Boutique Architectural
& Interior Design Studio

Clapham London

The biggest mistake when choosing paint colours and my 3 step fix

Early on in my career, I remember asking one of the architects I worked with, which colour to choose for the outside of a property. She told me that she couldn’t tell me the answer and that I would have to test it on the house itself!

I thought it was ridiculous at the time but she was right, colour is much more complex than I ever imagined. That is because colours change with different amounts and quality of light.

To be honest, I never really understood what she meant that day until I had to really start choosing colours myself. I found that the colour I chose in the office, looked completely different when it was in the space! Absolute disaster!

The biggest mistake you can make with colour is not to test it in multiple locations in the same room.

Until you try this yourself, it is really hard to imagine just how different a colour can look.

Above is an example from my living room this morning.

Artificial light has different colours (remember looking into a mirror in a bathroom with fluorescent lights?) These can hugely impact the tone of your skin as well as the colour on the floor and walls! The great thing here is that you can control artificial light and so if you chose the right lights with the right colour, everything will be fine.

The same goes for daylight. (I know, how irritating right?) But you can’t control daylight like you can artificial light (except for curtains & awnings), so you need to know what colour and quality of light you get from each direction, then you can design alongside it!

Phew! And you just wanted to choose a paint colour for a wall right?

So here is my 3 step process to ensure you choose the right colour every time:

  • Step 1 – Ask yourself: Why have I chosen this colour & what result am I looking to achieve?” (bright, happy, cosy, serious etc.)
  • Step 2 – Paint your colours on the largest sample possible and place it in the room in the same plane you intend to use it. (ie vertical or horizontal)
  • Step 3 – Test how the colours look during the day and night with different types of lights (put the exact bulb into the light fixture that you are thinking of using).

This way, you will be able to choose the colour that achieves the right result.


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