The Essentials of Lighting and Colour
So you fell in love with that dramatic, velvety teal your friends had on an accent wall, but
when you used a similarly dramatic shade in your own shabby chic furniture-inspired living
room, the place felt like a cave. We’ve recently discussed the difference between ambient,
task, and detail lighting, but the colour of your lighting is just as important as its purpose.
Lighting can profoundly affect how colour is perceived, so if you’re in the process of
selecting paint, don’t neglect to test its appearance with a variety of lighting types and at
different times of the day.
First, spend the time and money to get samples of the colours you are most interested in
and create samples on walls in the rooms you plan to paint. Also, buy a variety of bulbs –
halogen (use a desk lamp if you don’t have the right wiring yet), compact fluorescent,
incandescent. To help direct your planning, keep a few things in mind:
Don’t judge a light by its watts. The wattage of a bulb is not a good gauge of how bright it
will be – instead, go by the Kelvins. Natural daylight measures between 5,000 and 6,000
Kelvins and, contrary to what you might assume, it is colder than lower measurements. So if
you want to add warmth to a colour, select a temperature of 2,700 Kelvins; if you want to
cool it down, try 4,000 Kelvins or higher. If your colour looks best in daylight, you might
want to go with halogen as it mimics daylight the best.
Get directions. Natural light is different depending on the direction it comes from, so
choose possible colours according to where your windows face. The short version: northern
exposure will give off a blue tone; southern, a yellow and white tone that can wash colour
out; western, a warm orange tone; and eastern, a green tone.
Be comfortable with change. The most common shades seen in rooms with shabby chic
furniture and French country furniture – such as lavenders and pale blues – tend to benefit
from southern exposure. They are also the colours most prone to change according to the
light, a phenomenon called metamerism. A lavender wall can turn a muddy grey if not lit
correctly. These décor schemes are stylish yet comfortable, and you don’t want that inviting
feeling undone by your paint colour.
Throw some shade. If you’re stuck with a certain type of lighting, try different color and
material treatments over it to change its tone. A simple change can quickly turn a room
from harsh to cosy.