Using LRV to Paint a Room with High Ceilings / Tall Walls
When it comes to home design, high ceilings are a great idea if you love expansive spaces. However, for those of you who like things a bit more intimate, two-storey walls and their accompanying high ceilings can be challenging to live in.
That’s why today, we’re focusing on one MAGICAL paint tip that will save you a lot of messing around when trying to pick a paint colour for your two-storey space.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LRV
What is LRV? LRV is ‘light reflectance value’ or, how much light a paint colour reflects back into the room.
If you need the low-down on LRV, check it out HERE.
LRV is measured on a scale of 0 (black) – 100 (white). This means that a paint colour’s LRV number lets you know how light or dark it is. Paint colours with higher LRVs reflect more light than colours with lower LRVs.
In the photo below, the white paint colour on the cabinets reflects the MOST light as it has a high LRV. The lighter gray paint colour on the kitchen walls reflects SOME light, and the darker paint colour (in the dining room on the left) reflects the least, as it has the LOWEST LRV.
Now, we’re going to step away from that for a moment to hit a few topics that DIRECTLY RELATE to the above tip and then we’ll pull it all together!
Size Matters (wink wink)
THE SIZE OF THE WALL
The smaller a wall is, the less opportunity it has to reflect light back into the room. The larger a wall 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 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.
Benjamin Moore London Fog (above) has an LRV of 57. This slightly lower LRV holds up reasonably well to the natural light being reflected by these tall walls.
THE AMOUNT OF LIGHT
The other thing to consider is the amount of natural/artificial light that’s in the room. If there’s more light available, then more will be reflected back – using LRV, or LIGHT REFLECTANCE VALUE, to its advantage. If there isn’t much light available, there won’t be as much light to reflect, and a paint colour won’t be shown as well.
While this next photo doesn’t show a two-storey room, it’s a GREAT example of how light affects a paint colour on a single wall space…
Oh my God, I’m exhausted – where’s my wine? Wait, it’s only 11:00 am, one more hr to go.
So, atrociously long story short is that if you have a large, two-storey wall that’s reasonably well-lit, you can expect it to bounce the light it’s given 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!)
And HERE is where it all comes together…
The Best Paint Colour Depths (LRV’s) for Tall Two-Storey Walls
LRV OF 60+
If you want a bright, fresh, airy look, you’ll want colours with LRV’s approx. 65+. 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. Just remember, they’ll also wash out when hit with direct light, so if your room is well-lit, be cautious.
Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray (above) has an LRV of 60. Notice how light and soft it looks on the lower-level walls, whereas it looks that bit more shaded in the upper hallway.
However, if your room is DARKER, 65+ can help with the illusion of light and brightness, keeping in mind that NO colour will actually come to life without LIGHT. That being said, there will be LESS light for a lower LRV colour to bounce around which means you’ll get less wash-out.
LRV OF 50-60
If you have tall walls and high ceilings (they kind of go together) and above-average natural light, using paint colours with LRVs of approx. 50-60 will prevent too much wash out. Remember, the HIGHER the LRV is, the more a colour can wash out when hit with light as higher LRVs REFLECT more light back. Lowering the LRV will prevent some of this.
- If you want to ground a super bright room, but worry about it looking too dark in the evening, an LRV of approx. 50-60 can offer a nice balance.
- An LRV range of approx. 50-60 can help a big room feel cozier, without adding too much visual weight to the room.
Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan (above) has an LRV of 64
LRV OF 40 OR LOWER
If you find your tall walls and high ceilings lack intimacy, colours with lower LRV’s can bring the energy level down while jacking up the cozy factor.
In this next living room, while the main walls have a high LRV (approx 74), the fireplace feature wall has an LRV of 13, lowering the energy of the space and adding ambience.
- If you want a more cozy, intimate look, look for paint colours with an LRV below 40. The darker you go (lower the number) the more dramatic the effect can be.
- A bright, well-lit space can easily a low LRV and will lighten the look of ANY colour – even a super dark one!
- 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.
When you just don’t know what to do – PICK 62
In between colours, undertones, and LRV, there’s a lot to think about. If you’re stuck, start with colours that have an LRV of approx. 62, which is what I call my MAGICAL LRV NUMBER.
Benjamin Moore Collingwood (below) has an LRV of 62, which is a great place to start. You can then adjust higher or lower based on the needs of your room and personal preferences.
In the end, it all comes down to personal tastes. Personally, I love supersaturated, deep colours, joined by lighter, warmer neutrals for balance and contrast. Others live better in the light/medium range of paint colours that are consistent throughout the home.
Things to think about…
- Any colour will revert back to its normal state in the evening, except in spots where lamps/lights brighten it up. Make sure the LRV you choose is livable for day and night.
- Consider sheen as well. The more gloss your paint has, the more it will reflect light, keeping in mind, glossy walls aren’t super desirable, so choose moderately!
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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2017, UPDATED IN 2020