Are you feeling frustrated with your north facing room? Does your exposure leave you feeling gloomy and depressed, under a gray (with a hint of blue) cloud? If so, then THIS is the blog post for you!
North facing rooms can be a total bugger to paint and decorate – ESPECIALLY if you’re going for a light and bright look. However, once you understand what your north facing room needs, you’ll find it a lot easier to create a space that is inviting and well-balanced.
(Partner post to the 8 Best Paint Colours for a North Facing Room)
Between the paint colour and the carpet, this room was screamin’ for mercy.
So, today we’re going to talk about a question that I’m asked A LOT in my Online Consulting…
So, what is exposure?
Well, there’s indecent exposure (which is me on friday nites after 3 glasses of wine) and there is the type of exposure that is outside your windows (also me on friday nites after 3 glasses of wine). Exposure refers to the direction that the natural light is coming from as it comes through the window – north, south, east, west, or a mix of those.
This is a great example of a north facing room with a warm white paint colour, and really it should be good – it’s my house!
North facing rooms have a considerably cooler source of natural light compared to warmer, south facing rooms. This northern light casts a cooool gray light into the room, creating an unwelcoming and cold look if it’s paired with the wrong paint colour and décor.
So how do you know what is right and wrong? What’s the difference between a good white and a bad white? And why does it matter – isn’t WHITE WHITE?
Don’t paint your room just ‘any’ white
White is the most reflective colour. So, in the world of LRV it reflects a lot of light back into the room and because of that, it also picks up a LOT of reflection from the environment.
Examples of white’s reflective nature:
- It can pick up the green reflection from your grass and landscaping
- It can pick up slight pink tones from your neighbours red siding or your cherry toned cabinets
- It can reflect the warmth of your golden oak flooring
And…it can ALSO pick up the cool gray light coming from your northern exposure.
Stark clean whites
If you choose a stark, clean white or a slightly cool-toned white, you risk giving your room a double-whammy – cold on cold. Your clean white paint colour will take that cool gray light coming in and RUN with it, giggling all the way, leaving you with a chilly-manilly space that is neither balanced nor inviting.
Cool toned whites
These are whites that have a whisper (or more) of blue, green or purple in them.
North facing light can enhance cool colours, so you can expect a slightly cool toned paint to look even cooler in a room with northern exposure. Now if you have the right amount of lighting (natural and interior) to support this, you could be okay, but it’s usually best to play it safe by choosing a ‘glorified white’ – a white with a touch of warmth in it to help balance out some of that cold gray light coming in, rather than compounding it with a cold white (that was a long sentence).
So does this mean you should avoid ALL whites?
No. In fact, if you really really want a cool, icy look (a la Elsa) you might just love a white with a hint of blue in it. And in fact, there is the odd duck who likes this look – that combination of northern exposure and stark white paint that gives an icy, kind of shadowed effect (I hear Elsa is a big fan). However, I’ve found that when I have clients who are looking for a nice white for their north facing room, they are looking to lighten and brighten. They want to add life without adding colour or overwhelming warmth. And the BEST way to do this is with…WHITE!
Are you confused yet? Have another glass.
The 4 Best White Paint Colours for a North Facing Room
So, while there are the wrong whites for a north facing room, there are also the right whites, and I’m here to show you a few of my faves…
Benjamin Moore Simply White OC 117
Benjamin Moore Simply White is a bright, fresh, warm white. It has a wink of yellow in it – not enough to be obnoxious, but just enough to help balance out some of that gray light coming in, creating an overall ‘soft neutral’ effect.
The LRV of Simply White is 90 – meaning it’s pretty darned bright. If you don’t know about LRV, you should read this… Paint Colours and LRV: The Ultimate Guide You Need to Read
Benjamin Moore Timid White OC 39
Timid White is a beautiful off-white with a warm yellow base, a great way to counteract the cool gray/blue northern light. In a south facing room, the yellow in Timid White can come up stronger, however in a north facing space, I’ve found that the gray toned light coming in helps to soften the yellow, leaving behind just a soft, slightly warm colour.
With an LRV of 82, you’ll see that this is certainly a light, bright, reflective colour – without acting like a ‘white’.
Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012
Personally, this is one of my fave warm off-whites. Creamy has that yellow base that is nicely grounded with neutral undertones so it isn’t overly ‘colourful’ – just soft and warm.
Benjamin Moore Silver Satin OC 26
Liar liar pants on fire. Here I am telling you all about warm whites and I go and throw a cool white into the mix. It’s true. Why do I like Silver Satin? Well, it’s subtle and it’s not an icy cold blue or green-tinged white, in fact it’s more of a light warm gray with a slightly feminine (ahem, purple) undertone. If I HAD to do a cool-er feeling white (compared to the cream tones) in a north facing room – this would be it, and in fact, I’ve recommended it to several clients.
Why does it work? Well you know, sometimes you want to paint your home all one colour, which means you probably have to account for a multitude of exposures. And while I do prefer a warmer white in a north facing room, as you can see above and below, Silver Satin holds it’s own, even though it’s slightly cooler feeling in comparison to the warmer whites.
I might not put it in a north facing room that also has east facing windows as the eastern light can further gray things out.
- The cleanest – BM Simply White – for an even brighter white, check out SW Pure White which only has a wink of warmth
- The most gray – BM Silver Satin
- The most warmest – SW Creamy and BM Timid White are pretty comparable
- The most popular – BM Simply White
The exception…(because there’s ALWAYS an exception)
If you have a north facing room that has very little natural light, I would not paint it white – any white. Why? Well, colour will not come to life without light, so not only will you be fighting the gray of your limited exposure, you’ll be fighting the gray of the shadows created due to the lack of natural light. If you have an awesome interior lighting plan, then fill ‘yer boots, but be sure that your space is well-lit before you commit to any type of light colour.
So there you have it! Now of course there are MANY more awesome colours to check out, but hopefully these whites get you pointed in the right direction.
And while there’s a LOT to consider when figuring out which white is best for you (flooring, countertops, trim colour and more), but you know I’ve got yer back, so just holler if you need some help via my affordable Online Consultation and E-Design packages!