In the UK we all grow up knowing that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, that sunshine is good for our wellbeing and generally makes us happier, and of course we all know that our clocks change twice a year, influencing how much daylight we receive into our everyday lives and routines. Equipped with this knowledge, we typically all want to preserve and enjoy as much natural light as possible; an ambition reflected in the way we plan and decorate our homes.
With the kitchen as one of the most used rooms of any household, it makes sense we want to obtain as much natural light as possible here. Of course, equally important is that all kitchens need proper lighting to ensure a safe, comfortable and happy environment for cooking, working and socialising in. Whilst it can be reinforced with well cited and sophisticated artificial lighting, natural light is still more desirable. But the lighting a room receives can affect how well kitchen colour schemes will work…And it is not just the quantity of light that matters but the quality of light too.
Why does the quality of light affect how we see colours?
Light quality affects how our eyes interpret colour, and means the same colour can look very different when exposed to different qualities of light including warm or cool light. An example of this is that the vivid colour tone of a red kitchen door is easily apparent in good quality lighting, but within poor or very dim lighting the same door may appear much darker, or even black. It is important to know this because the light quality a room receives can often change over the course of a day (remember how we said the sun rises in the East and sets in the West?) and with it, the look of our kitchen’s colours can change.
This occurrence is of much greater significance for eye level kitchen colours rather than base units because our eyes register these first when entering a room. Similarly, if working at a kitchen worktop, we simply don’t see the colours at this low level.
This means we would often notice subtle changes in the colour of wall units if the light quality they receive changes, but the same is not true of base units. Whilst it depends on each individual kitchen layout and the light it receives, this usually means you can choose any kitchen colour you want for your base units, whether bold, bright, dark, light or neutral. Conversely, you must take more care in planning colours for your kitchen wall units, as well as wall paint colours. This includes being careful to understand the undertones of your preferred kitchen colour choices….
How do colour undertones affect how a colour looks?
…How a colour is perceived within different light qualities is largely dependent on a colour’s composition and its undertone. All colours, except true primary colours, have undertones and they affect whether a colour will work within a room’s light conditions, as well as with other furniture and décor. An undertone appears when two colours have been blended. The dominant overtone is the main colour you perceive, but the undertone (whilst not always obvious) is a hint at the recessive shades of the two blends which distinguish it, i.e. the undertones of green are yellow and blue; But if a green colour was composed using more yellow than blue, then it will have yellowish undertones, and vice versa. All undertones are referred to as being either warm or cool undertones. Warm undertones include red, yellow and orange, whilst cool undertones include shades such as blue, purple and grey.
Choose kitchen colour tones to suit a room’s light quality
Key to successful kitchen colour schemes is finding colours for cabinetry, walls, worktops and flooring that have harmonious undertones. Adjacent colours on the colour wheel complement one another, whilst opposing colours such as red and green will create a much more dramatic look. Most people choose their kitchen cabinetry first, followed by a worktop and wall paint colour to complement. But crucially for all aspects of the kitchen decor, and especially the latter, the colour undertones must suit the light quality that your kitchen receives. This includes both artificial and natural lighting.
Make your kitchen colours work!
Whilst every home is different, both light quality and quantity received within the kitchen is, for the most-part, determined by the direction in which your room faces. This is turn determines which colours and undertones are most likely to work within your kitchen. On this basis, here are some general recommendations for achieving successful colour schemes within the following room orientations:-
- Colour schemes for North facing Kitchens
- Colour schemes for South facing Kitchens
- Colour schemes for East facing Kitchens
- Colour schemes for West facing Kitchens