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Color's magic powers

Beware of black cats . . . Never enter a theater that is painted yellow . . . If you have a sore throat, wear red.

Do you subscribe to any or all of these color superstitions? Many people do, though not as universally as in bygone days.

Belief in the power of color goes back a long way. In ancient times in the bazaars of Cairo, blue or turquoise beads were sold to caravan men to be worn as headbands for warding off evil spirits. Their horses and carts were adorned with brass for the same reason.

Sounds a bit uneducated doesn't it? Don't be too sure. Even as late as 1948 a United Press International correspondent reported that in India some doctors were still prescribing "medical secrets that have been proved successful by the ages," such as wearing amber for earaches and eye problems, amethyst for gout and garnet for skin eruptions.

Though we believe we are intellectually above all these beliefs, there are still traces left in our psyches. Let me prove it to you.

Do you know anyone who wears or uses crystals for healing the body or cleansing the soul? Anyone aware of the New Age movement is very aware of the belief in the powers of amethyst, amber, quartz and other crystals.

Or that a great many Americans still paint the underside of the roof over the front porch a light blue. In the old days, that was thought to ward off evil spirits.

So what does all of this have to do with interior design? Lots. Color affects our psychological well-being and our physical well-being.

Light is the source of all color, and it has been said the light can penetrate mammalian tissues to a considerable depth. Proof? I'm sure you agree that ultraviolet light can tan the skins. And there is an affliction, though rare, known as urticaria solare that shows up as a skin rash to some who cannot tolerate being exposed to blue or violet light. On the other hand, blue light helps clear up jaundice in newborns.

When coloring your interiors, here are some thoughts worth considering:

Ceilings should be white or slightly off-white. Walls should be beige or light shades of peach, pink, pale yellow, soft green or soft aqua. Accent colors can include coral, green, blue or violet, with varying degrees of intensity.

Why these particular colors? Well, it has been proven that when several people are gathered in one room, exposure to these colors are most comforting.

You might ask, if blue works as an accent, why shouldn't you use it on the walls also? Well you can, but it might create a cold and perhaps even a bleak room. The reflection on people's skin might make them appear pale or ashen _ not a healthy look. Violet on the wall might cast a yellow or yellow green pallor on the skin.

Peaches and pinks, on the other hand, emit a nice, warm, healthy glow on surroundings. Whether you're interested in crystal healing or color coordination, keep in mind that colors matter.

Rosemary Sadez Friedman is a licensed interior decorator and winner of the Aurora Award for Interior Design.