Here at Utopia we are still amazed at the plethora of effects that different types of light cast on colours, even after so many years of studying the concept. This enchanting power, that alters one's perception, is a wonderment we want to share with you. Here are a few useful pointers about the basic concept.
Consider the direction of the sun and its relationship to the walls at different times of the day. A north facing room will have a very moody and intense version of the colour, whilst a south facing room will have stark shadows and light moving around the room during the day, changing both the strength of the colours and the mood of the room.
BELOW: the inside of the summer house at Anglesey Abbey beautifully illustrates the power of sunlight on colours.
The type and strength of artificial light is a major factor in colour perception too. The range on offer is vast including: incandescent bulbs, fluorescents, halogen bulbs, neon, light emitting diodes, candles and oil lamps. The possibilities and variations are endless with cool and warm options (see below) colour changing and sequential, and then of course dimmable - all will affect the colours you choose.
BELOW: one of our transformations where an Edwardian brass chandelier is given a contemporary twist with giant globe dimmable LEDs.
The colour of artificial light has impact too - it is measured on the Kelvin temperature scale where the lower the number the more yellow the light quality and the higher the number the more white or blue the light.
Warm white- 2500K-3000K is the standard colour of incandescent bulbs.
ABOVE: warm white pearl bulb
Bright white/cool white- 3500K-4100K.
Ambient light is atmospheric and thus creates moods and emphasises the dark tones of a colour.
Task lighting creates flashes or spots of intense colour fading out to shadows.
Want to know about light bulbs? Probably like most of us, you only notice those little but essential parts of our modern lives when they stop working. Here the BBC has a mini broadcast about light bulbs, helping us gain insight into those things that we all rely on to see in the dark!
50 Things That Made the Economy Modern - light bulb
'Once too precious to use, now too cheap to notice - the significance of the lightbulb is profound. Imagine a hard week's work gathering and chopping wood, ten hours a day for six days. Those 60 hours of work would produce light equivalent to one modern bulb shining for just 54 minutes. The invention of tallow candles made life a little easier. If you spent a whole week making them - unpleasant work - you would have enough to burn one for two hours and twenty minutes every evening for a year. Every subsequent technology was expensive, and labour-intensive. And none produced a strong, steady light. Then, as Tim Harford explains, Thomas Edison came along with the lightbulb and changed everything, turning our economy into one where we can work whenever we want to.'
As designers we seek inspiration from the world around us and living in beautiful North Norfolk provides a continual source of naturally beguiling vistas and vignettes. The muted palette of winter, with its ethereal qualities that shift and shimmer in the low light, inspire neutral hues for interior colour schemes. Embracing the gamut of grey tones revealed on misty mornings, or the tints of whites and pale greens where the frost twinkles on the garden or noticing the gentle warmth of colours radiating where the rising sun melts the frozen earth, can bring a new dimension to the season that invigorates and inspires. This blog post is about harnessing the winter paint box to generate fresh painting ideas, whilst hibernating from the winter chill.
At Utopia, we believe in responding to the seasons in our lives and in our work. So, it seemed the right time to discuss how winter is actually a really good time to be creative and nurture new ideas. Winter delivers its own special paint box for contemplation and selection and harnessing these natural hues is a time-served formula that can easily work if you want to achieve understated rooms with a timeless quality. However, so that your rooms are not bland, which is also easy trap to fall in to, we plan to share some tips with you. These are not rules, just helpful guidelines based on our research and experience.
Working with neutral colours is always popular because;
They are easy to blend and balance
The restrained palette is easy on the eye
They form a calm backdrop to most furnishings and decorative accessories
They create harmonious interiors
They form a wonderful foil for both new and old furniture
They deliver airy and relaxing rooms
Aiming for pale and interesting is a good place to start.
Why sample neutral paints?
There is a huge range of neutral paints in the market place with varying prices and qualities. We recommend choosing the best paint you can afford and then purchasing sample pots – this adds to the expense but it is well worth it as it enables you to buy with confidence. Most quality paint manufacturers offer good advice about choosing and using their neutral paint box, so it is always worth researching their ideas.
The golden rule is always to sample, sample, sample and live with the colours in different lighting conditions. Yes, we said rule.
Let there be light
Light is the key factor to consider when choosing any colour.
Natural and artificial light are both important. Whatever light sources you have or plan for a room, then make sure you gauge the colours with both. The easiest way to do this, and to not end up with patchwork walls, is to paint sheets of thick paper or card. Temporarily attach the sheets around the room (we use blutak) then live with the colours until you have made a decision. Move the sample sheets around making sure you try the dark corners and the light window reveals - that way you can judge the colour accurately in different light conditions. It still astonishes us the power of light over what appears the most simple colour. If the colours are not quite right, don’t compromise, try some different ones – throw in a curve ball and see if magic happens. It’s easy to cut out this stage, and we confess to having done this a few times mainly because of enthusiasm to get ‘the room done’, but it has been an expensive regret. Some companies will refund or swap unopened paint, but if you are like us you will have launched into painting and wasted a five litre can straightaway.
The neutral spectrum
Even a neutral palette has a spectrum of tints and tones to consider. The following is meant as a brief guide to understanding that a successful harmonising scheme is more likely if the selections are kept within the following subdivisions.
Warm neutral colours
Imagine a marsh where the reeds sway in the breeze– can you see a muted colours emerging? Neutrals with a warm tint are great for getting a degree of softness in a room without shouting colour. This group usually age well and compliment the warm tones of wooden furniture.
Traditional neutral colours
Picture the mellow greens of the crops under the jeweling of morning frost or the low sun casting warm shadows over sand dunes on a beach. Traditional neutrals usually contain a hint of yellow, even green in their make up and have a long history in interiors. Generally, these are easy to use, mix and match. They deliver a sophisticated scheme that is easy to accessorise.
The steely ethereal blues of wintery skies and seas echo the cool contemporary palette. Cool greys have blue undertones and create a more urban feel in a room. Favoured by those who desire a more industrial vibe it is a group that offers a less stark scheme than pure white. This spectrum is particularly enhanced with metal accessories and furniture.
If you are attracted to an all white room, think fresh snow scene, then sample even this simple option, but make the swatches larger, so that it is easier to imagine what the room will feel like. Managing the light is paramount in a white room to maximise effectiveness and mood, and to avoid that classic cold and clinical result. Experiment. Also consider the practicalities of an all white room. If you have pets and/or children you may wish to defer this scheme until later, as nothing looks more uninviting than a grubby white room.
To re-tread footprints on a favourite walk, where sky and sea and earth meet and buffer, is a treat even on a windy, grey January day. The North Norfolk coastline is a sanctuary to wildlife and people – an ethereal interface that inspires and nurtures.
We surrender to the elements - embrace the gash of wind and rain and hear the roar of tide and turn.
See 37 seconds of a panoramic video of the windy walk at Cley.
What inspires artists to capture something - a stimulus that sparks an exhilarating ignition to respond. The stark winter landscapes of North Norfolk, with their strong graphic qualities, contrive a creative approach where the editing out of features is as much the artistic remit as what one includes. This challenging duality delivers sparse vistas with intricate detailing in the forms.
The Land Song Collection has emerged organically from the seasonal study of the East Anglian countryside and coastline. It aims to reflect the quiet song where a rhythmic beauty is broken by staccato: tree, farm and village. The drawings are direct responses to actual sites that can be visited through the name or grid references supplied with each print. The Collection will continue to evolve and expand as the sky’s envelope opens.
The ghost of the mill sails turn to the rhythm of the historic wind.
In Burnham Norton, marshes wrap and ooze watery ribbons of grey sky. Reeds form natural weather vanes swaying in the breeze whilst beyond the edge, where watery and aerial worlds collide: creatures dance in the interface embracing the fluctuating borders of their habitat.