How to Choose Paint Colours for a South-Facing (Southern Exposure) Room
A south-facing room can be one of the most satisfying rooms to choose paint colours for. Unlike a north-facing room, which relies heavily on paint colour 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.
Decorating is about balance and it’s important to balance out the warm and cool levels in your room
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 colours out in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak. So, a colour that looks ‘just perfect’ in the morning and evening, might appear washed-out in the middle of the day. A colour 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?
It’s VITAL that you look at your paint colour samples through a full day – or even several days! See which colours hold their own through the hours and which ones wash-out. Which colours make the room feel a bit more balanced and which ones make you feel a bit overheated and off-balance.
BTW: I rely 100% on photos from my E-Design clients (thank you all!). I did my best to include photos of south-facing rooms in the examples, but some photos are for colour viewing purposes only (different exposures).
Now on to the fun stuff!
The Two Types of South-Facing Rooms
1. A south-facing room with a lot of windows
The 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 colour to a room like this is a great way to lower the visual heat, making it appear more comfortable and balanced.
Light paint colours: A well-lit south-facing room can look great with a light paint colour on the walls, but keep in mind, depending on HOW light the colour is, it may appear washed-out in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest.
Medium-depth paint colours: These can also work well in a well-lit room and tend to balance intense light quite nicely.
Dark paint colour colours: A bright room can look awesome painted a dark colour, especially in the cooler range as it would help to balance out the warm rays coming in the window.
2. A south-facing room with small windows and/or minimal light
Without the ‘brightness’ that you’d find in a well-lit south-facing room, these low-light rooms can actually feel a bit more suffocating than the southern ones with a lot of natural light streaming in. This reduced natural light can be caused by a variety of reasons:
- Small windows
- Not enough windows for the size of the room
- A deck overhang blocking the light
- A lot of landscaping directly outside the window
- Trees blocking the majority of the sunlight from coming in
- It has south-facing light, but another dominant exposure affecting it (ie: north or east)
A south-facing room with reduced natural light can generally handle light, medium and dark colours.
Light paint colours: These work well to visually perk up a low-light room. I particularly like the ones that are in the softer, stormier cool range (as shown below) rather than the icy cold end of things. Light cool colours add vitality and energy to a space that can sometimes feel a bit heavy with heat. Keep in mind, if the room doesn’t have much light at all (exterior or interior), you might want to read this blog post on dark rooms.
Medium-depth paint colours: The medium-toned range can also work well in a south-facing room that doesn’t have a ton of light coming in. I find that just like with well-lit rooms, they balance the light quite nicely, but will create a cosier, more intimate look.
Dark paint colours: Dark colours can add personality and interest to a darker south-facing room – grounding the room and adding an intense balance to the effects of the suns 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 colour, especially if you don’t have adequate lighting.
Shown above: BM Pale Oak with Ballet White glazed cabinets
The Best Paint Colors for a South Facing, Southern Exposure Room
1. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl OC 52
Gray Owl is a lovely soft gray that leans to the cool side with its subtle green undertone and also loves to flash into gray-blue. 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).
Read more: Paint Colour Review: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
The LRV of Gray Owl is 65.0, so it’s going to reflect some decent light back into the room – not tons, but some. It also means that at the peak of a sunny day, it could lose some of its beautiful colour, but once the sun shifts it will come right on back. In a low-light south-facing room, it should also be lovely, but definitely more muted and stormier.
2. Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC 170
Stonington Gray is a steady light (almost light-medium) gray that leans to the cool side of things with a slightly stormy blue undertone. Stonington is a light gray paint colour, but it feels a bit heavier than many of the lighter grays on this page.
Read more: Paint Colour Review of Stonington Gray
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 colour a bit better than a higher LRV. One thing to consider is that because south-facing light is warm (yellowish) and Stonington Gray is cold (blue), sometimes, when they’re mixed together you’ll get a vague hint of green, which is a colour that is tucked WAAAAAAY back in Stonington Gray (and doesn’t usually show up to the party).
3. Benjamin Moore Grant Beige HC 83
Grant Beige is undoubtedly one of the more neutral/warm colours on this page, however, it’s not a traditionally warm colour 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. If you have a south-facing room and DON’T like cold paint colours, this could be a way to add a BIT of balance to your room.
The LRV of Grant Beige is 56, meaning it really won’t reflect much light into a room at all. So, 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 neutrals (right up there with Edgecomb Gray, coming up next). It’s a mix of beige, gray (so greige) and a strong creamy base. The cream and the beige 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 and is great if you’re looking for a versatile, easy choice. However, it WILL wash-out in a WELL-lit south-facing room.
Read more: Colour Review: Benjamin Moore Ballet White
5. Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray
Edgecomb Gray is a light depth greige that is balanced QUITE nicely between gray and beige. In a south-facing room, you could expect it to lean a BIT more into its warmer side, without going entirely beige.
Edgecomb Gray has an LRV of 63, so almost BANG on my happy place when it comes to LRV.
6. Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray HC 105
Rockport Gray is a warm gray, almost greige/taupe paint colour. Hiding inside are muddy purple and green undertones which stop this colour from feeling flat, heavy and boring – but they ALSO make it a bit unpredictable!
In a south-facing room, the warm yellow light coming in ‘might’ bring out those subtle undertones (particularly green) just a bit more than usual.
7. Benjamin Moore Antique Pewter 1560
Antique Pewter is a lovely medium-toned gray paint colour with soft green undertones. It has a great visual weight and the green undertone gives it colour and interesting, without being overly dominant. That green is also a nice balance to warm south-facing light.
The LRV of Antique Pewter is 25.0, so it’s a pretty dense colour. If you have a low-light room, it might feel a wee bit flat. In a well-lit south-facing room, it could work to balance out that warm light coming in and may possibly look a wee bit more green as the warm yellow-tinted light comes.
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
8. Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC 172
Revere Pewter is a warm gray with a lovely, earthy green undertone. And while it can lean slightly to the warm side, it doesn’t over-react in a south-facing room and holds itself pretty well as a ‘warm gray with interest’.
The LRV of Revere Pewter is 55 and is a great depth for almost any reasonably well-lit room.
9. Benjamin Moore Woodlawn Blue HC 147
Whether it’s a living room, kitchen or bedroom, Woodlawn Blue is one of those colours that seems to please everyone! Woodlawn Blue is a cool colour with its blend of 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.
Kylie M E-Design
With an LRV of 61, it will add some life to a room – not drastically so, but it IS on the lighter side of things. It will hold its own quite well in a WELL-lit south-facing room and won’t get washed out too much at the height of the day.
10. Benjamin Moore Carolina Gull 2138-40
Carolina Gull is one of my all-time fave blue-green paint colours. It has a nice blend of blue, green and gray, leaning slightly more the green-gray than the blue. It has an earth-toned vibe while still holding onto some colour.
The LRV of Carolina Gull is 27.0, so it’s quite low – particularly compared to some of the fresher and brighter colours on this page. In a well-lit room, this won’t be a problem at all as it will add a nice visual weight to the room. In a low-light room, it will also be very pretty and perhaps just a bit richer looking.
Read more: The 8 Best Blue and Green Paint Colours
11. Benjamin Moore Mountain Air CC 636
Mountain Air is a beautiful, restful green with a slightly warm gray undertone, so it’s not terribly cold feeling. It’s soft and a subtle balance to warm southern light.
Mountain Air will give a light, fresh look, but won’t wash-out too much. With an LRV of 53, it’s a great depth for most rooms that have a reasonable amount of light, and would still look pretty in a dark room as it has enough colour it to combat the shade a bit.
And there are TONS of MORE COLOURS to explore, I’m just breaking the ice. Be sure to check out my other blog posts to see more gorgeous colours that could work for you!
Do you have a south-east, south-west or north-south facing room?
While it might seem confusing, having dual exposures aren’t that bad when you’re armed with the right info! Check out this blog post on ‘how to pick paint colours when you have 2 exposures‘.
Do you want to know YOUR 3 best paint colours?
Check out my Online Colour Consulting and E-Design packages!
Kylie M Interiors Interior Decorating, Design, Online Color Consultations and E-Design Services Based in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island BC
Originally written in 2017, updated in 2019