Has this every happened to you? Not long ago my husband and I decided to finally repaint our robin’s egg blue kitchen. We poured over what felt like 1,000 paint chips before settling on the color. Yet, when we put down the brushes to admire our work… the color looked, um, well – different.
There’s a reason our efforts to freshen up our home interior sometimes lead to mixed results. It all boils down to lighting.
Once we get our perfect shade of earthy green or slate gray, cut the lines and saturate our walls with color, often it’s not what we expected. No matter how rich or muted a color, depending on the lighting in the room, how we “see” the color can be different. And it can differ based on the time of day or the source of light that we use to illuminate the room.
Two key points here can help guide your next DIY home décor upgrade. Different colors absorb different light – black absorbs all colors, blue absorbs red, and white absorbs none. And light sources change the look of colors; whether you have natural light or some type of artificial light makes all the difference.
Before you shell out the money (and time) to put a fresh coat of paint in your dated living room, consider these factors when choosing a color that will work best in your space.
The type of light bulbs you use in your home each have a unique impact the color you see on the walls. For instance, incandescent bulbs emit a warm, amber-yellow glow that mutes blues and greens, while making reds, yellows, and oranges more vivid. Fluorescents, on the other hand, enrich blues and greens with their flat, cool light. When it comes to today’s popular LED’s, choices include warmer or cooler bulbs and even “smart” LED lights. With these “smart” bulbs, you can wirelessly control the color emitted. The result? You decide how best to enrich your walls’ colors. And let’s not forget about halogens. These lights closely resemble natural light, making all colors more vivid. Halogens also have the nifty trait of making the shift from daylight to artificial light less jarring.
Speaking of daylight, it’s important to remember that as the angle and the amount of sun that floods your rooms changes so does your rooms’ colors. Consider the direction from which sun enters your rooms. For a north-facing room, the sunlight produces a cool and bluish effect, making bold colors bolder and subduing lighter hues. In south-facing rooms, the high-in-the-sky sun compliments cool and warm colors – dark colors look brighter, while lighter colors glow. Sunlight from the east is warm and yellow before noon, turning bluish later in the day, making the perfect companion lighting for red, orange and yellow rooms. With evening light coming from the west, the result is a warming effect, while scant morning light tends to make colors less vibrant.
To find the truly right color for that bedroom or living room, start by painting primed drywall squares with sample colors and moving them around your room during the day. As natural and artificial light will work together during certain times of day, turn on your lights during daylight hours to see the effect on your colors. And don’t forget about the finish. Glossier finishes reflect light and lead to more differences in how you see the colors, while flat finishes are less reflective, making colors truer even under bright light. With just a little planning and attention to light, your walls in your rooms can shine as much (or as little) as you’d like them to.