Haven’t we all heard how artists love to paint in a north facing room because of its special light? Is that a myth or is there a scientific reason?
Each direction on the compass has its own light value, intensity and effect on an interior. North facing rooms sit in a light that has the least change throughout the day. This is the main reason an artist would prefer this direction. They could leave their work they created in the morning and come back to the same basic light and unchanged colors in the afternoon. Northern rooms can tend to be the darkest in the house, but painting them in a bright white won’t necessarily help either. White and creams can take on a dingy, gray, depressing look rather than a bright happy one. A better choice would be a warmer color in a light shade. Using the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) rating on color chip can help as a starter. Paint companies list the LRV of each color in the index of their fan decks or on the backs of each chip in the deck. Find a color on the warm side of the color wheel with a LRV greater than 60%. Your northern rooms may never see the sunlight unless there are windows with light coming from another direction and therefore can have a colder feel. A light warmer color would balance the light out, especially if the windows are smaller or shaded by trees, bushes or an overhang. Beware of yellows though. Yellow can be as intense as many whites and their LRV is misleading compared to other colors.
Kitchen and family rooms are great in an eastern exposure with their fresh, new day feel from the sun rising. Because the sun is at such a low point in the horizon the light is warm and glowy yet fresh. Colors can look their best in these rooms.
The southernly exposed rooms obviously have the opposite problems of a northern room. The light is strong and white to bright yellow. These are the rooms where fading of furniture and other surfaces (as well as in the west) has to be taken into consideration. Southern rooms are where paint colors can wash out in this stronger light and look pale or pastel. In the spectrum of color and its relation to heat which is measured in Kelvins, the hottest flame is white to bluish white. This is the same with the midday sun and so- its affect on colors.
Finally, a western exposure brings an entirely different light to a room with the setting of the sun. It takes on the warm yellow to orange glow of the sun and paints the walls along with the color you choose. The sun can be intense depending on the part of the country and the time of the year.
Two other factors that affect interior color are the kind of interior lighting you choose and the time of the year. We’ll touch on the lighting in another blog but just know that the winter light is a cooler more distant light and summer light is more yellow and warm.