Light’s Effect On Color Choice in an Interior Environment

I’m fond of the saying “it isn’t what you know, it is who you know” (which is sometimes a handy sobriquet for my ignorance) so I was happy to meet Lesli Baker.  In addition to her years as a design consultant, she taught at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.  She has been kind enough to author today’s article.

Most often when a color choice is made during a remodel or interior design project, the idea of light  almost never comes into consideration when making the final color choice. However, light and color are two important aspects of the design concept that should be selected together with equal importance. Add to that the existing natural light in a space and a  very cohesive visual effect begins to evolve.

If the purchase and installation of new lighting isn’t an option, consider choosing color based on the light output available from existing fixtures, then, make smart bulb choices to highlight that color choice.

For example, in a small dining room usually the source of light comes in the form of a ceiling pendant or chandelier, hanging just above the dining table. This fixture not only provides light to the eating surface but also becomes the focal point of the entire room when it is the only source of light. In this case the choice of a darker shade wall color will give this space a cave like, dark feel, that may seem extremely formal.

Instead the choice of a lighter wall color or neutral shade, combined with the focal point chandelier, additional ambient lighting in the form of wall sconces, as well as perhaps accent lighting such as those used specifically to draw attention and spotlight artwork, can make this dining space feel light, inviting, visually interesting and a lively place to entertain.

When making your color choice of course it is important to also take into consideration available natural light from outside. In a space with a window wall or a lot of natural light in the daytime, be careful not to choose too strong of hues to prevent brightness contrast between too dark or very bright shades and entering sunlight.

Once a wall color is chosen, be sure to pay attention to the type of bulb to be used in a space, and the “color temperature” of that bulb.

Just as adding red to white pink is created, the same effect can be had with the color cast of the light bulb chosen. Putting the incorrect bulb type can literally change your chosen color.

Many recessed can lights and modern track systems require halogen bulbs. Halogen light is pleasant for interior design purposes because it is bright and clean, and easy to control with a large variety of beam spread choices. In terms of color, halogen light is known as the “whiter” light bulb, and for this reason is great as an accent light. Halogen light keeps colors very true, and can make wall colors as well as artwork look vibrant. However, when it is dimmed, halogen light becomes more yellow, lessening the beneficial effects.

A standard light bulb is known as an incandescent. These classic types of bulbs produce a warmer light, so colors chosen should consider this yellow tone. When dimmed, standard bulbs become significantly more amber. This color shift can noticeably change the look of walls and objects being illuminated.

The best color consideration recommended today for lighting are full spectrum bulbs, or “color corrected”. These are full or compact fluorescent bulbs that have been designed with an adjustment of the lamp’s color rendering index and temperature. Full spectrum fluorescent lamps are considered so close to natural light; they are often used in artist’s studios to make sure the colors being used will later appear in their natural hue when the painting is displayed. Not only are these bulbs greener and more energy efficient with a much longer life span, they do not change in color at all when dimmed- so you don’t have to worry that your whole color scheme will be altered when you dim the lights.