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North, south, east or west? How does light affect paint colour?

23 August 2018

Ever been caught out by the compass? You love a particular blue in your south facing living room, but when you decide to use it upstairs in your north facing bedroom it looks like a completely different colour! (True story)

Colour changes according to the direction a room faces and how the light comes into the room, as well as the time of day and also the time of year, so the very same colour can look completely different from one room to the next. We know from experience how useful it can be to know how light behaves in different settings.

North-facing rooms

North facing rooms get the morning light and bring out the cooler tones of a colour. If you want to create a warmer feel, choose colours with pink, yellow and gold tones to give the room a lift and bounce light around the room. Colours look more pigment rich in a north facing room, as sunlight washes out the intensity of colour, so use this to your advantage and create a bit of drama. If you don't mind a cool palette, a pop of luminescent colour with a neutral contrast will give you a super clean and contemporary look.

South facing rooms

Some say the easiest of rooms to decorate, beautiful south facing rooms boast the most amount of warm, natural light. But, be aware that bright sunlight will wash out the intensity of any colour. Cooler colours such as blue, violet and green do better in the glare of sunlight, as do greys and of course whites.

East facing rooms

Bright in the morning and cooler in the afternoon. The best of both worlds? Actually, east facing rooms need the most consideration when choosing colours. Think about what time of day you will use this room most and decide what ambience you want it to have. If you spend mainly mornings in it, paint it as if it were a south facing room. If you use it in the afternoons and evenings, then treat it like a north facing room. Contrasting the walls with painted furniture, skirting or doors is also a clever way of making the most of the changing light. The walls might come alive in the morning, and the furniture at night, or vice versa.

West facing rooms

Cooler in the morning and brighter in the afternoons. Like east facing rooms think about what time of day you will use this room most and decide what ambience you want it to have. If you spend mainly mornings in it, paint it as if it were a north facing room. If you use it in the afternoons and evenings, then treat it like a south facing room. Contrasting the walls with painted furniture, skirting or doors will make the most of the changing light. The walls might come alive in the morning, and the furniture at night, or vice versa.

Artificial Light. Choosing your bulbs.

There's so much choice when it comes to buying bulbs these days, so don't forget that artificial lighting can also change how colours appear. Yellow light will make colours appear warmer, whilst cooler blue toned light is perfect for contemporary interiors. If you want your light as true to daylight as possible, and to get the truest impression of your paint colour, choose a white light.

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