This question is often posed to us here in the Pacific Northwest, where there can be a thick cloud cover for weeks on end. Let’s dig into how paint color and light through windows interact in your home. We’ll start with a core concept called Light Reflectance Value, or LRV for short.
What is Light Reflectance Value (LRV)?
When the natural light enters a space, it either stops at the darker colored items, or bounces off and reflects off the lighter colored items. Light Reflectance Value measures how much light reflects off a given color.
I will use black and white to demonstrate LRV. Black has at best 3.26% light bounce back. White has up to 92.2% bounce back. What does this mean? A pure white wall would bounce up to 92.2% of all the light that hits it back into the room. And a black wall would only bounce 3.26%.
But it’s not just the color of the walls, it’s also the floor, and even cabinets or large pieces of furniture that can have an effect on light reflectance.
As you can imagine light reflecting off of white and lighter colors will brighten a room naturally. The results are dramatic. The need to turn on the lights during the day is reduced significantly. And a dark room will almost seem to absorb light, creating a very different effect.
When looking at a paint color fan deck, it is typical to select colors from the top three, with higher LRV. The bottom three colors are dark and register low on the LRV scale.
These differences in LRV can not only be seen, but felt. Light is very much connected to our emotional well-being.
Window Direction Makes a Difference
The facing direction of the windows also impacts the light in a room.
The northern windows are the lowest light and very gray. Then as we move to the east the light begins to change, increasing in brightness, slightly whiter. Next, the southern light is bright, and in some cases these rooms require a bit less LRV to maintain depth of color, as the brighter natural light washes out the paint color. Finally, as we move to the western facing windows we are working with a warmer light, often influenced by sundown shades of yellow, orange and reds reflecting off the walls in these rooms.
The trees on your property, even the grass outside can reflect into our spaces. This can dramatically change the paint color, causing it to not look at all like you thought it would!
Paint Color and Light Interact
Every element in a home has an effect on our mood. If you live in a darker, grayer part of the country like us in Seattle, then you know what I am describing. We need light and colors that surround us with what makes us feel good, whether it be warm and cozy, light and airy, or bright and energetic.
On the other hand, if you live in a bright sunny climate, it is nice to enter your home and have the light diminished somewhat. Cooler colors like blues, greens, grays and purples can be used to sooth the senses, and give you a feeling of cooling, along with your air conditioning.
Here at Painting America we offer a Color Consultation to work with you in your home to address all the possibilities. This takes care of all the unanswered questions and stress of you attempting to get it right for yourself, not to mention the expense of all the test quarts and trips to the Benjamin Moore Paint retailer in your area. We help you to determine your design style, your emotional reaction to color and give you the tools to correctly read and test paint color.
Of course, we’d love to talk to you about your next painting project. Contact us today.