Why Your Remodel Sucks: Color and Light

Liverwurst and pretzel bread, Bandit and Snowman, Tango and Cash, Oblio and Arrow, pickled herring and mid-grade vodka, color and light: that is an exhaustive list of my favorite inseparable duos. There is no one without the other.  If I’m being honest with myself, pickled herring and onions can stand on its own, so I take that back.

Scrumptious Scandinavian side-dishes aside, color and light (rather, lack thereof) are very likely the biggest reason why your remodel sucks. 


It will never cease to amaze me how many people don’t consider light until the very end of a remodel or renovation.  If I recall correctly, in the past five years I’ve encountered only one client whose topmost concern for his whole home remodel was lighting.  Of course my clueless employer, at the time, thought he knew better, and the whole prospect went to crap immediately with no contract awarded…on a million-dollar Stillwell home….[sigh]…I digress.

Consider for a moment that our individual perspective of color is entirely dependent upon the light reflecting from it.  Now consider the hours you spent collecting free paint swatches (that you don’t even correctly utilize), the hours perusing websites for the latest trendy colors (shown in rooms that in no way resemble yours, on a screen that in no way relates to the light in your target space), and the time spent possibly arguing with your designer about what you saw on the internet (time for which you’ve been charged, thank you very much).

You’ve spent a notional week or more considering the second most important aspect of your new space while at the same time completely ignoring the one aspect that will literally allow you to perceive it in an almost infinite spectrum of tones.

Let’s take a look at what usually happens from there:

Here’s the completed proposal with all the specification and selections we discussed, as well as floor plans, elevations, time line, and proposal cost.

    You want to charge me HOW MUCH for lights?  I can get them for a fraction of that at [discount big-box store].

But all the concept photos you’ve shared show upward oriented sconces with very warm light.  And they’re real bronze like you wanted.

    I want those nice, bright LEDs. I read all over the Internet that those are the best for bringing out color. It’s OK, saw bronze LED sconces at [big box store] for $20.


The remaining selections are purchased with disregard for existing room colours, and with an unknown light warmth, diffusion, direction, and reflection.  The job is significantly complete, the customer-purchased light fixtures and bulbs are installed, and:

I don’t know, I’m just not happy. I showed you a picture of what I wanted.

I don’t understand. It doesn’t look like this.

And I’d likely agree: the Internet picture of a different room with different wall and flooring colours and different lighting don’t make the similar faucets and vanity that you bought online from a discount distributor without having seen them in real life in the actual light next to your actual colours, appear the same as they do in your actual room.

Your remodel sucks because you didn’t give light the respect and regard it demands.


  • For the record, I prefer the British spelling. Think I’m wrong? Trick question; no one cares, least of all me.

Color is the Sonny to light’s Cher.

[Wait, should light be Sonny in this scenario, or is that too gratuitous? Am I trying to be too clever? I’ve gone and derailed myself.]

Color is quite likely the second biggest reason why your remodel sucks.  Color is usually the very first aspect of a project that gets overridden by a homeowner in the hopes of saving fistfuls of dollars. 

We thought about it, and we’re going to keep the walls painted as they are. We even have some paint left over from last time in the garage if you need it for touch-ups.  Should still be good. We can always paint it later.


If done right, color is a direct expression of the homeowners; a feature that can make visitors exclaim “wow!” or a feature that influences all it surrounds in its tasteful subtleness, tying a room together in a way that no one can quite put their finger on.

But usually it goes unnoticed at best, and at worst becomes tragically distracting, effortlessly uncoupling the designer’s vision and the homeowners hopes and dreams.

Color invokes emotion. It comforts, energizes, calms, and excites.  Color warns us, beckons us, instills fear and peace alike.  Color builds appetite as easily as it revolts. Observe two colors:

A red fruit.
Another red fruit/a red pepper.
A yellow pepper.

Pictures one and two are both fruits, both red. But they invoke very different, very opposite responses. Pics two and three are both peppers, but the color gives us a very different signal before we even bite into them. Color matters.

So then why, oh why, dear reader, are you likely one of the 1.1 bajillion homeowners who treats color like a beige-headed stepchild? Is saving 2-6% of the total project cost so critical that the second most important part of the project must be forsaken?  If it is, then either your designer or contractor did a poor job in guiding you toward project harmony, or you overstated your initial budget and are slamming the brakes and cheapening up now that the proposed job quote has arrived.

But the programmable heated towel rack and the bathroom TV wiring and mount were critical in really tying the room together?

I don’t know, I’m just not happy. I showed you a picture of what I wanted.

I don’t understand. It doesn’t look like this.

And I’d likely agree.

Your remodel sucks because you didn’t give color the respect and regard it deserves.

Stop being your own worst enemy when it comes to remodeling, and start taking light and color seriously.

Looking for inspiration? Have a look at 2022 Colors of the Year.

Need a design consultant, project manager, or residential contractor?

Talk to John now at 913-214-6211 or john@mortiseandmiter.com.