Colour and Lighting: What You Need to Know
Fans of shabby chic furniture know that colour plays a big role in showing the style off to best effect. Although you don’t have to restrict yourself to the commonly seen whites and pastels, you also need to be careful in how you choose your accent shades so as to maximise the light, bright feeling. Whether a colour is too dark, too bright, or just altogether different from how it looked in the store, there are many factors that determine how a paint looks once it’s on the wall. To improve your chances of getting that colour right, follow these tips.
Start with lighting
When shopping for lighting, you’ll see a lot of industry jargon. “Ambient” refers to your general illumination; “task” lighting is set for specific purposes, such as cooking and grooming; “detail” or “accent” lights add shape to a room by highlighting architectural features, plants, or artwork.
The colour of your lighting is as important as its purpose. Warm or cool? Halogen or incandescent? These choices will profoundly affect how your paint colour looks and how people feel when they spend time in the room, so as you are shopping for lighting, have some ideas formulated about the colour families you’re most interested in. It will help direct you in choosing light types and fixtures.
Check the lumens. This will tell you how bright a bulb is, regardless of its type. For comparison, an old standard 40-watt incandescent puts out roughly 500 lumens.
Know the colour rendering index. This may or may not be listed on the bulb box, but here are the essentials you need to know: on a scale of CRI 1 to 100, 100 is the best, ie most accurate. Incandescents and halogens all render at 100 or nearly, compact fluorescents range in the mid-80s, and LEDs can range from the mid-60s to the mid-80s.
Study colours with light
Check the source. Natural light is different depending on the direction it comes from, so choose possible colours according to the source of the light. The short version: northern exposure will give off a blue tone; southern, a yellow and white tone that can wash colour out; western, a warm orange tone; and eastern, a green tone. Lavenders and pale blues prefer southern exposure, so if you have a north-facing window, you’ll want to look toward smoky greens and warm, soft versions of grey and yellow, or apricot. Any of these shades would beautifully complement slipcovered shabby chic furniture.
Be patient with sampling. Even if you’ve done your reading and looked at loads of photos, you will not know how a paint looks until it’s actually on the wall. The wrong choice can be disappointing – if not downright unpleasant – so get samples, put them on a properly primed wall, and live with them for a period of days so you can see them at different times and in natural and artificial light.