How to pick the perfect paint colour for the light in your room

A westward bathroom painted in Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue

A westward bathroom painted in Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue - Credit: Archant

North-facing rooms are notoriously difficult to decorate because they receive the least natural light throughout the day, but no matter which direction your room faces in, some colours will work better than others.

A room painted in Farrow & Ball's London Clay

A room painted in Farrow & Ball's London Clay - Credit: Archant

In order to work out which paint colour to choose, first of all you should figure out which direction the room is facing in. If you’re not sure, Google Earth will help you work it out.

Light has the biggest effect on how a paint colour will appear so you also need to bear in mind that the light will change throughout the day, especially in east- and west-facing rooms. When you’re testing paint colours check how they look at different times in the room you’re decorating.

Linda Levene of Highate interior design firm LLI Design says: “Always always try a tester pot before you commit to a colour and see how the light at different times of day affects the colour, a colour that looks great in the afternoon may look flat and dull in morning light.”

Don’t forget to factor in the type of artificial light you have in the room and don’t forget that it will almost certainly differ wildly from the shop lighting.

A north facing bedroom

A north facing bedroom - Credit: Archant


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Incandescent bulbs give a warmer light that enhances yellow and red tones but will dampen cooler colours while fluourescent light is cooler and will strengthen blues and greens. Halogen light most closely mimics daylight and makes all colours stand out more.

North

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North-facing rooms are the most difficult to decorate and will be the hardest to create a sense of light and space in.

Head of creative at Farrow & Ball Charlotte Cosby says “In small spaces with little natural light the best advice is not to fight nature, instead embrace the darkness and create a dramatic and cocooning interior. Strong colours like Brinjal, Railings or Down Pipe will all create a sense of intimacy in a dark space.”

A room painted in Farrow & Ball's Satin Slipper

A room painted in Farrow & Ball's Satin Slipper - Credit: Archant

Those opting for lighter tones should avoid green or grey based colours and pick yellow or creamy hues to bounce as much warm light around as possible. Avoid bright whites as these will look dingy and dull.

South

The easiest rooms to decorate, south-facing spaces get the best light throughout the day.

Both warm and cool colours will look good, and you’re free to choose what sort of atmosphere you want to encourage in the room, although remember colours will be intensified.

A room painted in Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue

A room painted in Farrow & Ball's Stiffkey Blue - Credit: Archant

Pale tones will make it look light and airy while cool blues will be more seasidey.

East

East-facing rooms get the morning sunlight but by evening will have changed dramatically, becoming blue-tinged.

Pale duck egg colours will sing first thing but retain warmth for the evening lull.

A bedroom painted in Farrow & Ball's Pavillion Blue

A bedroom painted in Farrow & Ball's Pavillion Blue - Credit: Archant

Farrow and Ball suggest teaming this with a darker tone on woodwork or furniture so that walls appear lighter in contrast.

West

Evening sun, which west-facing rooms get the most of, works well with red tones, while white is a natural light reflector, and enhances both natural and artificial light.

A soft pink can be a perfect compromise between the two, creating a warm glow without losing too much of the light.

However, if you want the room to be relaxing for sleeping, tone down the light with cooler paint colours. As Levene points out “Colour really does affect how we feel, red is a high energy colour - don’t use it in the bedroom or you’ll never sleep! Although a yellow front door would be welcoming to come home to.”

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