How critical is light when working with fabric and wall colors?
A client recently showed some discontent with color choices when her custom draperies and interior design plan was nearing completion. The chosen colors were charming and coordinated well with the other furnishing selections while shopping at the design center. What went wrong?
As a professional in the field of interior design, you should remember the first item on the curriculum in college was how critical light and color are to each other. One is synonymous with the other. Color is light . . . and light is color.
Color is especially critical when choices are made affecting something as important as the personal space we call home. The light in a room can change a color or its effects dramatically. I always stress the importance of color to interior designers and clients alike.
The way color behaves in a room has many different outcomes. The size, shape and location of a room are all affected by color. The amount of natural and artificial light in a room also is a factor.
When working with textile choices, whether they be fabric, carpet or accessory swatches, always look at the samples in the room in which they will be used. Never rely on a showroom setting for the final decision on color.
When choosing paint, do not rely on the color card chip in the paint store. Bring it to your clients' home, place it on the wall and have them live with it for three days. The next step is to paint a four-foot by six-foot area of their final paint choice to see how they react to it. The difference in paint finishes also plays an important role on how a color behaves and performs. Flat, satin flat, semi-gloss and gloss each will perform differently when it comes to how the light reflects from the surface.
Artificial light is different than natural light and can vary depending on its source. Incandescent lighting, which is found most often in homes, is different from cold, fluorescent lighting, which usually is found in commercial interiors. Today, new and innovative ways to create and use warm fluorescents are being introduced.
Natural light also can change the effect of color in an interior setting, but the changes depend on the time of day. Morning, mid-afternoon and evening light differ in intensity and the angle at which they enter a room through a window.
Tips for selecting the appropriate colors under different light conditions are:
1. Beige, white and off-white are safe colors. They change the least under different lighting situations.
2. Do not decide on or confirm a client's color choice if the room it will be used in is absent of furnishings.
3. Gray-green colors will change dramatically under different light situations.
4. The color used on a ceiling will react differently to light than the color used on the walls.
5. Dramatic, deep shades of various colors in fabric and paint will be most affected by light.
6. The amount of light in a room will affect the color choices. A minimum of three light sources should be used in a room.
Brochures, Web sites and books that cover the subjects of color and light would be a useful choice for an interior designer's library. By following these helpful tips, your color choices should have a brilliant outcome.
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience as a professional interior designer in both commercial and residential design. She has taught at numerous colleges throughout California and currently is an educator at Moorpark college in southern California. She is a published author and frequent public speaker.