric in light tones will ensure your space remains as cool as possible.

2. Blue

Kids room painted in pale blue with red patterned wallpaper around an alcove bed

(Image credit: Studio Peake)

The sight of the sea is always an anticipated source of excitement. Whether it’s approaching the US coast for an old-fashioned seaside break, or as you fly to a far-off destination, there’s nothing quite like catching that first glimpse of vast blue waters stretching out to the horizon, and the crashing waves, to get you in the holiday mood. Conjuring endless skies and infinite seas, pale blue is most certainly the color of the moment. Embrace myriad pale shades to create uplifting and optimistic spaces that soothe the soul – and your home. Used with crisp white, it creates a cool coastal feel, while as one block of color, it can be an enveloping breath of fresh air. To add depth to a watery scheme, take inspiration from ripples and reflections and layer up different textures, including glass, and fabrics with marbled effects and lustrous sheens.

Decorating with blue, especially sky blue, can add such joy to a space with their inherent freshness,' says Patrick O’Donnell, international brand ambassador, Farrow & Ball. 'It’s a wonderful shade for coastal living where it will respond to the light you get near water.’ 

Pale blue makes for a calming backdrop for any room that can be instantly warmed up with reds, oranges, pinks and yellows in the winter. However, not all blues are the same. Deeper, green-tinted marine blues can retain heat and actually make your home feel too hot.

3. Gray

Grey living room-cum-dining room with parquet flooring and a crittall glass screen

(Image credit: Sims Hildtich)

This sultry shade goes with every color and can be used to cool down a room in an instant. 

Grey is a color that has its own weather system of light levels and hues. From the gentle grey morning rain of a bright wide sky to the breathtaking drama of dark storm clouds, the scope for creating beautiful interiors is endless. It is a shade with myriad subtle color notes that draws inspiration from beach pebbles and clay, as well as from slate and charcoal. 

Decorating with gray is hugely versatile, from cool off-white shades, through warmer neutral mid-tones to the very deep and mysterious. If you want to cool down a home, opt for a cool-toned gray, such as Pavilion Gray from Farrow & Ball, or Manor House Gray, from Farrow & Ball. The paler the tone, the more it will reflect the available light. The darker the tone, the more light it will absorb.

4. Yellow

yellow livjng room with white gloss walls and yellow windows

(Image credit: Tim Salisbury)

Yellow might seem like an unusual choice, but this bright color works well to reflect most of the visible wavelengths, absorb less heat, and can reflect around 90 percent of light. It is a surprisingly fresh color.

‘Yellow is a color that evokes happiness and provides a sense of positivity,' says Andy Greenall, head of design, at Paint & Paper Library. 'It is perfect for areas of the home where there is much activity and socializing, such as the kitchen and dining room, where it adds energy and vitality.’  

As one of the most uplifting colors, yellow invites optimism and positivity into the home, as well as keeping it relatively cool. Yellow won't make you feel lethargic. As well as considering the style of the room you wish to decorate, you should also think about how you use the space and the energy you wish to evoke. Paler, gentler shades will create a calming atmosphere while stronger sunnier hues offer a more high-octane energy. Similarly, orange hues are known to absorb less heat making these colors the perfect choice for decorating during summer.

5. Lilac

bedroom with lilac floral wallpaper, white drapes, light gray button back winged bed with blue throw and white dressing table and chair

(Image credit: Douglas Friedman)

Conjuring scenes of trailing wisteria and fields of heather, the myriad variations of this delicate pastel shade can inspire the most elegant, restful, and cooling interiors and exteriors. Lighter purple hues – lilac, amethyst, and lavender – are becoming more popular for summer homeware and should keep you comfortable in a heatwave.

‘Associated with sociability and open-mindedness, it helps make people feel at ease – perfect for communal areas,' says Hebe Hatton, head of interiors at Homes & Gardens. 'Lilac also has a slight feminine edge, which reinforces the feeling of comfortability and coolness.’

Farrow & Ball – How to Decorate: Transform your home with paint & paper | $21.99 at Amazon

Farrow & Ball – How to Decorate: Transform your home with paint & paper | $21.99 at Amazon

Set to become the bible of home decoration, Farrow & Ball How to Decorate provides an inspirational guide on how to use paint and paper in any home, large or small, urban or country.


What colors should you avoid in hot weather?

Dark colors attract and absorb more heat, and light so it's best to avoid dark-colored furnishings, such as black, maroon, dark brown, navy blue, and forest green. These colors generate more thermal energy when exposed to intense sunlight. Instead, use these warm colors in the winter to increase warmth and coziness. 

Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.