Light and Color Go Hand In Hand

Filed in Design and Decor by on January 21, 2015


by Batty Ravnik


13604345353_10043dce1a_oI have a word, not for the faint of heart, which is one of the many considerations homeowners need to keep in mind when selecting and matching colors. That word is metamorism. It’s a big word with a big impact.


Metamorism is the color shift of an object under different sources of light. The bottom line is that what may look good under one light source does not look good under another. The reason i that light is color. Light, both natural and artificial, is made up of colored light rays (seen during a rainbow). The light source may have a lot or none of the color of the object.


Here’s an example: If a light source has little or no red, then an apple will look black because all the color waves are absorbed by the apple expect the color of the apple, which is reflected. If there is no red in the light source, there is no color to the apple.


I bought an outfit that was a shirt and pant set. Both were made of cotton, but they were a different weave. The suit looked great under fluorescent light, but when I walked outside into the natural light, the colors shifted. So what happened? The items were a different weave, so they may have been made out of different qualities and types of cotton at two different locations, at two different times. Needless to say, I ran to my car!


So how does this affect homeowners? They are making decisions about paint, tile, carpet and fabric in stores with varying types of light, with fluorescent being the most common. If you have ever looked at all of the options in fluorescent lighting, you know there can be many variables. The outcome is that when all of these finishes come together in the home under natural or incandescent lighting, things don’t appear to match. To make the point, just try to find your car in a parking lot at night. The parking lights are limited in their color range, so most of the cars look grey/black.


15650676818_faf354db04_oIn addition to the light source, there are other factors that can affect the color of things. The orientation of the room in relationship to the sun can affect the natural light. The south side will have the warmer tones enhanced, while a northern exposure will enhance cooler tones. Even the time of day can change the color. Look at the samples in the room where they are going to be used and not just during the day, but at night as well.


Another interesting note is that color can be affected by what is next to it or what is directly outside. I had a situation in my own home where I painted the walls tan (usually a safe color with metamorism). The room was as I expected during the winter – a nice neutral tan. in the summer, however, my walls turned green due to a large tree that filtered the sun through my windows. The solution to this, had I realized the huge impact of the tree, was to add a little of the complementary color of red to the paint.


Luckily, window treatments can help with the situation – but they can also be part of the problem. Think pink or peach sheers at the window. The light is filtered through the fabric, tinting everything in the room.


Wall coverings also impact the color of things in a room. If your walls are red and light is entering the room, the bounced light reflected from the walls either enhances or changes the fabrics and furniture next to the wall. Try standing next to the wall. your complexion will change with the reflected light.


Changing the light source and the colors of the room can work to your advantage. We tend to look very good under red-based colors because they enhance the blood under our skin. We look more healthy, and our skin more flawless. The opposite is just as powerful. This is why we don’t paint our kitchens blue. Blue is not a color of food, and when food is near blue it does not look appetizing. Maybe that could be a new diet program.


Color and light are inseparable. Take time when selecting your fabrics, paint, flooring, etc. The lasting outcome will be worth it.


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