Consider the Light

One of the biggest issues to consider in Portland is the sun—both its direction and its tendency to hide out. Brown points out that people neglect to think about light exposure. “Color on walls that face south will be different than on those that face north or east,” he says. “Northeast exposure is a cool, gray light; southwest is a very warm light.”

Reflected light—the light from outside that bounces in—can also significantly modify how color looks on your walls. Remember, color is entirely relational. So, if you live in a home surrounded by garden that stays green all year, the light that is reflected onto your walls will have a green hue, changing the way your eye perceives color. And if you live in a Pearl District loft on an upper floor, the cloudy skies will make any blue you use seem even chillier.

Raising the White Flag

For many interior designers, fretting about walls is silly. It’s what’s on them that counts. Paint should be neutral. Consider that Devine Color’s top-selling shades are Devine Mocha, Paprika and Peanut, all versions of warm neutrals. Benjamin Moore’s best-sellers in our region include a range of linen, white, beige and bisque colors. As an interior designer, Brown feels that walls work best as a backdrop for the color you choose in accessories, upholstery and other, smaller accents.

But not all neutrals are created equal, according to expressionist landscape painter Robert Gamblin, founder of one of the world’s top artists’ paint companies, Portland-based Gamblin Artists Colors. He argues that stark whites are a big mistake because the “wall is in competition with virtually any piece of art.”

Instead Gamblin suggests using a warm neutral color throughout, or painting each room specifically for your art pieces, which, he admits, may conflict with how to paint for our climate. “You have to choose what horse you’re going to ride,” he says, paint for the art or paint for the view.

If the artwork wins out, he suggests going even further by changing your pieces with the season. “The Chinese have long used paintings as forms of air-conditioning,” Gamblin says. Art can change the temperature of a room, at least metaphorically speaking. “I have a nice little painting that’s about two feet square, and about 80 percent of its surface is really hot red. It radiates warmth into the space like a fireplace.”