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North, East, South, West – Which Paint Colour is the Best?

Posted on February 3, 2020 by KylieMawdsley

SUMMARY of How Exposure & Natural Light Affect Your Room

Unless your room has no windows or you’re a vampire, you’ve probably had to deal with natural light and exposure when choosing paint colours. And maybe you didn’t even KNOW that it was exposure that was messin’ with yo’ mind as your gray went purple and your beige went green, but let me tell you, exposure is a force to be reckoned with! (I ‘reckon‘ most things with wine, it helps).

Benjamin Moore Mount Saint Anne bedroom, beach colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online virtual paint color consulting ecolour

Shown here: Benjamin Moore Mount Saint Anne

So, while I’ve written blog posts individually for north, south, east and west-facing rooms, as well as rooms with two exposures, this post is to give you a simple, meat n’ potatoes summary. If you want to dig a lil deeper, I’ve included some great links for you to my other articles which will go more in-depth.

The best paint colours for any room and exposure, north, south, east west. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, decorating blogger and Online paint colour specialist

NORTH-FACING ROOMS

North-facing rooms have a gray light coming in that has a subtle hint of blue in it – this means that it’s a cool light.

Fireplace built in painted Benjamin Moore Cheating Heart, open to foyer with black front door. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consultant

Shown here: Sherwin Williams Pure White

Sherwin Williams ARgos in dining room with formal, traditional wood furniture and chair rail. Kylie M E-design, online paint color consultant

Shown here: Sherwin Williams Argos 

Foyer or Entryway with white wood armoire for kids stuff, Benjamin Moore STeel Wool gray paint colour by Kylie M INteriors

Shown above: Benjamin Moore Steel Wool, see the before and afters here

SUMMARY OF NORTH-FACING EXPOSURES

  • It can be slightly easier to pick paint colours for north-facing rooms as the light is more consistent throughout the day.
  • North-facing rooms can still be BRIGHT if there are enough windows, but bright doesn’t mean WARM. These rooms will also have fewer shadows to contend with compared to south/east/west.

Sherwin Williams Restrained Gold, north facing, traditional style living room. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting expert. Client photo

 The Best Paint Colours for a North-Facing Room

EAST-FACING ROOMS

East-facing rooms have a soft, bright light in the morning that is slightly warm, but NOTHING like afternoon western light.

Open concept layout living, dining room and kitchen, wood tile look floor, cognac leather, Sherwin Pure White walls, dark wood cabinets. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Shown here: Sherwin Williams Pure White

Benjamin Moore Collingwood in a staircase with dark wood stair treads, black handrail. Kylie M INteriors E-design and online color consulting blog

Shown here: Benjamin Moore Collingwood 

SUMMARY OF EAST-FACING EXPOSURES

  • As the day progresses, eastern light gets whiter and brighter until noon and can wash out paint colours at the height of the day.
  • In the afternoon, east-facing rooms become more gray and subdued, acting a bit more like north-facing rooms, but maybe not as bright.
  • East-facing rooms often do better with slightly warmer colours. Colours like greige may fall a bit flat in the afternoon.

The Best Paint Colours for an East-Facing Room

SOUTH-FACING ROOMS

South-facing rooms have a warm, yellow-toned light coming in. This light gets warmer/hotter closer to the evening.

Sherwin Williams Barcelona Beige, kitchen with dark wood cabinets, granite. Kylie M Interiors

Shown here: Sherwin Williams Barcelona Beige

Revere Pewter kitchen cabinets, Cambria Brittanica warm quartz, URbane Bronze island, oak wood floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign (1)

See the blog post HERE

QUICK SUMMARY OF SOUTH-FACING EXPOSURES

  • South-facing rooms can make paint colours look washed-out in the middle of the day and can create more shadows.
  • Painting a south-facing room a warm colour will increase the visual warmth of the space. If you paint a south-facing room a gray or cool colour, it can help to balance out the warm sunshine coming in the windows.

The Best Paint Colours for a South-Facing Room

WEST-FACING ROOMS

West-facing rooms tend to be a bit flat and gray in the morning hours, but once noon hits, things start to lighten and brighten and you may hear the faint sound of Kylie poppin’ a wine cork (hey, it’s 5 o’clock SOMEwhere).

Benjamin Moore Silver Marlin, blue green paint colour, eating nook with bench. Kylie M Interiors edesign, virtual paint color consulting

Shown here: Benjamin Moore Silver Marlin

SUMMARY OF WEST-FACING EXPOSURES

  • As the afternoon progresses, the light coming in appears warmer and warmer as the sun gets closer to setting, becoming CONSIDERABLY warmer in mid/late afternoon.
  • West-facing rooms can handle both slightly warm and cool colours, keeping in mind that in the afternoon, SUPER warm colours will only increase in intensity.

The Best Paint Colours for a West-Facing Room

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

How to choose paint colours for rooms with 2 or 3 exposures

If you have a room with 2 or 3 exposures, it’s actually not a bad thing! When you have only 1 exposure, you are 100% reliant on that particular light throughout the day, whereas multiple exposures can offer some balance to the more extreme ends (ie: extreme north/south).

Granite kitchen countertop with painted warm white maple cabinets. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consultant

E-DESIGN KYLIE M – PHOTOGRAPHY JR PHOTOGRAPHY

Sherwin Williams Tidewater in dining room. Best blue paint colour. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, client photo

The 8 Best Blue-Green Paint Colours

In rooms with multiple exposures, things get tricky to explain as it can depend a lot on which windows are larger and if there is any shrubbery/grass/patio overhang or any other exterior influences that could block the light, so generally speaking:

  • If you have 2 or more exposure and ONE of those is either north or south (meaning the others are east or west), you will likely want to focus on the north/south as they tend to the more dominant lights.
  • If you have an east-west, I would lean toward the warmer end (humour the eastern side) more than the western.
  • If you have north/south, this is the best mix as you can look at both north and south-facing colour options to see which ones best suit your tastes and the interior of your home!

READ MORE

5 Reasons You Keep Choosing the Wrong Paint Colours

The Best Paint Colours for Rooms with 2 Exposures

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Paint Colour Using LRV

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (23)

Need HELP?

Check out my affordable AND fun E-design and Online Paint Color Consulting!

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature

WRITTEN IN 2018, AWESOMELY UPDATED IN 2020



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Comments

  1. I love your informative posts, thank you! I am stuck for a paint color selection for my entry, family room, and hallway. I have multi-colored swaths in each room and each time I think I’ve made a decision – BAM! it changes. First I settled on Revere Pewter but it looks so flat and not at all like the photos of the lovely light rooms wearing it. Then I went with Sea Salt. My family room has a large window and door that face East/Northeast so I get some direct bright light in the morning. Seat Salt almost looks “minty” or even baby blue in this light (not what I hoped for). However, as the light moves on to the front of the house to my south windows it looks darn right gray with a hint of green. I have poured over plenty of “what color to paint” articles and blogs, and I just paid a professional $300 to help. Basically all things should be “neutral” for a buyer, but I am an artist who favors, rich color (as evidenced by my turquoise and white kitchen). I welcome any suggestions for this difficult situation!!

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      Author

      Hi Ellen! It’s hard to say without seeing your home, finishes, lighting, etc… but check out BM Edgecomb Gray which is a light greige, I’ve had a lot of success with it!

  2. Kylie, when a room face a point in between two points on the compass ( for example north east or southwest), how does this effect paint choices?

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  3. Hi! I just bought a new house and it has skylights in both the living area and the dining/kitchen area. It’s really messing with my color sense! The walls are currently a greige that looks lovely in some light but ugly and flat in others but I can’t quite find the pattern. How do skylights affect colors?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Liz! I’ve found that skylights will pick up a bit on their main exposure (like if they are slightly sloped south/east/north/west), but generally act a bit like an eastern light, particularly at the height of day where they can EASILY wash out a colour as they get the midday sun that is the most lightening!

  4. Hi Kylie, love your website and posts! Is it a faux pas to simply use a lightened version of the same color for darker rooms in the house (i.e., hallway)? Or should I be looking for a lighter, but different/complimentary color for those darker rooms? Thanks!

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      Author

      Hi Shani, it’s not a faux pas at all! But when you lighten your colour make sure you still like the undertones, as colours WILL shift undertones when they are lightened/darkened 🙂

  5. Hi Kylie! I love your blog. I painted my north facing living room and hallway SW Creamy which I love thanks to your advice! I have a south facing den with an accent wall I painted BM Tyler Gray. I tried painting the walls that flank the accent wall SWCreamy also but because they are south facing it looks much too yellow when compared to the Tyler Gray. Do you have any suggestions for a white or warmer white color that could go with BM Tyler Gray without going too yellow in a south facing room?

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  6. I’m late to this party, but wanted to say thank you for this awesome website! I recently used your advice to pick colors for the walls of our condo that was going up for sale. I used SW Vanillin for the living and bedrooms which are mostly east/somewhat north facing and SW French Grey for the kitchen and bath, which have no natural light (and the kitchen has awful fluorescents). (If only we had looked at a blog for how to hire painters…that went less successfully!) Thanks!

  7. Pingback: What Are the Key Steps to Painting a Room? - Total House Makeover

  8. Hi Kylie! I love Colonnade Gray! My new great room/ kitchen will face northwest. Do you think it could work? If not, is there a SW greige or white that works in that light? Thanks!

  9. I love your articles. I’ve corrected quite a few painting mistakes from the past, but this one has me confused. I have a mud room that has an east morning window. The sun swings away and in the afternoon has a west glass door. Then goes darker. Do I go cool or warm with the paint color? The room has lots of soft white trim and the floor is a gray/blue tile. I’m drawn to BM Pebble Beach. Thank you.

  10. I find a lot of people talking about how direction affects your paint colours but could somebody please talk about how the colour is affected by where you live? If a Brit takes a trip to Cancun and loves all the colours at the beach house, then comes home to the misty moors of Yorkshire and paints with the same colours, how will it turn out?

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      Author

      That’s an interesting thought, Layla! I do know that the more south you go, the warmer the light gets, whereas if you’re me, living in a gray, moody place, colours tend to get more muted and grayed out in this environment. That being said, SOME colours with blue-green cool tones can be slightly enhanced by a cooler light!

  11. We have just painted our living room and dining room dove white and the walls look lovely. The ceiling doesn’t though as it looks too greige. We are going to use a Benjamin Moore white ceiling paint that has a white tint added to it. We were advised by the people at the paint store. We put some sample paint on the ceiling in the living room and it looks like it will probably work. This is a north facing living room with two small east windows and of course the window that faces north. The dining room has a window facing east and some south exposure from the small TV room that is right next to it. Kylie can I get your thoughts on this ceiling paint. It would be much appreciated.

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