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Designing a Colour Scheme with Natural Light

Designing a Colour Scheme with Natural Light

When choosing a colour scheme for a room it is extremely important to consider the direction the room faces and the level of natural light it receives. Natural light can have a significant effect on the impact of a colour scheme as some colours can often appear very different from room to room or even at different times of the day or year. The first thing to do before choosing a colour scheme is to work out which direction light will fill your room from. A compass or a compass app on your phone will do the trick, but if you do not have these to hand then simply use the old-fashioned method by checking where the Sun rises (in the East) and where it sets (in the West). From here it is easy to work out North and South. Some rooms may have a dual aspect where windows are present on more than one wall. In these rooms simply work out where most of the light comes from, which will likely be where the largest window is situated. If a room does not directly face any point of the compass, then observe the room over a day and see which directions description best fits the room.

When you have sourced the direction of light, the next step is to be aware of the difference between warm and cool colours. As illustrated below, half the colour wheel is comprised of cool colours and the other half of warm colours. Blues, indigos and hues of green are cool whilst oranges, reds and sunny yellows are warm. Grey is neutral but different shades portray different levels of warmth - light greys tend to be cool while darker stormy greys have a warming and cosy effect. Strictly speaking black and white are not colours but do possess cool or warm properties. White should be treated as cool but can portray different levels of warmth depending on undertones such as blue (cool) or yellow (warm), while black is treated as warm. Painting a room in stark white will tend to be cold, so will need a lot of colour or warmer elements to make it feel cosy and homely. Black has the opposite effect being instantly warm, although should be used sparingly to avoid becoming overwhelming.


Colour Wheel


The basic rule to stick to when thinking about a colour scheme is that warm colours should be chosen for cool rooms and cool colours for warm rooms. When choosing a colour, we highly recommend painting an A4 piece of paper using a sample pot to see how the colour interacts with the light within the space. Without further ado, here is our guide to selecting the right colour for each type of room.

North Facing Rooms

These rooms will receive cooler and harsher light than others making it difficult to create a feeling of open space and light that we often desire from an interior. North facing rooms can be cold and dark, even a little gloomy. These rooms can be difficult to decorate and if the wrong colours are chosen you risk creating a depressing and lifeless room. Contrary our instinctive desire to use bright colours to add life to these rooms, instead darker and richer colours show up much better and embrace the natural aspect of the room.

Embrace the darkness and create a dramatic cosy cocoon of space by using neutrals in stormy greys, blacks and warm whites. Vibrant colours on the warm half of the wheel will give the space some excitement and keep it from looking drab and tired. If maximising space is a priority and you choose a lighter tone, make surer to choose a shade with a warm rather than cool base such as a sandy or antique yellow.

Pink and Grey Bedroom         North Facing Room

South Facing Rooms

A South facing room is the designers dream - these rooms are flooded with light all day long and therefore both cool and warm colours will look equally as wonderful.
Dark colours appear brighter than they are and warm colours can really have a vibrant effect to create a room full of life and power. You may want to use this opportunity to take advantage of the natural light and use pale colours which will shine in these spaces. Maximise the space by choosing paler tones and neutrals which will give a crisp and fresh feel. Whites with green or cool blue undertones are fantastic for creating a contemporary edge, whilst bright whites on woodwork in south facing rooms creates a clean Scandi style look. Any style goes with South facing rooms so just choose the colour scheme that you love the most!

Kielder Range by Harley and Lola       Olten Range by Harley and Lola

East and West

These rooms are a little trickier to decorate as the warmth of the light changes over the course of the day. As the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West each type of room will receive light accordingly. The best tip is to consider what time of day you are likely to be using this room the most and decorate with this in mind.

East facing rooms receive an extreme variation in light throughout the day. The bright morning sun bleaches out colour and has a slight blue tinge, whilst past midday and into the evening the room can appear gloomier with the absence of natural light. Cool colours are your best options for decorating these rooms as they are both enlivened by morning light and retain light and vibrancy as the day goes on. Decorate East facing rooms with cool shades of blue, green, greys or whites with blue undertones.

East Facing Room

Western facing rooms will fill with dramatic light in the afternoon and evening. If this room will be used in the evening's, then it should be designed with the evening light and artificial light in mind. Decorate as you would a South facing room by maximising brightness with whites and other light neutrals. Warm based shades work wonderfully in getting the best of the evening light so take advantage of this by perhaps using a shade of dusky pink or orange to give your room a sunset boost. White walls naturally reflect light and can be used in combination with any colour of furnishing, but are especially good at enhancing natural and artificial light in West facing rooms.

 West Facing Room

Artificial Lighting

When the sun goes down we rely on artificial light to light our rooms. Different bulbs give different hues of light so it is important to consider which type will best fit the aesthetic of the room, especially during the winter or in a room you will most use in the evenings such as the bedroom. Halogen and incandescent bulbs will make colours appear warmer by emitting a yellow light. This makes them perfect for rooms designed with yellow or cream based colour schemes but will detract from the look of darker colours with cool undertones. LED lights emit a much bluer light which is more suited to cool colour schemes. A bulb that gives off a white light will make colours appear as close to daylight as possible so this will give the truest impression of the colour.

Artificial Light

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