A cross-cultural study of luxury concept and luxury color in retail interior design

Presented by: Ji Young Cho and Eun-Jung Lee

Color is believed to relate to certain responses (Elliot & Maier, 2007).  People tend to think that red or yellow are stimulating and arousing, whereas blue or green are calming. Many researchers have attempted to identify the relationship between color and an associated feeling (e.g., Elliot & Maier, 2007; Kobayashi, 1990). Findings from such research can bring considerable implications to marketing and branding because consumers’ emotional responses towards color of the retail environment can impact their perceptions on the brand itself (van Rompay, Tanja-Dijkstra, Verhoeven & van Es, 2012). 

Luxury brand is one of the growing industries and prominent topics in brand research, and particularly fashion luxury brand product occupies largest proportion of luxury product sales (Miller & Mills, 2012). Thus, identifying the concept of luxury perceived by consumers and the color combinations matching to the luxury concept is important in both marketing and interior design because the findings can bring managerial and design implications to luxury retail design. In addition, with the global brand and market industry, understanding similarities or differences in different cultures has a significant meaning. Although there is rich literature on luxury branding, little study exists on cultural differences in the concept of luxury and how people perceive color in terms of luxury. 

Thus, the purpose of this paper is to identify (a) the concept of luxury that people perceive; (b) color combinations that match with the concept of luxury; and (c) any cross-cultural difference in the previous two aspects. A cross-cultural study was conducted in two countries- one East Asian country (South Korea) and the other in western country (USA). The rationale for selecting these two countries is because huge import and export of luxurious brand products between the two countries are observed. 

Total 50 students in the USA and the other 50 students in Korea participated in the study. A 3D rendering of one retail store, created by using a computer-aided program (REVIT), was shown to participants on a 19” computer screen individually.  A total of eight different color combinations were shown to participants, who were asked to rate the degree to which they thought the color combination matched a series of adjectives (total 20) related to luxury. Students were also asked to select the degree the suggested adjectives match to their concept of luxury. The adjectives were extracted and developed from the Dubois, Laurent and Czellar’s six main facets of luxury (2005).

The result shows differences exist in the concept of luxury between the two cultures and in most luxurious color combinations. While Americans considered luxury to be non-functional, beautiful, and pleasant one, Koreans considered it to be traditional, with long history, and restricted.  In addition, the best matching color combinations that each culture considered were different. However the least matching color combination was the same in both cultures. 

The result will provide important implications to interior designers and marketing professions in terms of more appropriate use of color in interior design of luxury stores by considering cultural differences. The research findings are yet early stage, and the reasons of differences in the two cultures need to be further studied.


  • Dubois, B., Czellar, S., & Laurent, G. (2005). Consumer segments based on attitudes toward luxury: empirical evidence from twenty countries. Marketing letters, 16(2), 115-128.
  • Elliot, A.J., & Maier, M.A.  (2007). Color and psychological functioning.  Current Directions in Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 16(5), 250-254.
  • Kobayashi, S. (1990). Color image scale. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International Ltd.
  • Miller, K.W., & Mills, M.K. (2012). Contributing clarity by examining brand luxury in the fashion market. Journal of Business Research 65(10), 1471-1479.
  • van Rompay, T. J., Tanja-Dijkstra, K., Verhoeven, J. W., & van Es, A. F. (2012). On store design and consumer motivation spatial control and arousal in the retail context. Environment and Behavior, 44(6), 800-820.
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