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Colours and the perception of interior spaces.

Now that we are working on-line confined indoors because of the Covid 19 pandemic, I have become more aware of each of my rooms and how they can be perceived. So with plenty of time to look at the four walls and thinking how they would be if they were painted in different colours, I have decided to carry out an exercise imagining how the rooms will look smaller, larger, taller wider, narrower etc and I will like to share this exercise with you.

Independently of how we may feel now enclosed indoors by governmental order, humans spend a great deal of time in offices or homes, as a matter of fact studies show that we spend 87% of our lives indoors. Pleasant environments positively influence the mood and well-being of its occupants, and poorly lit and uncomfortable places can make life more overwhelming and grim. This is why detail in interior design is so important, even when some professionals consider it a minor discipline. However, by designing an interior, the architect has the power to alter important variables, such as artificial lighting, natural light, proportions, and materials, directly influencing people's experience of the space.

 

Perception of the same space.

To provide the desired spatial experience, there are elements that can change the perception of space without moving an inch any walls. This can be achieved through painting the surfaces, using different materials or applying different type of finishes. Lighter, cooler colours make the space appear larger, while darker colour make it appear smaller and closer to the eye. The arrangement of colour or textures in an environment changes our perspective of the same space, making the room appear taller, longer, wider, or highlighting a particular element.

Here are some possibilities to change an environment using only colour and material contrasts.

Expanding a space.

To create a feeling of spaciousness in an environment, the best method is to use light colours, which will reflect natural light and make surfaces appear larger to the observer's eyes. The careful addition of mirrors in some circumstances can enhance the space and make it larger.

Compacting a space.

Conversely, when the idea is to make the room seem more compacted, warmer and more inviting, opting for warmer colours for wall surfaces can work well. These will absorb most of the natural light, giving an enveloping feeling that can be beneficial for certain purposes.

Lower the ceiling.

In some circumstances, lowering the ceiling height specially when we have a tall pitch roof can make the space more pleasant and provide a feeling of privacy or shelter. 

A high roof in a small room may make the space feel like deep water well. By painting the ceiling in a darker colour than the walls, or exposing the texture of the material, this feature will give the impression that the ceiling is lower than it actually is and thus making the room more proportionate pleasing.

Stretching the space.

In other situations, the opposite is sought. There are spaces whose lower ceilings can create a feeling of claustrophobia. Painting the walls in a darker colour and leaving the ceiling white or with a light colour makes us perceive that the ceiling is higher than it really is.

 

Increase width of space.

Painting the back wall and ceiling in the same darker colour, leaving the side walls lighter, will make the space appear wider and more spacious. This is a widely used technique in hallways or narrow rooms.

Narrowing the space.

Painting the two opposite side walls in dark colours and leaving the background and ceiling in light colours will make the space narrower for the eyes, improving the proportion of rooms which may have unbalanced proportions.

Shorten the space.

If you have a very long space and want it to feel shorter and more intimate, you should add dark tones on the back wall, in contrast to the lighter colours elsewhere.

Highlight a wall.

To highlight a wall, it is recommended to cover or paint it in a lighter colour compared to other surfaces in the space, leaving them a darker tone. This makes the eye feel attracted to it.

Shorten the walls.

If the idea is to shorten the walls, a darker colour or coating should be applied to the bottom of the wall.

 

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