It’s always good to think about contrasts when you are designing a room. I have looked at textural contrasts in previous blogs and there are also many colour contrasts to think about such as light-dark contrast, chromatic-achromatic contrasts, complimentary contrast, cold-warm contrast, intensity contrast, quantity (area) contrast and more but it’s also important to think about contrasts between light and shadow.
As Frank Mahnke points out in his book, Color Communication in Architectural Space, you should avoid having extreme light and dark contrasts in a room because while your eye adapts to the extreme conditions your visual capacity is actually reduced. It is also a process that tires the iris muscle which can result in eye strain and fatigue. However, too little contrast and you will compromise the definition of the space. If you have ever been skiing when the light is poor you will know it is very difficult to pick out the three dimensional form of the slope. In poor light it is all too easy to hit a mogul by surprise and it can even be tricky to determine whether a slope is inclining or declining.
So just as harmonious colour palettes can provide a comfortable interior, try to create harmony with light and shadow – no contrast and you will create an uninspiring “flat” interior, too much contrast and you will find your eyes constantly adjusting and feeling tired. Mahnke refers to studies which show an increase in levels of productivity in rooms which have appropriate differences in light levels – definitely something to think about in your workroom.