top of page
Fit and Finish Design Interior Design Services

Shining the Light on the Color Palette

Lighting is the unsung hero of interior design. It has the power to transform space, influence our emotions, and elevate the aesthetics of a room. Understanding the interplay of color and light is essential for creating pleasing and functional spaces.

Many governments worldwide have already taken steps to phase out inefficient incandescent light bulbs and promote more energy-efficient alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These alternatives were part of broader efforts to reduce energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and save consumers money on energy bills. This opens the door for new technology to be developed to meet standards and provide pleasing light.

A trained interior designer must understand the relationship between colors and how light can impact color regardless of efficient or non-efficient light. Any light—daylight, artificial light, even candlelight—will influence how color appears because color is light. We perceive color by simultaneous contrast, metamerism, color constancy, light reflectance values (LRV), and reflectance. If this sounds like something from science class, it's because it is.

Let's review this science lesson:

  • Simultaneous contrast is an optical illusion or a visual perception of one color affected by the presence of another color nearby.

Simultaneous contrast example

  • Metamerism is where two colors appear to match under one lighting condition.

Colors look different under different lighting

  • Color constancy is the ability to perceive the consistent color of objects despite changes in light conditions.

Color constancy example

  • Light Reflectance Value (LRV) is a measurement used to quantify the amount of visible and usable light that a surface reflects.

Light reflectance value scale

  • Reflectance is the property of a surface or material to reflect light, as different materials and surfaces can have varying levels of reflectance.

White light reflecting on white surface

White light reflecting on black surface

Kimberly Boomer, Managing Principal of Fit + Finish Design, says there can be potential issues when an interior designer doesn't understand how color and light interact.

1. Poor Ambiance

Incorrectly choosing colors and lighting can make a space feel dull, uninviting, or overly harsh. This can impact the mood and ambiance of the room, making it uncomfortable or unsuitable for its intended purpose.

2. Mismatches of color perception

Not understanding how color and light interact might result in selecting colors that clash or appear different under various lighting conditions. What looks good in one light might seem off or entirely different in another, leading to dissatisfaction.

3. Inaccurate color representation

Improper lighting can distort the perception of colors, leading to the misrepresentation of furnishings, paints, or materials. Due to inadequate lighting, the colors might appear washed out, faded, or overly vibrant.

4. Ineffective use of space

Incorrect lighting and color combinations can make spaces appear smaller, cramped, or disproportionate. Understanding how to use light and color to expand or contract a space visually is crucial in effective interior design.

5. Impact on occupants

Inappropriate lighting and color choices can affect the well-being and productivity of individuals using the space. Poorly lit or improperly colored environments can cause discomfort, strain the eyes, or even induce headaches in some cases.

6. Mismatched themes or styles

Colors and lighting are integral to establishing the desired theme or style in interior design. Designers might inadvertently create mismatches without proper knowledge, disrupting the intended aesthetic or atmosphere.

7. Functional limitations

A lack of understanding can hinder functionality in spaces where specific lighting conditions are necessary for tasks or activities (like workspaces or kitchens). Inadequate lighting can impede visibility and affect the ease of performing tasks.

"Certified Interior Designers receive formal training to understand color theory, light sources, and color temperatures. This knowledge is critical for creating cohesive, visually appealing, and functional spaces that align with clients' preferences and intended purpose," says Kimberly.

If you want to learn more or are curious about how color and light interact in your space, contact Fit + Finish Design for help.


bottom of page