Ask a designer

Q  I love warm colours—yellow, orange and gold—but the yellow-based paint in our living room, with windows facing north and east, looks dirty. I’ve tried a hazy green on the walls, but it looked too minty. Any ideas?

A   As you’re probably aware, the colours you mix into or use with yellow can affect their apparent hue, and mellowed yellows in particular can look darkly dingy if you add too much grey or muted brown. But in your room, I suspect it’s the cool light from the north and east affecting the purity of the hue, adding a green cast, which makes the room appear dirty. Natural lighting is as variable as the seasons and the weather. However, most rooms have one dominating light source depending on the exposure: warm for south and west; cool for north and east, as in your situation. Warm colours on the wall prevent rooms from looking sterile. And they’re ideal for a room like yours, since the light cools the area. These are action colours, creating a lively and happy ambience. Since you like warm tones, and they are best suited to north and east exposures, I recommend something from the yellow family, where there is a colour for everyone. It is light, bright and cheerful in intense shades such as buttercup and lemon. And if you add a bit of grey—not too much or you risk that dirty look—it becomes brass, antique gold or caramel. As a general rule, yellow keeps things cool in green/blue/yellow schemes and warms up to orange/red ones. Try using an antique gold or caramel. The darker tone and saturated hue will enrich the room.