By Aaron Krach Pairing the right paint color and lighting can have magical results. But finding that perfect combination can be tricky. To help understand the relationship, we spoke with four experts; Donald Kaufman, color consultant and founder of Donald Kaufman Color; Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute; Eve Ashcraft, color consultant and founder of Eve Ashcraft Studio; and Carl Minchew, director of product development at Benjamin Moore.
“The first thing we do when we visit a home is look at the windows,” says Kaufman. “Which way are they facing and which way is north?” In the US, if you have a south-facing room you’ll have sun most of the day; the opposite is true if you’re in a room with windows that only face north. In rooms without direct sunlight—due to location, direction, surrounding, or weather conditions—experts recommend warmer colors to brighten the room. If you live in a place like South Florida where there’s abundant sunshine, you’re going to want to look at cooler tones to balance the intense light from outside.
“Ask yourself what the room is for,” says Ashcraft. “I had a client who only used one of his rooms at night so he wanted it to look best then. This made all the difference in picking out the right color.” In this case, a warm chocolate brown. “It looked great with lamplight,” says Ashcraft. In contrast, if the room you’re painting is primarily used in the morning—say, a breakfast nook—the light is going to be clear and warm, which is why neutrals and whites look crisp If the room is cool and dark, add warmth. If it’s bright and illuminated, go neutral or add cool colors with blue undertones.
What else is in the room? If you have a rug—or another large piece—in a dark purple or brown, it will change how every other hue in the room appears. The way light reflects from one color to the next has a strong impact. “The relationship between colors in a room is important,” says Minchew. “You should consider all the large elements in the room and find a color that cooperates, something that will make everything look better.” The bulbs in your lamps and overhead lighting will also change the way a color looks on the wall. “People are using more compact fluorescent light bulbs,” adds Minchew, “and while CFLs have gotten better, warmer, with better color rendition, people still see a difference. Sometimes a color goes redder, other times a color becomes more green.” Your best bet is to upgrade as many bulbs in the house as you can before you choose a new color. Then, bring in samples of color and pick out what you think looks best under these conditions.
Trial and Error
For the best outcome, all our experts agreed on the same solution: get a small sample so can try out the color before committing. “Get a large poster board and paint it the color you’re considering,” says Eiseman. “Live with it for several days. Literally move it around the room to see how the light affects it. Put it near different light bulbs, close to and far from the windows.” Kaufman recommends painting a six-foot wide swath of wall as a test. Ashcraft goes further: “Paint a whole wall. It’s the best insurance that you’ll be happy with the color later on.”
In the end, trust your eyes, says Minchew. “Judging color isn’t something you need to be highly trained for. Just look at the swatch or sample on the wall throughout the day and evening. If it’s working for you, then that’s all there is to it. If you see it and you like it, you should be fine.”
Source: Elle Décor | Photo: From “A Harlem Brownstone’s Vivid Transformation.”/photography by Joshua McHugh