North, East, South, West – what to do when you have 2-3 exposures!
Just when you thought picking a paint color couldn’t get any harder, you have to deal with your room’s exposure. And if you have a room with windows on different walls, you won’t just have one exposure, you’ll have two or even THREE exposures to battle with. But let me add that personally, I would only expose myself ONCE – and then I would run like mad.
And while I’ve written a blog post for each exposure (north, south, east, west), as well as a fantastic summary of all four, I haven’t really gotten into DUAL exposures. So, that’s what we’re doing today!
The first thing you’ll want to do is take a look at your room and consider the following:
- Which exposure has priority? This will be the one with the biggest windows and/or the one that doesn’t have any type of hedge/trees blocking the direct flow of natural light. If some of your windows are blocked by greenery, this will DIRECTLY AFFECT the quality of light coming in (and can add a weeee willy wink o’ green to your walls).
- What are your preferences? If you have competing exposures, you might be dealing with both warm AND cool colors when it comes to your paint options. You might want to think about which end of the color wheel you prefer and which exposure that relates best to.
Now, if you need to brush up on the details re: your exposures, check out the following link here before going ahead…otherwise, let’s get going!
Summary of Exposures: North, East, South, West, which paint color is the best?
Rooms with North & West-Facing Windows (NW)
Cool light with a touch of warmth in the afternoon
A room with both north and west exposures will have a cool gray light throughout the entire day. In the morning, this will be joined by an additional flat light (west morning), and in the afternoon, can be somewhat balanced by the warm western rays coming in (depending on how large the west-facing windows are).
MOST of the time, I recommend catering to the NORTHERN light as the dominant exposure.
Shown above: Sherwin Williams Collonade Gray
- If the northern windows are smaller and the western light plays a bigger part, I would look at both the best north and west-facing paint colors and see which ones settle best and suit your tastes/interior, keeping in mind that even though western light is bright in the afternoon, it’s pretty flat in the morning.
- If your windows are similar in size or the northern is larger, then I would focus more on north-facing paint colors as this is the DOMINANT exposure.
The Best Paint Colors for North Facing Rooms
Rooms with North & East-Facing Windows (NE)
Cool gray, slightly brighter in the morning, back to cool gray in the afternoon
A room with both north and east exposures will have that cool gray light allllll day via the northern light. In the morning, this light will be softened, brightened and warmed up a bit by the eastern light. This same morning light will begin to wash things out at the height of the day (depending on how big the window is). In the afternoon, the east-facing light will be comparable enough to the north-facing light in its lack of warmth and depth.
MOST of the time, I recommend catering to the NORTHERN light as the dominant exposure.
Shown above: Benjamin Moore Lenox Tan
Sherwin Williams Balanced Beige via Kylie M E-design
- I would give priority to the north-facing light as long as the windows are the same size or larger than the east-facing ones. This means you’d want to focus on paint colors for north-facing rooms.
- If the exposures are ‘equal opportunity’ exposures, then I would look at the options for both north AND east and see which ones suit your personal tastes the best! Just keep in mind that the north-facing light might slightly gray out your paint options, which is important in the cooler range.
The Best Paint Colors for North Facing Rooms
Can I Paint My North Facing Room White?
Rooms with South & West Facing Windows (SW)
Warm on warm…on warm
In rooms with both south and west-facing windows, you’ll have the warm southern light throughout the day and the extra warm light in the west-facing afternoon. This room will be cosy and inviting but COULD become a bit TOO toasty if you overdose on warm paint colors as well.
The flatter, west-facing morning light will flatten things a bit in the morning hours with its lack of sunshine. This will balance off the warmth and brightness of the southern exposure, but as you get close to noon, this type of light can really wash out colors – but only temporarily! In the afternoon, the western light will ADD to the warm glory of the southern light, making this room roasty-Mc’toasty!
Shown above: Benjamin Moore Steel Wool
Shown above: Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
MOST of the time, I recommend catering to the SOUTHERN light as the dominant exposure.
- If your windows are similar in size, or even if the south-facing are slightly bigger, then I would look at both south AND west options and see which ones best suit your tastes, keeping in mind that any warmer options will feel that much warmer with the southern light.
- If the southern light plays a smaller part in the lighting scheme, I would focus more on west-facing paint colors, but check out south too and see which best suit your tastes/interior finishings.
The Best Paint Colors for West-Facing Rooms
The Best Paint Colors for South-Facing Rooms
Rooms with South & East-Facing Windows (SW)
Warm light all day tempered by a soft eastern influence to calm it down
A room with windows on the southern and eastern walls will, generally speaking, be a warm looking room. The morning eastern light will be brighter with a soft warmth (I love morning eastern light). As the day progresses that southern light will heat right up and can wash paint colors out at the height of the day – eastern light will have the same washing-out effect. But have no fear, once that midday sun shifts, things will come back. The flatter afternoon eastern light can help to soften the super warm southern rays throughout the afternoon.
Sherwin Williams Silverplate
Sherwin Williams Cyberspace
MOST of the time, I recommend catering to the EASTERN light as the dominant exposure.
- I would focus on the east-facing option to offer a bit of balance, particularly in the afternoon. However, there could be some equally as lovely southern options if you just love those cool tones!
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 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
Rooms with North & South-Facing Windows (NS)
A beautiful mix of cool gray light and warm yellow light all…day…long
A room that has windows on the southern wall AND the northern wall will have warm, yellow light in the south end and cool gray/blue light in the northern end – mixing in a hot mess in the middle. This is found quite often in rooms with a living room at one end and a dining room at the other.
- In this case, you could pay the most attention to your PERSONAL PREFERENCES! If you don’t like cool paint colors, then you may want to focus on colors that suit a northern exposure (warm colors). If you aren’t a fan of WARM colors, you may want to focus on the paint colors that best suit a SOUTH facing space (cool colors).
- Or you can find a happy place in the middle with a beautiful greige paint color that nods a bit to both ends of your room!
Do you have a room with THREE exposures?
If you have a room with THREE exposures, I would focus on the dominant exposure, either via window size or quality of light coming in (ie. no landscaping blocking the light).
Shown above: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
And all of that being said, if you are CONFUSED, you know who to call…the Ginga Ninja.
Can I Paint My North Facing Room White?
The 12 Best Whole Home Greige & Gray Paint Colors
North, South, East, West, Which Paint Color is The Best?
Check out my affordable AND fun E-Design and Online Paint Color Consulting!
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2018, AWESOMELY UPDATED IN 2021
Great article Kylie! This is very helpful and informative.
I’m so fascinated by your knowledge of color. My living room has windows south and east, openings in the west and north. I put on edgecomb gray because I read your articles and watched your videos. The color looks beige like. It actually looks more like cedar key now. But now that I read this article I was thinking about a cool greige or a slightly warm gray? Any suggestions? Oh and it was weimaraner for 8 years before I just changed it but I wanted to go lighter.
Thanks a bunch! Felice M.
Hi Felice! It’s tough to suggest colours without seeing the room, as I’d have to see your furnishings and what not to get a real feel for things. You can certainly look at BM Collingwood or SW Agreeable Gray, they might be greige’s that are worth exploring that might lean a bit more gray for you!
my house is situated on diagonal, so that the front right corner is due east, the back left corner faces west. my living room windows face south east so would this work for my situation, too?
Well, it’s more about a ‘room by room’ basis, rather than a whole home. Naturally most homes will have 3, but usually 4 exposures, so it’s a matter of picking colours based on the needs of each room and its particular exposure. For those looking for 1 paint colour for the WHOLE home, it’s often about finding that ‘happy medium colour’, which is some type of neutral – usually a greige or subdued tan as they tend to be more flexible on the large scale.
What about rooms with both east and west windows?
Good question! So, it can depend on when you use the room the most. West facing rooms can be flat in the morning but lovely and warm in the later afternoon. East facing rooms are bright in the morning, but more flat in the afternoon. I would probably focus my efforts on the time of the day I spend most of my time in the room and see what the light is like. Otherwise, I would be MORE inclined to humour the eastern aspects more than the western, as it’s a trickier light.
HOpe that helps!
Yes, it helps lots! Thanks so much for taking the time to reply 🙂
Any suggestions for rooms (like a sunroom) with three exposures? We’re building a small addition with a mudroom on the first floor and reading room/sunroom upstairs. Each exposure (north, west, and south) will have nearly a full wall of windows, so very little wall space to paint.
Hi Alisa! I would probably base it on what suits the inside of the home and wouldn’t worry as much about the light because it will change SO much throughout the day. If there is a large window in north or south, I ‘might’ give that a bit of priority…
I have used 50% Repose on all walls in my home. I love the paint color at night as it is the light color I wanted but during the day in some rooms it looks a bit lavender and/or blue. I have dark wood floors which looks great with the white kitchen cabinets and white trim throughout the entire house (cloud white). Upstairs I have a light grey carpet that does not conflict with the wall color but seems blah with the wall color. Should I have the walls painted to a lighter color-like a creamier white that would accent the cloud white trim? I also have my kitchen island in Fantasy Brown which has a grey/blue/green color running through it. LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR REPLY!!!
Hi Kay, without seeing photos it’s all just a guess as there is so much to consider when adjusting/choosing colours! I do try to give as much complimentary info as I can on my blog, but if it hasn’t helped, it might be time to check out my E-design services, this way I can spend some proper time on your question by looking at your photos/questionnaire to see what will work…it is affordable and fun https://www.kylieminteriors.ca/update-dark-wood-trim-with-the-right-paint-colour/
Would you recommend Revere Pweter for northeast bedroom?
Hi Nelle! It depends on how much natural light you have. If you don’t have great natural/interior lighting, I think it could be a bit heavy/drab. If you have a lot of lighting it will be pretty, but I have seen it go just a flash blueish in an exposure like this… (only once though).
Hi Kylie! Do you have a favorite white for walls in rooms with both East and West exposure? Do you like White Dove? Would I need to match my ceiling and trim too? Remainder of the house trim and ceilings are BM White. Will White work with White Dove?
Hi Dottie! I do find White Dove to be quite flexible, all the while acting more or less like ‘white’. And yes, I might continue the ‘White’ throughout, rather than switching in this one room!
Hi Kylie, this is very helpful! We have South/East mostly East facing living room with lots of windows, what are your thoughts on Behr’s Chic Gray color? We also have in our foyer Agreeable Gray which would be South/West and Chattroom in our dining room which is West. Thank you
Hi Kimberly! I generally stick with BM and SW colours, as those are the ones that I’ve been surrounded with for the last 15 years! I don’t get into Behr too much!
I am re-doing our bedroom and want to do Pure White on the walls. We have one north facing window and two east facing windows. Will this be a good option?
It will be white for sure and could pick up a subtle cool cast. If that’s what you’re looking for then you’re set! In a south facing room it will lean a touch soft/warmer. 🙂
Hi there! I’m hoping you can save me from going literally mad looking at a million shades of white on Instagram!
I have one long , rather dark (in morning) living room, which has a front window facing south-west.
Research has told me that I should be opting for a yellow toned white for the walls, but I’m not keen on the yellowyness!
We’re painting one wall with farrow and ball dix blue.
Can you recommend an appropriate white? I’m lost!!! – is like a white white as opposed to a grey too, but am worried to go cool-toned in case it makes the room too clinical and cold! Gahhhhhh!
Thanks in advance!!
Hi Lucy, from the sounds of it, you might like SW Pure White which is only a BARE wink soft, not yellowed, but not icy cold – it’s an amazing white! If you look at my blog posts, maybe 1 or 2 back of the white kitchen, that’s Pure White on the walls, cabinets and trim (on my home page you’ll find it 😉
What type of trim and baseboard paint would work well with a paint like SW Shell White in a north and south facing room?
I live in Texas, where the heat is literally killing. I have a small SW facing room I want to paint SW Extra White eggshell w/ semi-gloss white & cabinets. However, I’m concerned it might glare. What do you think?
Hi Kyle, I am building an open concept 520 sq ft cabin in the woods across from a lake. I have 2 massive windows facing north, out to the lake, 1 smaller window facing south out to the forest. I will have rich golden wood floors and rich golden wood cathedral ceilings. The north and south walls will be pine shiplap, which I will paint grey to create a moody contrast. I would like the walls to appear dull green. Which paint color would you recommend?
I mean *KYLIE* please, thank you!
Thank you for this Blog!! My downstairs area is an L shape that faces N&S with some some west light influence but there is a house on the west side. I’m having a hard time finding a color that looks good in all lights. The north part is walking into my living room and then walk south to the dining and the bottom L turns to the kitchen. There are a lot of windows on the South side and decent light on the north side. I was thinking Agreeable grey would be good for me but it looks like a boring light beige in the Kitchen and dining (south exposure). So I’m guessing I need to lean more towards cool grays? I HATE a purple hue though. I’m ok with a little blue or green. What color would you suggest that wouldn’t wash out in the kitchen and dining but won’t look too blue or green in the north facing room? I do have some chocolate brown furniture (slowly changing them though to things more light and bright). My cabinets in my kitchen are also this horrible medium/dark, honey/Orangeish oak so I would like something that will look ok with them until we change them to white in a year or two. What samples would you recommend for me to look at? The current paint color (previous owners painted it) is a grayish color but is a little on the dark side and has a horrible purple/brownish hue. I been stressing out about this for weeks and I need to decide on something soon! Thanks, I love all your blogs!
Ps. My daughters name is also Kylie!
Oh I’ll be using semi-gloss too if that makes a difference.
I am having trouble finding an off white in a north east facing room with low light. The floors are golden oak . I have Revere Pewter in ny SW facing room, which looks great. Also, any suggestions for transitioning from the Revere Pewter (SW) room to the hallway and living area which are darker.(NE facing).
Hi Marianne! Take a look at Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White, it has some great flexibility and a passive warmth 🙂
Hi Kylie. your information on just the different kinds of white paint colors is great, but I am so overwhelmed now. My living and dining room (open concept) is east and west facing with the most light coming in from the larger windows on the east. We have high vaulted ceiling in that area I am looking at greek villa for these rooms. Light ceramic tile and beige Berber carpet (I know, trying to get rid of carpet) and light furniture throughout. Thoughts? I really want to paint the same color throughout. Master bedroom has windows on west and north but more windows on north side. Bedroom furniture is mocha color. Going to change out drapes to a beige type color. Want to make the room romantic and clean looking. White bedspread with beige throw pillows, etc. I was also thinking of Greek villa in that room as well. Master bathroom open to bedroom has east facing windows. Like I mentioned, I want to pick one color to use throughout these rooms. What do you think? Picking out a new paint color to replace the yellow toned paint we have now has been a real stressor for me.. HELP! Thank you sooooo much.
Thank you for the abundance of information on this article. I do still have a question. Can I use this same guidelines of NSEW exposures for exterior?
I am in the process of narrow down white & “black” colors for the exterior of my nort east facing home. While I have a long front yard with grass and palm trees (Florida) but no other trees providing shadow to the house.
What I am more “concerned” about is the wood look vinyl fence (Barrette Living in Cypress color – light wood) I just installed around all the house and the shingles of my roof also on a light brown/orange color. I was going for “White Dove” from BM. and wanted to pair it with black for gutters. Do you think that would be a good white considering the surroundings?
Thank you for your time.
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