Understanding Color Temperature for Interior Design

Color is the keystone to successful interior design.  A quality space is attractive, functional and comforting. Color has emotional and physiological effects which play a part in how productive and comfortable we are within our interior environments.

warm vs cool colors, color palette, color chart
Warm and Cool Color Palettes

You may have had an experience where you selected a particular color and once you placed it in the room it was not at all what you expected.  Understanding color theory can help you make sound choices when designing your rooms.

The colors we see are the visible colors in the light spectrum.  Red is at the one end of the spectrum ranging through yellows, then greens, then blues to blue-violets at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Infra red at the one end and Ultra violet at the other end are invisible to the naked eye.  Yellows and reds are perceived as warm colors and can make us feel physically warmer.  Blues and greens appear as cooler colors and can make us feel like reaching for a sweater. This physiological effect may come from the fact that we see the sun and fire in tones of red and yellow and associate warmth, while the blue of the ocean and the sky seem cool to our senses.

Kelvin, Daylight, Incandescant, LED lighting
Kelvin Temperature Chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now here is where it gets confusing, the actual temperature of light, which is measured in degrees Kelvin, is the opposite.  When looking at a flame you will notice it is blue in the center where the flame is hottest, yellow in the middle and red at the outer edge of the flame where the temperature is coolest.  A red match flame is approximately 1700 K, an incandescent light bulb about 3200 K, and daylight measures around 5500 K.  So a fluorescent bulb with a temperature of 5000 K or higher will have a blue tint and will make the room feel colder than a yellow incandescent bulb at 3200 K.

We continue to refer to color temperature as we perceive it, not as it is measured.  Reds, yellows and oranges as warm colors and blues, greens and violets as cool.  When working with the perceived warmth of color keep this in mind: warm colors advance and appear to be nearer to us while cool colors recede or appear to be farther away.  This is something to consider when painting an accent wall.  If you have a long narrow room, paint the back wall a warm tone to visually shorten the room.  If the room is shallow consider a dark color so the walls recede.

The next article will discuss the color wheel and color harmonies.

Hearth & Hedgerow Ltd. offers a consultation service where they bring the color box to you and assist with the color selection.  Consultations for lighting and automated lighting control are also available. Schedule an appointment today!

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