HomeHome Updates: Tips & IdeasDecorating Ideas and How To'sHow Fluorescent Light Affects Paint Colour

How Fluorescent Light Affects Paint Colour

Posted on November 11, 2016 by KylieMawdsley


E-Design Case Study – A Kitchen With Fluorescent Lighting

In the last few weeks, particularly since my article on metamerism, I’ve had a lot of readers asking about how interior lighting/light bulbs affect paint colour. I’ve also had several Online Consulting clients who have been STUMPED as to why their greiges are turning blue, beiges are turning pink and whites are turning green!

how-to-pick-the-best-paint-colour-for-a-room-with-fluorescent-lighting-by-kylie-m-interiors-color-consultantWell, guess what.  It’s ALL in the lighting (AND the exposure AND your furnishings AND…I digress.)

Now there are many types of light bulbs out there – CFL’s, halogen, LED, incandescent, but today we are going to focus on the golden age of lighting – fluorescents. And I’m not talking about CFL’s, in their lovely compact glory. We’re kickin’ it OLD school with the ‘tube’ style of fluorescent lighting, the kind that often comes encased in what decorators call a ‘cloud'(of hate).


Seriously. If you have fluorescent lighting you might not even KNOW that this is happening, but this picture shows the proof is in the pudding! And I want you all to take a moment here, perhaps a sip of wine and realize that these 2 rooms are painted the SAME PAINT COLOUR. That’s right. The same colour. Mike drop.

Do you want me to be honest? I know you do, you don’t pay me to be fake (unlike my chest, mwahaha – I wish), so here it is…traditional fluorescent lighting sucks the soul out of a room. Is it good for commercial space and office buildings? Sure. Does it have a place in task-oriented areas like a workshop?  I guess so. Does it have a place in the everyday function of your home? HELLS NO!


While you can now buy warmer options (which can still be overly bright), traditional fluorescent lighting gives off a cool, bright, blue-tinged light. This is a light that enhances cool colours such as blue and green and can dull warmer colours like yellow, orange and red. And I’m all for enhancing blues and greens, but creating an ‘icy cold clinical’ look isn’t usually what my clients are going for  – unless they are gynecologists.


I had an online client a few weeks ago who was having trouble finding the right colour for her kitchen. She was finding it challenging to find a colour that worked with her countertop, backsplash, oak cabinets and dining set. I had to break it down and tell her that it wasn’t her kitchen that was giving her a hard time – it was her lighting (okay, and maybe her backsplash was being a bugger too).

And with her blessed permission (thank you Ria!), here is what her consultation looked like…

E-Décor Kitchen Colour Consultation – Fluorescent Lighting

(I’ve taken some of the guts out, tweaked and enhanced things a bit to make it more blog friendly)

Hi Ria!

Now before we get into paint colours, let’s talk about your lighting. Fluorescent lighting can be an unfriendly, cold light as it casts a cool blueish light that can be really harsh on a room, particularly a room that is supposed to feel homey!


I can see this in action when I look at the one photo where you are standing in the kitchen, looking into the eating area. You can see a bit of the cabinet on the right and a snippet of the living room. Look at how soft and warm the living room lighting looks in comparison to the cold light in the kitchen, HUGE difference, right?

fluorescent-lighting-is-a-cold-blue-light-that-enhances-blue-and-green-and-dulls-warm-colours-kylie-m-interiorsMy point is that no paint colour will save your room until the lighting is changed. I know, I’m the bearer of bad news, but it’s also GOOD news because this is something you can change. You can’t change your exposure (natural lighting) but you CAN change your interior lighting.

No paint colour will save your room until the lighting is changed

And I know that’s a big job for you as it looks like your light fixtures are built into a box of some sort, but EVERYthing is fixable, which means in the meantime, we need to find a paint colour that helps you feel a bit better about things!


The main things we need to consider are your backsplash and countertops. These definitely have some green going on, so we need to listen to them or we’ll end up clashing.

Your backsplash has warm, more earthy/yellow greens in it, whereas your countertop has what appear to more ‘neutral ‘greens in it. What this means is that mixing in a sea salt type of colour (which my client said she liked in her questionnaire) would be a HARD no.

Why? Well, this type of colour is a blue/green/gray blend and the blue (which will be enhanced by the fluorescents) will just end up clashing with your products. It would be pretty in the eating area, but not so hot in the kitchen area…

Kitchen Paint Colour Options

(Paint colour recommendations were created based on Ria’s photos and the answers on her personalized questionnaire – my goal was to blend the needs of her home with her personal tastes).

Benjamin Moore November Rain. This is my first paint colour for you. This is a soft gray/green blend. Now green can be warm (yellow undertones) or cool (blue undertones). This is a slightly warm green, so my HOPE is that it will counteract some of the blue light that is being cast by your lighting. With wanting a more fresh, bright space, this might help to lighten and brighten and off-set some of that blue as the fluorescent lighting should enhance the green. The lighting may also downplay any of the warmth in November Rain.


Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. Now I know you tried this and found it a bit gloomy, but I think the ‘bones’ of it could work well for you. Now I wouldn’t use it ‘as-is’, I would probably lighten it by 25%, if not 50%. Revere Pewter is a warm gray, with a soft muddy, slightly green undertone (it doesn’t always show up to the party, but when it does it’s subtle). Do you want to see the shift in RP when it’s lightened? Then check out the blog post I wrote which will show you how it can change…3 Easy Steps to Your Perfect Paint Colour.  Again, this is with the hopes that your fluorescent lighting will enhance the green hiding in there.


And one more colour…hmmmm….Benjamin Moore Hazy Skies. Now I’m not going to say this is your dream colour, but my hope is that it will offset some of that blue light again as it is a gray/greige with a green undertone. Along the same lines as Revere Pewter but a bit more green, so it’s slightly more fresh feeling. Again, you could certainly lighten it by 25%.


And realistically, if you WERE to change your lighting, I still think you wouldn’t be as close to the look you are going for as you’d like – sometimes there isn’t a magical colour that pulls together 2 styles that just don’t want to go together. I think your cabinets, countertop and OBVIOUSLY your dining set are all very workable if you would like a sea salt, blue/green type of colour – it’s really the backsplash that will always limit you.

Sometimes there just isn’t a magical colour that pulls together 2 styles that just don’t want to go together

My hope is that these colours will help you ‘in the meantime’ so that you feel better about your space until you are ready to make some changes!

End of consult…

So what do I do now?

Now perhaps you’re thinking, ‘So what do I do if my fluorescent light fixture is sucking the soul out of my home?’

Option 1

Change your light fixture


My client here took out her fluorescent light fixture and had recessed lighting installed in the boxed-in area. She could have also put in track lights or a semi-flush light.

Option 2

Install warmer bulbs

Take a bulb out of your fixture and into your local hardware store.  See if they have a ‘warmer light’ version.  A light in the 3500 range is a happy medium.  Above 3500 starts going cooler, below 3500 goes even warmer.  Take a few different bulbs home and see which feels best in your room!

Option 3

Turn your lights off, save energy, and invest in candles

Now I KNOW you are probably just BURSTING with questions re: CFL’s, halogen, incandescent, etc… and you will have to wait my pretty.  Your answers will come in future blog posts, otherwise. I will be exhausted.

Want your own paint colour consultation

Check out my affordable and FUN E-design and Online Paint Colour Consulting packages! 

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (29)

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature


  1. Question ( a bit tangential to the topic): I am curious about the choice of Revere Pewter in this case, albeit lightened. Why not just go to Edgecomb Gray, which is one down on the color from Revere Pewter, and already lighter. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More Posts

Meet Kylie

Thank you for visiting!  I'm so glad you're here!  Come on in to learn a little more about me!