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, the light coming 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 evening. So what do you do?
It is 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 did my best to include photos of south-facing rooms in the examples, some photos are for colour viewing purposes only.
Now on to the fun stuff!
The 2 Types of South Facing Rooms
Type 1: South facing with a lot of windows
The first 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 this space is a great way to lower the visual heat, making it appear more comfortable and balanced.
Well-lit south facing rooms can look good with a light paint colour, keeping in mind that depending on HOW light the colour is, it may appear a bit washed out in the middle of the day.
Medium tones can also work well in a well-lit room and tend to balance intense light quite nicely.
Dark colours can look great as well, especially in the cooler range as the yellow light coming in complements the cool nature of the colour so that it ‘pops’ a bit more.
Type 2: South facing with small windows/minimal light
The other type of south facing room has a lot of natural sunlight, but it may be reduced for a variety of reasons such as these:
- Small windows
- Not enough windows for the size of the room
- The window faces south but there is under a deck overhang
- There is a lot of landscaping directly outside the window
- There are trees blocking the majority of the sunlight from coming in
- Or maybe it’s a south facing room with east or west-facing windows as well
Without the intense ‘brightness’ of the right type of windows/lighting, these south-facing rooms can actually feel a bit more stifling than a well-lit room.
A south-facing room with reduced natural light can generally handle light, medium and dark colours.
Light colours work well because they help to perk the room up visually, I particularly like the ones that are in the softer cool range (as shown below) rather than the icier end of things. Light, cool colours add vitality and energy to a space that can sometimes feel a bit heavy with heat. Just keep in mind that if the room doesn’t have much light at all, you might just want to refer to this blog post on dark rooms.
Medium colours 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.
Dark colours can add personality and interest to a room without much light (but still getting some of the visual effects of the warm exposure) – grounding the room and adding an intense balance to the effects of the suns rays. However, be careful to not 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 very dark colour, particularly 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
Benjamin Moore Gray Owl OC 52
Gray Owl is a lovely soft gray that leans toward the cool side with its subtle green and blue undertones – without committing completely to anything other than gray! Gray Owl is softer and lighter than Stonington Gray which is shown below and has less of a cold blue undertone (because of the green in it).
The LRV of Gray Owl is 65.0. It is going to reflect some decent light back into the room, not tons, but some. This means that at the peak of the day it might lose a bit of its beautiful colour, but once the sun shifts it will come right on back. In a low-light south facing room, it should be lovely!
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC 170
Stonington Gray is a steady light gray that leans to the cool side of things with a slightly stormy feeling blue undertone. Stonington is a light gray paint colour, but it feels a bit heavier than many of the lighter grays on this page.
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 might hold its colour quite well at the peak of the day, however keep in mind that south facing light is warm (yellowish) and Stonington Gray is cold (blueish), so sometimes this can create a soft slight hint of green (vague) and it will should go away at the height of the day as well as in the evening.
Read More: Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray and Gray Owl – What’s the Big Difference?
Benjamin Moore Grant Beige HC 83
Grant Beige is undoubtedly one of the more neutral colours on this page. While technically I wouldn’t call it a ‘cool’ colour, in the world of neutrals it really sits right in a happy place with its beige base with a greige undertone. It does lean very slightly to the warm side, but not so much that it will tilt a south facing room off balance.
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 heavy, nor any lighter. In a well-lit room it will be at the peak of perfection and will possibly neutralize even a bit more.
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Benjamin Moore Ballet White OC 9
Ballet White is one of my FAVE neutrals. It is a mix of beige, gray (so greige) and a creamy base. Now the beige and the cream are slightly stronger than the gray, and this comes a bit more into play in a south facing room.
Ballet White is one of the lighter neutrals on this page, so it’s great if you’re looking for a versatile, easy choice.
Read more: Colour Review – Benjamin Moore Ballet White
Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray HC 105
Rockport Gray is a very neutral gray paint colour with a solid brown undertone. Sneaking into that undertone is a muddy taupe and green which stop it from feeling flat, heavy and boring.
In a south-facing room, the warm yellow light coming in ‘might’ bring out those subtle undertones just a bit more than usual.
Benjamin Moore Antique Pewter 1560
Antique Pewter is a lovely medium toned colour with subtle undertones. It has a great visual weight and is a mix of gray with a cool green base, so that it has ‘colour’ in it, but nothing dominant.
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, but not too bad. In a well-lit south facing room it will really work to balance out that warm light coming in and may possibly look a wee bit more green as the warm yellow light comes in and blends with the green.
Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC 172
Revere Pewter is a warm gray with its subtle beige/greige base. It has ALSO been known to pick up a wee wink of green. And while it can lean very slightly to the warm side it doesn’t over-react in a south facing room and holds itself pretty well as a ‘warm gray’.
The LRV of Revere Pewter is 55, so it is a great depth for almost any reasonably well-lit room.
Read more: Colour Review: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
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 a bit of 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. In a room without as much natural light you might notice the colours are a wee bit more vibrant and slightly more green.
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 a nice earth-toned feeling 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 more fresh and bright colours on this page. In a well-lit room, this won’t be a problem at all and 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 Best Blue and Green Paint Colours
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. With an LRV of 53, it’s a great depth for most rooms that have a reasonable amount of light.
Now, of course, you need to consider other things like interior finishes, furnishings, room size and of COURSE personal tastes – but those ideas should get you off to a good start!
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‘.
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Kylie M Interiors Interior Decorating, Design, Online Color Consultations and E-Design Services Based in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island BC