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New Trends

Nov 28, 2005 | by Wendy Weinert

Color and Light
Let's think about color and how it makes you feel. There's a reason colors are known as "warm" or "cool" colors. Orange, red and pink tints create a cozy atmosphere, while blues and greens give a sharper, colder feel.

This effect is caused in part by the subconscious association with the natural environment - the warmth of sunshine and the coolness of water, for instance - as well as the different wavelengths of colors at different ends of the spectrum. Besides the actual colors of paint, wallpaper and furnishings, the "visual temperature" of a room is determined by the choice of lighting.

How lighting affects color

Color is the result of light reflecting off of a surface and transmitting that image into our eyes. More and more, research shows that the individual chemistry of the human eye affects how different people perceive colors and light. Other factors such as age, light sensitivity and neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease and autism, also affect a person's color and light perception.

When you are designing a room, the choice of lighting color will have a large effect on the end result. Most designers know that the coolness or the warmness of a bulb will affect how that color is viewed in a space. A warm-colored bulb adds an orange or reddish hue to colors. This can take a tan color and make it look pink. On the opposite end, a cool-toned bulb will make things appear more bluish, taking that same tan color and giving it a green hue. This effect is often seen in bathrooms with fluorescent lighting.

Effects on color and light

Many factors affect the appearance of a room's color and the feel of the environment. Taking these factors into account when you choose lighting, fixtures and bulbs will make a big difference in the end result of your design.

Finishes used in the room:
A white surface will reflect 80% of the light, while a black surface reflects only 4%. This reflection is caused not only by the colors used on the surrounding walls, but also with the finish on the floors and colors of the furnishings. For instance, a black leather sofa will not reflect as much light as one of light tan or white.

Intensity level of the lighting: How bright the lights are in a room will have an effect on how cool or warm a room seems. Bright, high-intensity lights make a room look cold and stark, while dimming a lamp will cause it to look warmer. A bright bulb used with a darker-colored shade can mute the light intensity and give the effect of a warm glow.

Amount of daylight: The number of windows and the amount of natural daylight that comes into a room will have a big effect on whether the room appears warm or cool. This will also change with the natural changes of daylight in different seasons and whether the day is cloudy or bright.

Thoughtful choices in lighting, bulb color and light levels will make a big difference in pulling together the look and feel you want. Whether cozy and traditional or cool and contemporary, color and light can work together to create the room design you want.

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