Using LRV to Paint a Room with Vaulted Ceilings / Tall Walls
When it comes to home design, high ceilings are a great idea if you love expansive, airy, and bright spaces. However, for those of you who like things a bit more cozy and intimate, 2-storey walls can be overwhelming and challenging to work with.
And while there could be (and will be) multiple blog posts written about decorating and painting these large walls, today we’re going to focus on the one MAGICAL paint tip that will save you a lot of messing around when trying to pick a paint colour for your 2-storey space.
And BTW, this blog post features many sneak-peeks of one of my most recent client projects (which will have a glorious post of its own in the new year).
It’s ALL about the LRV – Choose it wisely!
Who’s down with LRV? YA YOU KNOW ME! (brilliant reference to 80’s hip hop). What is LRV? LRV is ‘light reflectance value’ or how much light a paint colour reflects back into the room. Paint colours with higher LRVs reflect more light than colours with lower LRVs. If you need a refresher, check it out here.
White, with it’s high LRV, reflects the most light and is a natural choice for kitchen cabinets. However, my clients (photo below) wanted a more intimate look in the dining room (to the left) with it’s 2-storey walls. We chose Sherwin Williams Dovetail (LRV 26), a beautiful warm gray with body and depth. The other walls you see are Sherwin Williams Repose Gray (LRV 58). If we’d chosen Repose Gray for the dining area INSTEAD of Dovetail, we would have lost the mood and ambience as with LRV and natural lighting, the space would’ve brightened and lightened too much.
Size Matters (amen!)
The size of the wall
The smaller a wall space is, the less opportunity it has to reflect light back into the room. The larger the wall space is, the more chance it has to reflect light back, which in turn can make a paint colour look lighter and brighter. This is one reason why those weeee willy little paint chips, and even sample boards can be misleading when you want to know how light/bright/dark a colour will look on a larger scale.
The amount of light
The other thing to consider is the amount of natural/artificial light that is in the room. If more light is available, then more will be reflected back – using LRV to it’s advantage. If there isn’t much light available, there won’t be as much light to be reflected (I’m a rocket scientist, I know).
While this isn’t a 2-storey room, this is a GREAT example of how light affects a paint colour on a single wall space…
- If you have a 2-storey wall, but it is not well-lit – it will STILL reflect light back as there is more wall space available to take whatever light is offered and throw it around. It just won’t lighten AS much as a well-lit wall
- If you have a 2-storey wall and it is reasonably well-lit, it will use the paint colour’s LRV and lighten and brighten the space as well as the paint colour as there is more wall space for light to be reflected from. You can expect your paint colour to look approx. 2 tones lighter on the well-lit areas
Oh my God, I’m exhausted – where’s my wine? Wait, it’s only 11:00 am. 1 more hr to go.
So, atrociously long story short is that if you have a large, 2 storey-wall space that is reasonably well-lit, you can expect it to bounce some GOOD light back into the room which will TOTALLY affect the look of the paint colour you choose (it will look lighter), regardless of whether the colour is light or dark.
(If you don’t know how to find the LRV, read all about it here – it’s easy!)
Embracing the bright and the big
- If you want a bright, fresh, airy look you will want to focus on colours that have an LRV of 55-60+. These colours are lighter to begin with and will lighten up AGAIN when exposed to natural/artificial light as their power to reflect light back is higher.
- If you have a darker space, you may want to bump that up to 65+, just to up your chances of making the room appear brighter. That being said, there is a LOT to be said for adding personality to a small space with paint colour, but that’s a whole different blog post
Bringing things down a bit…
- If you want a more cozy, intimate look, look for paint colours with an LRV between 20 and 40. The darker you go (lower the number) the more dramatic the effect can be
- A bright, well-lit space can easily handle an LRV of 20 as it will reflect 20% of the light back into the space, making the colour appear lighter
- A darker space can look striking in a dark colour with an LRV of 20 or even lower, but if you prefer to be on the safe side, you may want to focus on the 25-40 range
Just a happy medium – literally
- For those of you sitting somewhere in the middle, you don’t want bright, fresh and airy, but you also don’t want things too rich/comfy cozy, you may want to focus on the 40-55 range.
This example below shows Sherwin Williams Repose Gray which has an LRV of 58. See how on the left of the fireplace it looks CONSIDERABLY lighter than it does on the right? BOOM – this is LRV in action – because there is more direct natural light, the paint colour looks lighter! And while the right side is still reflecting some of the natural light back into the room, it’s fractional compared to the left. If you were wanting a more cozy, intimate look, the left side would likely seem too fresh and bright for you – the right side would be more on par.
This stairwell had a 2-storey wall (most stairs do) and the wide horizontal molding made it possible to break the space into 2 colours (another great way to deal with a tall wall). Notice on the left how the paint colour is light and bright as there is natural light on it. As it goes further back, it gets darker UNTIL it gets a hit of natural light again – this is LRV in action!
In the end, it all comes down to personal tastes. I for one, love to live in super saturated, deep colours, joined by lighter, warmer neutrals for some balance and contrast. Others live better in the light/medium range of paint colours that are consistent throughout the home.
We recently painted our entryway (amongst many…many other things which I will blog about in the near future). It used to be Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream OC 96, a colour with a considerably higher LRV of 71. I loved this colour as it was bright and fresh, but still warm looking (remember, the temperature of a colour can also play a HUGE part in the mood/look of a room), but I was looking for a more dramatic change.
Before, our entryway in Gentle Cream…
I changed to Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012 on the main walls and used Benjamin Moore Steel Wool 2121-20 on the feature area. The LRV of Creamy is 81, so again, a big step up from Gentle Cream (with similar warm undertones) and the LRV of Steel Wool comes in at a whopping 21 – BOOM! Love it.
And you might LOOK at the colour chip of Steel Wool with it’s super low LRV and think, ‘daaaammmn, that’s dark’, however seeing it up on the walls, reflecting 20% of the light back into the room, it comes across as a beautiful, slightly rich, medium toned paint colour, it’s like I know what I’m doing or something – weird.
Things to think about
- The colour will revert back to it’s normal state in the evening, except in spots where lamps/lights brighten it up, so make sure your colour is liveable for day and night
- Consider sheen when painting a dark colour. Dark colours make a paint finish look shinier, so consider a matte/flat finish for medium/dark walls
So, there are many other tips and techniques when decorating a 2-storey wall, but this is a BIG one and should get you off on the right foot!
Here's some other ideas for you!