The Best Gray Paint Colours for Rooms with Northern Exposure
‘I have a north-facing room, can I paint it gray or will it look too cold? Really, you can do anything but what it comes down to is if you SHOULD. It’s also about knowing what look you’re trying to achieve and what visual temperature you’re comfortable living in.
Let’s start with the basics. North-facing rooms have a gray light coming in the windows with a slightly blue hue which means northern light is COLD. It’s also known to enhance cool colours or neutrals with cool undertones. When you partner a cold space with a cold colour, what do you get? A pretty darn cold-looking room.
Sherwin Williams Silver Strand
Some people don’t mind a cooler vibe, that’s why I can’t definitively say ‘no, don’t paint your north-facing room gray’. When we moved into one of our previous homes, it was painted a soft gray (Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice). Partnered with our DOMINANT northern exposure, the space felt too cold for me. However, we had friends come over who liked the paint colour. Heck, I liked the colour, however, I didn’t like it in our north-facing home.
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
Long story short, if you LIKE cold colours and you paint your room gray (knowing that all of the popular gray paint colours have cool undertones), you can expect these subtle undertones to be enhanced. Again, if you like cool colours then this might be a GOOD thing, just remember, your room will LOOK cold and won’t have a traditional ‘inviting and cosy look’. You will have to do a lot of interior work with lighting, texture and accent colours to add balance to your room.
If you paint a north-facing room a cool paint colour, you will have need lighting, texture and accent colours to create balance – moi
See the whole open layout here
On the other hand, if you like gray, but don’t particularly like a cold look, this is where things get trickier. Why? Well, you have to find a happy medium between your cold northern light and the ‘natural cool tendencies of gray’ – and that’s where I come in handy with these upcoming paint colours. And don’t get yer knickers in a knot when I say that not ALL of these photos show north-facing rooms. I rely 110% on my E-Design client’s photos, so sometimes I just have to use what I have (but most are north).
Benjamin Moore Storm & Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige
There are a few different ways to get a grayish look in your north-facing room without it looking OVERLY cold. However, keep in mind that if you don’t have large enough windows or a good interior lighting plan, there is not a gray paint colour that will save you…I’m just going to say that one more time (because I like to hear myself talk)…
If you don’t have adequate natural light or interior lighting, there is no gray paint colour that will save you.
Why is this so important? Because if you have a north-facing room AND it doesn’t have adequate lighting, a gray paint colour could look dingy, on top of cold and uninviting.
The 4 Best TYPES of Paint Gray Paint Colours for North-Facing Rooms
While you STILL need to supplement your room with warmer interior lighting, texture and visual interest, some grays are better at managing northern exposure than others…
1. WARM GRAY PAINT COLOURS
2. GRAY PAINT COLOURS WITH MORE UNDERTONE
3. GREIGE PAINT COLOURS…so basically, NOT grays
4. TAUPE PAINT COLOURS #againnotgraybutclose
1. THE BEST WARM GRAY PAINT COLOURS FOR NORTH-FACING ROOMS
Warm-toned grays are basically grays with a wee nugget (or more) of brown in them. This bit of brown softens the gray, cuts back the cool hue and adds some subtle warmth…emphasis on the word subtle. Why? Because your north-facing room WILL counteract that brown and try to pull it back to the cool side. Which really, isn’t a bad thing if you really want a gray paint colour!
As it relates to warm grays, you’ll find violet and green undertones, although some grays can pick up a touch of blue with the encouragement of northern exposure. And while some of these will still give you a coolish looking room, it won’t look ICY cold like some of the really cold grays would.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS REPOSE GRAY SW 7015
Repose Gray is a great example of a warm gray. It has a VERY subtle warmth and a wide range of undertones which ALSO makes it a bit unpredictable!
I would ONLY put Repose Gray in a WELL-LIT room with northern exposure as it WILL fall too flat in a lower light space, as shown below…
BENJAMIN MOORE COLLINGWOOD OC-28
Collingwood has a SOFTER approach compared to Repose Gray along with being lighter and warmer. It also favours a violet undertone, which is THERE, but not overwhelming.
Collingwood will also hold up a bit better in a dark room, but as shown in this next hallway, NO colour will come to life without light!
SHERWIN WILLIAMS COLONNADE GRAY SW 7641
I LOVE Colonnade Gray. And while it won’t save the cold vibe of a north-facing room, it’s WAY better than traditionally cool gray paint colours.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS GOSSAMER VEIL SW 9165
Gossamer Veil is as gentle and pretty as it sounds! Being a warm gray with a soft green undertone, it can add interest and subtle warmth to a room without taking you anywhere near the beige end of things.
A few more warm grays to explore for your north-facing room…
2. THE BEST ‘GRAYS WITH BENEFITS’ FOR NORTH-FACING ROOMS
This is a tricky one to explain and it’s early – WHERE’S MY
WINE COFFEE (sip-sip). Okay, so if gray is a cold colour and you add more undertone to it (ie. blue/green/violet) you’d think it would look even colder, right? Well, kind of. The thing is, colour adds interest and emotion, so adding more colour into a gray can give it some personality which can help to balance out the risk of creating an ‘uninviting look’ in a room with northern exposure.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS SILVER STRAND SW 7057
Some people find Silver Strand to be a gray with green-blue undertones, others see it as a blue-green with a strong gray undertone. Either way, it’s an interesting choice for a north-facing room as its increased COLOUR/hue can help add balance and interest to the flatness of some northern light.
This next photo shows how muted Silver Strand can look…
While this next one shows how STRONG it can be (not a north-facing room)…
SHERWIN WILLIAMS NETWORK GRAY SW 7073
As shown above, Network Gray is a great example of a gray with a bit more undertone/colour to it than other gray paint colours. You might also like the softer approach of the slightly lighter, Online or Gray Screen.
Remember, what we’re trying to do is add warmth to the cool light of a north-facing room and the even COOLER approach of many of the popular gray paint colours!
Add even more colour (below), and you’re looking at something like Benjamin Moore Gibraltar Cliffs which has considerably more colour while still having a soft, subtle approach. Again, this is not going to save the DAY in a north-facing room – but it will certainly help if you’re hell-bent on a cool colour.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS ARGOS SW 7065
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
- they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needed 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
3. THE BEST GREIGE PAINT COLOURS FOR NORTH-FACING ROOMS
Once we leave the gray world, if you want to stay neutral without going into beige, tan or cream, it’s about nodding politely at gray without a full commitment. And if you ask me, this is a FABULOUS solution!
But remember, while gray has its own set of undertones, greige does too, in fact, it favours ONE undertone – green. And while violet and blue can both show up, they aren’t NEARLY as common as green.
The PERFECT example of this is…
SHERWIN WILLIAMS AGREEABLE GRAY SW 7029
Agreeable Gray is a friggin’ NINJA. It is a warm gray/greige that MILDLY favours green. However, put it in a north-facing room and DAMN if it doesn’t look gray/blue! Check out this next photo – BOOM, mind blown.
See more of Agreeable Gray here
Painting your north-facing room a warm gray or greige can help to balance out the cool light coming in, but don’t expect any miracles. The northern light will tweak a warm gray or greige paint colour and make it look cooler than it would in a south-facing room.
The key is in knowing what to expect and not being surprised by the results
BENJAMIN MOORE EDGECOMB GRAY HC-173
For those who are REALLY pining for gray, Edgecomb Gray, also known as Baby Fawn, may seem over-the-top warm and borderline BEIGE. But humour ye ole Ginger as Edgecomb Gray offers a GREAT balanced look to a north-facing space.
In this next room, we used Edgecomb Gray which would have fallen flat in a north-facing room with low light…
Edgecomb Gray is a light greige that is really well-balanced, with an almost creamy looking backdrop, as shown in this next photo…
Is it gray? HECK no, but it sure is pretty.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS ANEW GRAY SW 7030
This next entryway shows Anew Gray, which would have felt drab and boring without the beautiful light cast by the chandelier. This goes to show, whether it’s exterior or interior, the AMOUNT of light you have makes all the difference if you want to use gray (or greige, which would be more the point for this section).
4. THE BEST TAUPE PAINT COLOURS FOR NORTH-FACING ROOMS
Whereas taupe and greige are both WARMER than warm grays, unlike greige which favours a green undertone, taupe favours a VIOLET undertone. And just like greige, given the right surroundings, it can pick up a tiny flash of green or blue.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS EGRET WHITE SW 7570
I have MAD love for Egret White and with trends leaning warmer, I won’t be surprised to see more of this colour in the future.
SHERWIN WILLIAMS POPULAR GRAY
Sherwin Williams Popular Gray IS popular because while its name may have ‘gray’ in it, it’s warmer than your typical gray and has a beautiful violet undertone. Also, check out the slightly darker Versatile Gray.
BENJAMIN MOORE PALE OAK OC-20
If you love pink undertones, you might just fall in love with Pale Oak. While the pink is subtle and mixed nicely with violet, Pale Oak is a popular choice for north-facing rooms when a softer, warmer approach is wanted.
There you have it. So, to answer your question – CAN you paint your north-facing room gray…or greige or taupe? It’s up to you, just don’t be surprised if it’s not as warm and inviting as you were expecting!
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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JULY 2018, FULLY UPDATED IN 2021