A Trick of the Light

Rowlandson True scenic mural wallpaper

If you’ve done a lot of painting in your interiors, you may have found that your favorite color doesn’t work for every project. Or maybe a color that looked amazing when you put it up in June is feeling bland in November. What’s going on?

The color didn’t change, but the light certainly did. Light has a huge impact on how we perceive color, and it’s capable of creating all sorts of optical illusions.

Because of the large-scale nature of murals and landscape wallpapers, light’s effect on them is much more pronounced. The challenge often becomes figuring out which colors to pair with a dynamic lighting situation. We want our walls to look good no matter the time of day!

Our Tips for Picking the Right Mural for Your Space 

There’s a few tricks you can keep in mind to ensure the light is working with you, rather than against you. 

Northern light is cool and blue throughout the day. If you’ve got a room with a lot of northern exposure, you might want to lean toward a mural with warmer colors to balance it out.

Southern and western lights are warm and yellow, particularly in the evening. Cool-toned wallpapers will help bring some contrast.

A room that gets very little light exposure can be tricky. Many find that their first instinct is to choose a pale or light-toned design to “brighten it up,” but without light the details of the mural are completely lost. Instead, choosing something with highly saturated colors or a great depth of color will help the wallpaper appear more natural. Save those subtle designs for rooms that get a ton of light.

Artificial lights also have warm or cool properties, depending on the type of bulb, so be sure to figure lamps and ceiling lights into the equation.

Our Murals in Context

In the real world, every lighting situation is complex. It’s pretty rare to find a room with just one source of light. The best way to get a feel for a wallpaper is to see it in situ. Let’s look at some examples:

Same Murals, Different Lights

Here are the Barringtons Rich and Cool colorways with different light treatments. Notice how icy Barringtons Cool appears in the blue, northern light, but much cozier under the incandescent bulb.

Sample of Barringtons colorways mural wallpaper

Natural northern light

Samples of Barringtons colorways mural wallpaper

True color full-spectrum light

Samples of Barringtons colorways mural wallpaper

Household incandescent light

Rowlandson Blue‘s cool tones become a bit more subtle in a warm light.

Rowlandson Blue

Rowlandson Blue in a warm interior

In this case, a custom print of the Cotswolds mural was made for a dimly-lit interior. See how its dark blue color holds up beautifully in the moody interior light.

Cotswolds Earth

Dining room Cotswolds scenic mural wallpaper

Custom Cotswolds created to match with Farrow & Ball's Oval Room Blue

Each space will come with its own unique challenges, but understanding how light and color work together will save some time, and hopefully some heartache, when planning your next interior.

If you have any questions about planning your mural project, I’m always happy to help, so don’t hesitate to email me at susan@susanharter.com.

Happy decorating!