Design lesson: Light up a room
Whether a room receives dim indirect northern light or bright lingering southern sunshine, it's how you take advantage of the light that counts. Before choosing a colour scheme, consider the room's light exposure, which can greatly affect colours and the mood. Here's how to shed new light on your decor by putting the transforming powers of natural light to good use.
A room with a northern exposure receives neutral indirect light. Artists prefer working in northern light because it creates the fewest shadows and remains fairly constant. Take a cue for your decor from Scandinavian interiors that feature mirrors, silver and crystal, combined with pale walls and furniture painted in greyish whites.
Decor Tricks: Prune trees and other plants near windows to let light in; warm-colour sheers will add a soft glow to neutral light.
Colour Cue: To capitalize on available light, choose warm, pale colours such as pink, coral, yellow or cream.
White walls take on a creamy look when bathed in much-coveted southern sunlight. Offering lingering bright light, southern exposures are great for kitchens, offices and any other room in which you spend a lot of time during the day.
Decor Trick: Blinds or plantation shutters offer protection from the sun, but they can also be opened up to take advantage of sunlight.
Colour Cue: Rooms with a southern exposure will glow with warm sunlight throughout the day, making soft blues and greens a cool and refreshing choice; browns like camel and mocha look warmer because yellow sunlight brings out their underlying red tones; white and off-white tones add a vibrant look to a room.
Eastern exposures provide the bright morning sunlight we Canadians crave each winter. Upbeat and exuberant, eastern exposures are ideal for playrooms, kitchens and breakfast nooks.
Decor Trick: Objects with a sheen, such as glass, metal, lacquer and glossy ceramic tile, will maximize available light, as will a high-gloss paint.
Colour Cue: Sunny yellow walls will elevate moods and boost energy levels. Or for a sense of spaciousness, choose pale cool colours, such as blue, green or white, and keep furnishings to a minimum.
A room with a western exposure receives mid-afternoon sunlight, making it an excellent location for an intimate library or TV room. A west-facing picture window, porch or patio lets you take advantage of spectacular sunsets. However, afternoon sunlight casts a pink glow that will affect colours in a room – blues take on a mauve cast, yellows appear orange and greens appear brown.
Decor Trick: Strong afternoon sunlight can destroy delicate fabrics, with silk being the most susceptible. A simple window treatment made of gauze linen or a sheer fabric will diffuse the strongest light and offer some protection to other textiles in the room.
Colour Cue: Contrasting colour schemes such as green and cream work well because western light mutes colours. Also, because it absorbs light, red is a good choice for western-exposure rooms that require drama and intimacy, such as a dining room.
Kimberley Seldon is STYLE AT HOME's decorating editor. For more great decor and design ideas, visit kimberleyseldon.com.