Light and Color and Your House Paint

July 31, 2010 § 3 Comments

Sometimes color appears out of nowhere and dazzles you — even for only a few moments — like it did the day I snapped this photo in the late afternoon sun.  The yellow of this barn grabbed my attention and said, “Stop where you are and look at me — I am gorgeous!” A few moments later, the barn was in shadow and the intense color was gone for another day.

When you’re choosing a house color, be sure to paint some sample colors on the house and look at them in various lights — early morning, late afternoon — and on cloudy days as well. You may see the color change. That might be a good thing or maybe not. I once watched my living room color change from tan to gray to green to pink all in the course of a 12-hour period. To a color person like myself, that experience was horrendous. I had the primer out within the week. (The color I painted my living room was taupe — the mysterious color that accepts other hues around it and changes like a chameleon. Some people actually like that — I have clients who do — but not so much for me at least on the interior.)

Color depends on light. And light or the lack of it can change your perception of the color itself. What you thought was one color in the paint store or even when you opened up the can turns out to be quite something else once it’s applied to your wall, whether it’s inside or out. Use your sampling time to see how light affects not only the color you’ve chosen but also the “value” of the color (how intense it is). If the color attracts too much attention for your taste, move more toward the gray side of that particular hue. Dull it down a touch and you’ll get it right. Color will be more intense on a large area anyway, like the side of your house. Check it out first before the painters arrive.

§ 3 Responses to Light and Color and Your House Paint

  • Karen Izzo says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I’m having a hard time knowing where to ask my question….I paid the donation fee. Here is my question. I’ve been living in a middle unit condo for a year and of all the things I worried about regarding condo living it’s the lack of light that’s bothering me the most. I only have one small window providing light to the living room/dining room area. There is a sliding glass door that opens to a sun room but it doesn’t provide that much light…the sun room is full of light but it doesn’t throw light into the living room. I don’t have any curtains on it or on the window. I have a mirror over the fireplace across from the window and I’ve added a ceiling light (there is one recessed light in a far corner) I also have lamps and floor lamps. Some walls are painted off white ( I don’t know the color but BM linen seems to be a match). some walls are painted the color of a brown paper bag and one wall is painted a light grayish green. I need to add light! I’ve tried a few colors but everything seems to turn gray. I’ve tried BM Linen, SW Watery, SW Copen Blue and SW Dover White. I liked SW Watery but I don’t want to paint all the walls that color. I need a color I can use on most walls that will really provide light but not be boring…I want some color! All the trim is white and the ceiling is white. All my furniture is neutral…tan, gray, oak and some black… I can use whatever color I want. So long story short….add light using some color and some neutral shades…I’m overwhelmed by all the choices. I need to lift my mood…all this darkness is making feel sad. Thank you, Karen

    • Barbara Meglis says:

      Hi Karen,

      Oh, I know what you mean… I need light too.

      Take a look at Ben Moore’s Palace white OC-100 (a creamy white) as well as the other light yellows. In your condo, I would avoid all gray-greens, browns, and blues unless they are bright and light (your two choices seem okay). But I would not put them on all the walls. Reserve those accent blues for focal areas only.

      So your overall color palette should have some yellow in it — either a light yellow or a creamy beige with yellow/peach undertones.

      Then I would keep all furnishings light and neutral with minimal black (it takes all the light right out of the air!).

      Then add as much glass and clear shiny objects as you can — for example, a glass coffee table instead of solid wood. The glass will reflect light and wood will block the visual space and absorb too much light.

      Add large mirrors where practical to reflect light.

      Use shiny silver metal for lamps, candlesticks, picture frames and avoid dark woods, black or other matte materials.

      Your curtain panels should be light neutral linens instead of heavy dark fabrics.

      Use white as another accent — pillows, picture mats, dishes, appliances (or stainless — no black). And throw out EVERYTHING that is bringing the condo (and YOU, for that matter) down.

      You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. Send photos to my email if I can be more specific.

      And good luck!

      Your Home & Color Coach

      • Karen Izzo says:

        Thank you. I will check out the color recommendation. I’m so afraid of picking a yellow. I knew yellow was were I should go but it scares me. They sometimes throw a green tint (made that mistake before) or they are too bright… I like what you had to say. I decorated in the “primitive style” in my last home.t hat’s not working here at all. Too depressing. I’m going to make a clean sweep of things. I have a black coffee table…that’s going! All of my art work in framed in black and the pictures themselves are muted. I swear I must have been depressed while picking all these things out. I like the cozy feel of the primitive style but like I said…it’s just not working for me here. Light and bright…If you have any other yellow paint recommendations I would love to hear them. I will try to send pictures…

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