Light has the largest impact on color and one cannot exist without the other. A color hue looks different depending on the light that it’s exposed to. Here’s the tricky part!
Light is never consistent and how it shines depends entirely on time, season’s change and context. For instance, recessed lighting, at night on full blast, has a completely different appearance than a couple of lights softly flickering.
The human eye interprets color by the amount of light that the color absorbs or reflects. In fact, if you painted your family room the same color as the kitchen, the color may look completely different in each room depending on the amount of light available.
Amazingly enough, the appearance of color even changes if your room faces north, east, south, or west. North and east facing rooms tend to be darker and cooler because they get less sunlight, whereas south and west facing rooms tend to be warmer.
Get this! The appearance of color even changes throughout the day. The same color can appear pink at dawn, blue during mid-day, and purple blue in the evening. For this reason, it’s best to look at the proposed color at different times of the day before making a final decision.
Northern Exposure: This room has indirect sunlight throughout the day, which makes it feel cooler. Colors in this room may also appear grey depending upon where you live. Whites can sometimes look flat and dingy in this kind of lighting. To warm up this type of room, you might consider using warmer hues, such as peach, coral, yellow, or cream to compensate for the room’s cool light.
Southern Exposure: This room gets more light throughout the day, and is the sunniest place in the home. At mid-day, this room can become intense, especially with highly reflective surfaces. Colors are intensified in this room. That’s fine if you want to feel energized, but if you want to soften the warm rays, consider using cooler hues, such as blues and greens.
Browns and beiges appear less somber in southern light. Also, mid-tone colors such as taupe and lavender look fresh in the daytime and become richer at night.
Eastern Exposure: This room gets the most light in the morning and has an energizing yellow hue, making this exposure ideal for high-activity rooms such as kitchens, family rooms, and play rooms.
Pastels and off-whites look fantastic in this space. Warm corals, pinks, and yellows will enhance the light, while cool blues and greens will temper it. If this room will be used later in the day or evening, consider using a warmer palette to offset the lack of natural light.
Western Exposure: This room benefits as the sun sets due to its western exposure to the sun’s rays. In the morning, a west-facing room may appear dull, but during the evening the same room will have a warm glow.
Warm interiors can be overwhelming in the late afternoon. So if you work at night and sleep during the day in a bedroom with west-facing windows, use
Reds appear richer because they absorb light, making it a great color
palette for rooms that require drama and intimacy, such as dining rooms.
But if have enough drama in your life, consider using silvery, cool colors, such as silver-blue or silver-green.
Be Mindful of Color Reflection
When adding color to any room, the other colors in the room can reflect the new color and change the room’s colors. Highly saturated colors, for instance, are notorious for reflecting their color on unsuspecting surfaces.
For example, if you were to carpet a room in dark blue, there’s a good possibility that the color will reflect on everything in the room, and give the walls and everything else a blue cast.
Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, colors sneak up on you again. Exterior colors reflecting in from the windows can also affect the interior colors. Many home design color schemes have been derailed due to the effect of a lush green landscape outside turning everything green when the drapes were opened.
To get the expert’s perspective on the best paint colors to use for Arizona’s diverse climate, I interviewed Dede Radford, with Dunn Edwards Paints. She’s an authority on color and paint.
What are the best colors for Arizona’s exteriors?
“NO, 30-50 LRV range of medium to dark hues are still used and also are mandated in certain areas of metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson.”
What colors are best for Arizona’s interiors?
“Designers are specifying an LRV range of 50-60 for interiors, but occasionally the 70 LRV neutrals are specified for residential depending on which direction the rooms are facing. We see a lot of grays and saturated neutrals for interiors in Arizona.”
Do designers and consumers in these regions favor cooler off-white interiors to neutralize the hot climate?
“Yes. Blue/Grays, Silver Grays; they use warmer colors in Northern Arizona because of the cooler temperatures and less sunlight.”
NOTE: A color’s Light Reflectance Value (LRV) measures the amount
of visible and usable light that reflects from (or absorbs into) a painted surface. LRV is measured on a scale that ranges from zero (absolute black, absorbing all light and heat) to 100 percent (pure white, reflecting all light).
To put it simply, LRV measures the percentage of light a paint color reflects. LRV numbers can be found on most paint chips and serve as a tool for specifying color. Design professionals use these measurements as guidelines to predict how light or dark a color will appear. Lighting designers also use LRV to calculate the type and number of light fixtures needed to light an interior space.