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Choosing paint colours for sunny spaces

The orientation of your house and the number of windows it has can drastically affect the amount of sunlight that comes in, and from which angle and what time of day. Surprisingly, this can have a major bearing on how your paint colours and finishes can look on your walls. Resene Colour Expert Amy Watkins shares all her top tips and advice on what you need to consider when painting sunny spaces in your home. 

Light fantastic

If your room has a lot of natural light, it can cause reflections and this in turn will change the way a paint colour looks in the space. The classic psychological trick with colour is to use warm and cool paint colours to counteract the natural qualities of a room.

For very sunny rooms, particularly if they face due west and are flooded with afternoon sun, try cooler tones. “Colours such as Resene Half Iron and Resene Black White can create a cool and calming setting,” says Amy. 

If you do want a warmer colour to create a more intimate feel, Amy recommends Resene Half Thorndon Cream, Resene Quarter Tea or Resene Albescent White. “They are all warm colour tones that maintain depth and won’t go too light in sunny space,” she explains.

Colour me happy

Sunny spaces can also accommodate deeper colour tones, says Amy. “Depending on the style you’re trying to achieve, we’ve got colours such as Resene Upside, a tranquil blue, Resene Field Day for a meadow green, or Resene Summer Rose as a terracotta beige.” 

The best way to fine-tune your colour selection is to head into your local Resene ColorShop. The friendly staff are equipped with incredibly in-depth knowledge to help you decide what will work best for your project. “We have a huge range of colours, so come in, pick up a testpot and see how it works in the sunny space,” says Amy.

Instead of painting the testpot colour directly onto the wall, apply it to a large piece of white card, making sure to leave an unpainted border which will isolate the colour effectively. This way, you have the ability to move the piece of card around your space and you’ll be able to note the way the colour changes as it is placed around the room. 

“Place it on each wall of the room, under the windows and into the corner so you can see the way the light bounces on itself and around the space,” advises Amy.

Overly sunny spaces can still accommodate deeper tones, and colours like Resene Upside, Resene Field Day and Resene Summer Rose will all work well depending on your style.
When you paint a Resene testpot onto A2 card, remember to isolate the colour by leaving an unpainted border and then move the card around the room to see how the light hits it. This painted swatch is in Resene Field Day.

Feature finish

Different finishes can also have a huge impact on how your paint looks and wears, and there are quite a few aspects to think about before you dive in. In very basic terms, the paint’s sheen is defined as the glossiness of the finish. One end of the spectrum is very shiny, which is a gloss finish, and at the other end is a flat finish, which is very matte. 

Believe it or not, one colour can look completely different based on its finish and it is very common to use different levels of gloss in different areas of your home, both inside and out. 

Gloss levels of paint will impact how the colour appears in certain light. The higher the gloss level, the higher the reflectance – that is, more light will bounce off a wall painted with a high gloss finish than a flat finish. 

When choosing a paint finish for a sunny space, it’s important not to choose one that is too shiny. “I recommend using Resene SpaceCote Flat or Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen,” says Amy. “It reduces the risk of the light bouncing around the room and prevents imperfections being highlighted.”

For more about paint finishes, check out this article:

Once you’ve selected your colour, Amy recommends using Resene SpaceCote Flat or Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen. These reduce the risk of the light bouncing around the room which helps to reduce glare and disguise imperfections.

Size matters

Cool colours such as green and blue tend to recede and make the walls seem further away, so are a good choice for small, narrow rooms that you want to make seem more spacious.

A very small room can be treated in two ways. Either with a cool, very pale colour like Resene Half Sea Fog, or a very dark cool colour such as Resene Porter or Resene King Tide, which will make the walls visually recede and therefore make the room appear larger. To give a feeling of airiness and space, paint the walls to match the floor and use pale, cool colours. 

Large rooms may appear to be a benefit but they can feel cavernous and unwelcoming if not treated correctly. Try a mid-toned neutral on the walls such as green-tinged Resene Tasman or strong beige Resene Napa. Avoid mid-greys as these can make the room look uninviting.

Amy’s top tip:

When you’re painting in a sunny space and are using an off-white colour, it’s important that you don’t do it in the middle of the day when you’ll have sun glare. This will make it harder to see where you’ve already painted.

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