The 5 Best White or Off-White Paint Colours for a North-Facing Room
Are you feeling frustrated with your north-facing room? Does your northern 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 wanting a light, bright, and inviting look. However, once you understand what your north-facing room needs, you’ll find it a lot easier to create a welcoming and well-balanced space.
(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.
In previous posts, we’ve talked about the best paint colours for north-facing rooms – or for ANY exposure, really. So, today we’re going to focus on a question I’m asked A LOT in my Online Consulting…
What IS exposure?
Well, there’s indecent exposure (which is me on Friday nights after three glasses of wine) and there is the type of exposure that is outside your windows (also me on Friday nights after three glasses of wine). Exposure refers to the direction that the natural light is coming from as it comes through your 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 cool gray light into the room, creating an unwelcoming and cold look if it’s paired with the wrong paint colour and décor.
But 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, which means that 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 reflect the slight pink tones from your neighbours’ red siding or your cherry toned cabinets
- It can bounce-back 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 in north-facing rooms
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 space that is neither balanced nor inviting – you’ll need to do a lot of work with texture and accents to bring things back.
Stark whites tend to be pretty darned white, whereas cool whites can have a whisper (or more) of blue, green or purple in them.
North-facing light can also enhance cool colours, so you can expect a slightly cool-toned paint to look slightly cooler in a room with northern exposure. Now, if you have the right amount of lighting (including interior) to support this, you could be okay, but it’s usually best to play it safe by choosing what I call a ‘glorified white’ – a white with a touch of warmth to help balance out the cold gray light coming in, rather than compounding it with a cold white (that was a long sentence).
Read more: Sherwin Williams 4 Best White Paint Colours
So does this mean you should avoid ALL whites?
No. If you really really want a cool, icy look, you might love a white with a hint of blue in it. And in fact, there is the odd duck who LOVES this look – that cool combination of northern exposure and stark white paint that gives an icy, edge look (I hear Elsa is a big fan). However, I’ve found that when I have clients who’re looking for a nice white for their north-facing room, they’re usually looking to lighten and brighten. They want to add life without adding colour, coldness 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
Long story short, while there are the certainly 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…
1. Benjamin Moore White Dove OC-17
White Dove is fantastic. It’s a warm soft white, so it’s not stark or harsh, but it’s ALSO not overly creamy. You may find that your northern light takes most of the warmth out, without leaving the walls overly cold looking.
White Dove has an LRV of 85, so it’s well into the white range, although it does have a beautiful softness to it.
2. 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 (unless it’s a south-facing room), 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
Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages
3. Benjamin Moore Timid White OC 39
Timid White, a beautiful off-white with a warm yellow base, is a great way to counteract the cool gray-blue northern light – as long as you’re okay with a yellow undertone. In a south-facing room, the yellow in Timid White can come up stronger, but in a north-facing space, I’ve found the gray-toned light to be nicely subdued by Timid White, without leaving TOO much yellow on the table (or on the walls would be more the point).
With an LRV of 82, you’ll see that this is certainly a light, bright, reflective colour, but has a bit more body than a traditional white, making it more of an off-white.
Let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out in the near future to grab paint samples – stop right there! I want you to check out SAMPLIZE. Samplize offers peel and stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots. Here are just a FEW reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients…
- Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on location
- At $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needing for traditional paint sampling
- If you keep the samples on their white paper, you can move them around the room
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
4. Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012
Personally, this is one of my fave warm off-whites. Creamy has a yellow (cream) base that is grounded with neutral undertones so it isn’t overly ‘colourful’ – just soft and warm.
With an LRV of 81, Creamy really is more of an off-white than a white and will shift its commitment to cream based on your exposure.
5. Sherwin Williams Pure White SW 7005
Pure White is one of the best ways to get a white look, without choosing a standard, off-the-shelf white or going into the cool end of things. Pure White DOES have some softness to it, but that softness serves to balance out some of that cool light coming in. Your walls will STILL look a touch cool on a gray day or in a lower-light room, but not nearly as harsh as they would with a cooler 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 shade 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.
Not sure which white is best for you?
Check out my Online Color Consulting packages – I’d love to help!
- The 8 Best Benjamin Moore White Paint Colours
- Colour Review: Benjamin Moore Simply White
- The 3 Best White Paint Colours for Cabinets
- The Best Paint Colours for East Facing Rooms
Originally written in 2017, updated in 2019