WHAT COLORS ARE BEST FOR SOUTHERN EXPOSURE?
A south-facing room can be one of the most satisfying rooms to choose paint colors for. Unlike a north-facing room, which relies heavily on paint color and lighting to feel lively, a south-facing room feels warm and inviting all on its own as it gets direct infusions of natural sunlight all day long.
The most important (and complicated) thing to remember about a south-facing room is that the quality of natural sunlight changes throughout the day. Overall, southern light is warm and yellow-toned, yet it can wash colors out when the sun is at its peak. So, a color that looks ‘just perfect’ in the morning and evening might appear washed out at noon. A color that looks perfect in the middle of the day might become too bright in the morning and over-the-top glowing in the late afternoon.
So what do you do?
You must look at your paint color samples for a full day – or even several days! See which colors hold up over the hours and which wash out. Which colors make the room feel more balanced, and which make you feel overheated and off-balance?
Decorating is about balance, and it’s important to balance out your room’s warm & cool levels.
BTW: I rely 100% on photos from my E-Design clients (thank you all!). I do my best to include photos of south-facing rooms in the examples, but some photos are only for color viewing.
THE TWO TYPES OF SOUTH-FACING ROOMS
Not all rooms are created equal. Just because you have a room with southern exposure doesn’t mean it will act like EVERY OTHER ROOM with the same exposure. There are two basic types of south-facing rooms…
1. A SOUTH-FACING ROOM WITH A LOT OF WINDOWS
This type of south-facing room has TONS of natural sunlight due to the amount of window space. On hot days, these rooms not only look warm, but they ARE warm. Adding a cool color to a room like this is a great way to lower the visual heat, making it appear more comfortable and balanced.
This room might not look warm right now, but wait until summer!
LIGHT PAINT COLORS IN SOUTH-FACING LIGHT
A well-lit south-facing room can look great with a light paint color on the walls, but keep in mind, depending on HOW light the color is, it may appear washed out in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest.
MEDIUM-DEPTH PAINT COLORS IN SOUTH-FACING LIGHT
A medium-depth paint color can also work well in a well-lit room and tends to balance intense light quite nicely.
DARK PAINT COLORS IN SOUTHERN LIGHT
A bright room can look awesome painted a dark color, especially in the cooler range, as it would help balance the warm rays coming in the window.
2. A DARK SOUTH-FACING ROOM
Without the ‘brightness’ you’d find in a well-lit south-facing room, these low-light rooms can feel more suffocating than the southern ones with a lot of natural light streaming in. This reduced natural light can be due to a few reasons:
- Small windows
- There are not enough windows for the size of the room
- A deck overhang blocking the light
- A lot of landscaping directly outside the window
- Trees block the majority of the sunlight from coming in
A south-facing room with reduced natural light can generally handle light, medium, and dark colors.
LIGHT PAINT COLORS IN LOW LIGHT
These work well to visually perk up a low-light room. I particularly like the ones in the softer, stormier cool range (as shown below) rather than the icy cold end of things. Light, cool colors add vitality and energy to a space that can sometimes feel a bit heavy with heat. Remember, if the room doesn’t have much light (exterior or interior), you might want to read this blog post on dark rooms.
MEDIUM-DEPTH PAINT COLORS IN LOW LIGHT
The medium-toned range can also work well in a south-facing room that doesn’t have a ton of light coming in. Like with well-lit rooms, I find that they balance the light quite nicely but will create a cozier, more intimate look.
DARK PAINT COLORS IN LOW LIGHT
Dark colors can add personality and interest to a darker south-facing room – grounding the room and adding an intense balance to the effects of the sun’s rays – however limited they are. But be careful not to go too dark. If you truly have one wee tiny little window, you may not have enough natural light to balance out the weight of a dark color, especially if you don’t have adequate lighting.
THE TOP PAINT COLORS FOR SOUTHERN EXPOSURE ROOMS
These colors aren’t guaranteed to work in EVERY south-facing room, but they’re a great place to start. Remember to consider your interior finishes as well, as they take precedence over your room’s exposure.
1. BENJAMIN MOORE GRAY OWL OC 52
Gray Owl is a lovely soft shade of gray that leans to the cool side with its subtle green undertone. However, it’s a sneaky lil bugger and can easily pick up a blue undertone, either a committed one or blended with green. Gray Owl is softer and lighter than Stonington Gray (shown below) and has less of a cold blue undertone (because of the strong green in it).
The LRV of Gray Owl is 65.0, so it will reflect some decent light into the room – not tons, but some. It also means that at the peak of a sunny day, it could lose a lot of its beautiful color and depth, but once the sun shifts, it will come right on back. It can also be lovely in a low-light south-facing room, but it is definitely more muted and stormier.
2. BENJAMIN MOORE STONINGTON GRAY HC 170
Stonington Gray is a steady light depth gray (almost light-medium) with a slightly stormy blue, which at the odd time shows up a bit blue-green. And while it’s a LIGHT shade of gray, it’s storminess has it looking a bit heavier than others.
The LRV of Stonington Gray is 59.0, so it will add SOME, but not TONS, of light to your room. This also means that in a super bright room, it will hold its color a bit better than a color with a higher LRV. It also offers a nice, crisp contrast with the right white trim or cabinet color.
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS NATURAL TAN
Natural Tan is undoubtedly one of the more neutral/warm colors on this page. However, it’s not a traditionally warm color that flashes yellow, orange, or red. It has a nice grounded base, which cuts back any golden tendencies and can even pick up a weee tiny wink o’ green (rare, but true). If you have a south-facing room and DON’T like cold paint colors, this could be a way to go warm without tipping the scales into the golden hues.
The LRV of Natural Tan is 65. This puts it in the middle of my suggested ‘best range for the average room.’ In a low-light south-facing room, it won’t make the room feel OVERLY heavy, nor any lighter, but you might find it a bit murky looking. In a reasonably well-lit room, it will be at its peak of perfection and offer a nice neutral backdrop to your furnishings.
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4. BENJAMIN MOORE BALLET WHITE OC 9
Ballet White is one of my FAVE warm neutrals (right up there with Edgecomb Gray, coming up next). It mixes tan and gray (so greige) with a strong creamy base. The cream and the tan are stronger than the gray, and this comes a bit more into play in a south-facing room without making things overheat.
Ballet White is one of the lighter neutrals on this page, with an LRV of almost 72. This is a GREAT color if you’re looking for a versatile, easy choice. However, it WILL wash out in a WELL-lit south-facing room.
If you want a color similar to Ballet White, Sherwin Williams White Duck and Shoji White are similar as they’re also cream hybrids. The BIG differences are that they have a bit less yellow cream than Ballet White and are a stitch lighter.
5. BENJAMIN MOORE EDGECOMB GRAY OC 173
Edgecomb Gray is a light-depth greige-taupe nicely balanced between gray and beige. In a south-facing room, it might lean a bit more toward the warmer side without becoming entirely beige.
Photo via V1 Real Estate Photography
Edgecomb Gray has an LRV of 63. This depth is almost BANG on my happy place for the average room. In fact, Edgecomb Gray is so popular that I included it in my blog post about the three most timeless neutral paint colors.
There aren’t many colors that compare to Edgecomb Gray; it’s pretty darn special! While Sherwin Williams Modern Gray looks similar at first glance, it’s GRAYER than Edgecomb Gray (so it’s cooler). The same goes for Sherwin Williams Natural Tan. This popular shade of tan looks similar on a small scale, but get those Samplize peel-and-stick up on your wall, and you’ll see that Natural Tan is a muted tan paint color – not a greige-taupe.
6. BENJAMIN MOORE KNOXVILLE GRAY HC 160
If you want more color and depth on your walls, Knoxville Gray is a beautiful blend of blue and green. Blue-greens are popular as they blend the two most calming colors – blue and green. With a soft gray backdrop to calm it down, Knoxville Gray adds a TON of cool balance to an overheated south-facing room.
In this next photo, notice how well Knoxville Gray plays with the warm wood on the trim and French doors…
7. BENJAMIN MOORE WHITE DOVE OC 17
If you’re looking for the perfect shade of white for your south-facing room, this could be it. White Dove is a soft, warm white that’s popular on walls, cabinets, trims, and even exteriors! White Dove is warm, but it’s not as cream-yellow as some, not as stark or cold as others. And while it will definitely pick up some of your southern sun’s warmth, it doesn’t go as creamy as many other whites.
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8. BENJAMIN MOORE REVERE PEWTER HC 172
Revere Pewter is one of the most popular warm grays with a lovely, earthy green undertone. And while it does lean slightly to the warm side, it rarely overreacts in a south-facing room and holds itself pretty well as a ‘warm gray-greige with interest.’ However, if your south-facing room has low light, Revere Pewter can look a bit murky and heavy, so sample carefully.
Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter painted door with White Dove trims and walls
The LRV of Revere Pewter is 55 and is a great depth for almost any reasonably well-lit room. If your room is SUPER bright, this depth will show up better than a lighter shade, which will really wash out in intense light. However, Revere Pewter’s green undertone CAN be slightly unpredictable, so be sure to read its color review.
9. BENJAMIN MOORE WOODLAWN BLUE HC 147
Whether it’s a living room, kitchen, or bedroom, Woodlawn Blue is one of those colors that seems to please everyone! Woodlawn Blue is a cool color blending blue and green (much more blue than green) with a slightly gray base to calm it down. This blend makes it flexible and slightly susceptible to change throughout the daylight hours.
If you’re not ready to commit to a color like Hale Navy on a large scale, it also makes a great accent wall and easily partners with most of the neutrals on this page.
Being a classic shade of navy blue, Hale Navy can be a bit strong for some. If you want a slightly muted take, Sherwin Williams Cyberspace is wicked pretty. It’s similar to Hale Navy’s approach, but its gray base calms it down, so it’s a bit more of a blue-gray blend (heavier on the blue). If you like a slightly lighter take on Hale Navy, check out Van Deusen Blue, which is popular on cabinets and accent walls.
11. BENJAMIN MOORE CLASSIC GRAY OC 23
If you’re considering resale, stay away from cool grays (trends are leaning warmer). However, if you still want to add a touch of balance to your south-facing room, consider a warm gray like Classic Gray.
Classic Gray is a subtle, off-white shade of gray with vague violet-pink undertones. In south-facing light, it can lean MUCH warmer, looking more like taupe than gray. This being said, it will still look more balanced than any shade of beige or cream.
Classic Gray looks beautiful with most wood tones and suits various interior finishes, including popular tiles and countertops. Remember to be careful if you have overly warm trim/cabinets, as Classic Gray prefers a cleaner white in its trim partner.
11. BENJAMIN MOORE SPANISH OLIVE CC 606
If you’re looking for a subtle shade of green for your south-facing room, this could be your lucky day! Spanish Olive is a light, warm green – a green with greige. This neutral foundation gives Spanish Olive a grounded, earth-toned look without looking overly muddy or dingy (of course, this could be open to perception).
Spanish Olive has an LRV of 52.54, putting it in the light-medium range. Colors of this depth stand up better to intense natural light than lighter colors (higher LRVs), as they don’t wash out as much (but will look lighter with a lot of light on them, as will ANY color).
For a similar, slightly less warm approach, check out Benjamin Moore Mountain Air – a beautiful green shade muted with a warm gray base. If you prefer a green that isn’t quite so warm and you don’t mind a bit of depth, Benjamin Moore’s October Mist is SUPER popular.
12. BENJAMIN MOORE QUIET MOMENTS 1563
If you’re looking for a calm, cool shade with some noticeable but not overwhelming color, check out Quiet Moments. This light blue-gray paint color is as gentle as it sounds. With an LRV of 60.73, Quiet Moments is a light depth, sitting right on the edge of my recommended LRV range.
Will Quiet Moments lose some of its color in the afternoon light? YOU BET YOUR BOOTY IT WILL! The more neutral your paint color is, the more muted it will look. However, give Quiet Moments just a LITTLE quality interior light to play with, and it could be the perfect color for you and your eastern room.
PEOPLE ALSO ASK
WHAT’S THE BEST LRV FOR A SOUTH-FACING ROOM?
This is a big question as it depends on whether it’s a dark or bright room. For example, how big are the windows, and how many are there? How big is the ROOM? Is the light filtered by trees or landscaping? Is there a patio or second floor that blocks the direct light from coming in?
And aside from this, what look and FEELING do you want?
- Light colors (LRV 65+) keep a room bright.
- Dark colors (LRV 30-) can ground a room, making it look a bit cozier.
- If this is a main living area, a higher LRV of approx 62+ looks good (it happens to be my magical number), knowing that a LOT of natural light will wash your color out a bit (especially in the HIGHER LRVs). The average person doesn’t love their main living area a dark color (I do, but that’s personal taste).
- If this is a smaller or secondary room, you can have a higher LRV or add some personality with a cool color with a lower LRV.
- Dark rooms often suit dark colors with more color/chroma, meaning they aren’t too grayed out. In the lighter range, dark rooms love colors with LRVs of 65+, and again, grayed-out and neutral colors have trouble coming to life, whereas COLORS add energy to a dark space.
As the previous color list mentioned, Knoxville Gray is beautiful for southern light!
WHAT COLORS ARE BEST FOR SOUTH-FACING ROOMS?
GENERALLY SPEAKING, south-facing rooms look best in shades of blue and green, as well as neutrals with these undertones. These cool paint colors and their temperature can balance a room with southern exposure.
Sherwin Williams Silver Strand
Do you have a southeast, southwest, or north-south-facing room?
While it might seem confusing, having multiple exposures isn’t bad when armed with the right information! Check out this blog post on ‘how to pick paint colors when you have TWO exposures.’
Do you want to know YOUR 3 best paint colors?
Check out my Online Color Consulting and E-Design packages!
KYLIE M INTERIORS E-DESIGN, E-DECOR, & VIRTUAL PAINT COLOR CONSULTING ADVICE SPECIALIZING IN DIY HOME UPDATE IDEAS AND BENJAMIN MOORE & SHERWIN WILLIAMS PAINT COLORS
Originally written in 2017, updated in 2023