North, East, South, West – Which EXTERIOR Paint Colour is the Best?
Today we’re talking about exposure. Not the indecent kind that can get you thrown in jail, but the DIRECTIONAL kind that can make your exterior paint picking process a HECK of a lot harder than it should be!
And while I’ve talked EXTENSIVELY about how exposure can affect your interior paint colour picking, I haven’t dived into the deep end of the pool on exteriors…but today, we’re going swimming, and with reference to OTHER type of exposure – we’re skinny dipping.
Exposure (for painting purposes) refers to the orientation of the FRONT of your home and how that relates to the direction of the sun. There are ALWAYS exceptions, of course, like unique homes with more modest fronts and more impressive backsides (sounds like a description of me), but generally speaking, orientation refers to the front of the home. And if you’re new to my blog – yes, this is how my brain thinks. And not only am I funny (wink wink), I’m also a darned smart cookie when it comes to paint colours.
Let’s look at an example.
This home is south-facing, as you can see by the sunlight and shadows…
Now, let’s look at the NORTH-facing backside of the same home…
Same colours, different exposures.
And the reality is that SOMETIMES, you can’t make all 4 exposures, AS WELL AS your stone, brick, roof AND yourself 100% happy.
So, does that mean you should focus on the FRONT of your home only? No, but you may need to prioritize things, so here are some tips for figuring out which side of your home matters the most.
- Which side faces the road (curb appeal)
- Which side do MOST people see?
- Which side affects YOU the most (ie: you don’t have much road and spend a lot of time in the backyard, not the front – in which case, you might focus on the back
Why does it even MATTER which side is the most important? Well, as you saw in the last example, a single paint colour can look DRASTICALLY different from one side of your home to the other, based on the type and quality of light they’re getting. A colour you LOVE on the front, might not be your fave on the back, but SOMETIMES, something has to give.
(I’d rather see a browner mulch, but the house COLOURS look good!)
So, now that you’ve figured out which side is your most IMPORTANT one, you need to figure out which DIRECTION it faces!
- Bust out your Boy Scout toolkit and use a compass
- Use your phone (a how-to for i-phones HERE / looks like it’s an APP to download for Blackberry users)
And if all else fails – just look out the windows on what you’ve decided is the most IMPORTANT side of your home and think…
- Does the sun shine in my windows more or less all day? Probably south-facing
- Does the sun shine in my windows only in the morning and then not in the afternoon? East-facing
- Do I get no sun in the morning and LOTS in the afternoon? West-facing
- Do I get NO FRIGGIN’ SUNSHINE ALL DAY LONG? You live with me on beautiful Vancouver Island…or you’re north-facing (and I love my island in all of its rainy glory!)
Of course, there are also MIXED exposures, overhanging trees and shrubs, but seriously, I can only cover so many things in one blog post.
5 Tips for Picking the Best Paint Colour for the Exterior of Your Home
Looking at this next home, I would bet the FRONT of the home is north-facing and the side is west-facing. Why? Notice how much WARMER and brighter the right side of the house looks compared to the slightly flatter look of the colour on the front of the house – it hardly looks like the same colour!
Let’s look at a before of that bad boy, just for fun…
See the full blog post of this project HERE
Now, of course, we haven’t talked about trees yet. Even glorious southern sunshine can be blocked by a well-placed forest. In this case, exposure will play LESS of a part in your paint process as the trees will limit the amount/quality of light you get.
So, now that you know the EXPOSURE of the most IMPORTANT side of your home, let’s look at each one more closely…
BTW – Keep in mind that I don’t remember the exposure of ALL of these projects, I’m just going off the photos for reference.
Paint Colours on a Home with North-Facing Light (Northern Exposure)
A home with north-facing light isn’t a BAD thing, even though this light is often the grayest. North-facing light is the most CONSISTENT light and has the LEAST change throughout the day, making it more predictable for choosing paint colours.
Let’s look at a good before and after…
Do you want to see something CRAZY (insert image of me here)? Check out this next photo compared to the LAST photo. The photo below is actually the darker version of the colour used in the above photo, but because of the shift in EXPOSURE, it actually looks LIGHTER!
North-facing homes will have a more shaded front. Now, don’t confuse SHADY with SHADOWS. Shady is when you pour me four ounces of wine when I asked for six, or when there isn’t any direct natural sunshine. SHADOWED is what happens when light hits a surface, creating a grayish space (a shadow) behind it. Because north-facing homes don’t get direct sunshine, they don’t get shadows. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have an overall ‘gray cast’ that’s created by the lack of it.
SO, HOW DOES NORTH-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A HOME?
- You can expect paint colours to look MORE like they do on your small paint sample, whereas on a well-lit side, they can look quite a bit lighter than you’d expect!
- The gray north-facing light will subdue warm colours, flattening them out a bit
- Gray light often suits gray paint colours with a BIT more ‘colour/undertone’ to them, to counteract a bit of that gray light, but of course, it depends on what your brick/stone/roof can handle too!
- With north-facing light being that bit heavier, you’ll want to pay attention to the LRV that you choose so that your house doesn’t look TOO dark. READ MORE HERE
Paint Colours on a Home with South-Facing Light (Southern Exposure)
A south-facing home is often considered the most desirable, however, that can change if you have a pool and want that glorious sunshine on the BACK of your home, heating up that pool water – it’s ALLLL about perspective and what’s best can be SUPER subjective to the people living in the home!
South-facing light is definitely not as predictable as north-facing light but is WAY easier to work with than east or west-facing homes (which can be real buggers).
(no before pic, this was new construction)
So, there you are, basking in the glory of your south-facing light…
And THEN it happens…clouds.
The above home belongs to an E-Design client of mine, House of Blue Hues – Jenn is CRAZY talented!
The difference is subtle, but notice in the FIRST photo…
- The siding looks a bit warmer than the bottom photo
- The shutters look a wink greener (that’s the undertone) compared to the more greige/taupe in the bottom photo
- The trim looks a bit less white and a bit creamier than the bottom photo
Read more: The 9 Best Benjamin Moore Gray Paint Colours
Let’s do that again. Sunny day in the late summer…
Cloudy day (in early Spring)…
This is our home, which I’ll be doing a blog post on soon!
SERIOUSLY, this is why I write these blog posts and
why I don’t sleep at nite – paint colours are CRAZY and the more info you’re armed with going in, the better chances you have of picking the best colours for your home!
SO, HOW DOES SOUTH-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A HOME?
A home with southern exposure will change throughout the year as the seasons change. Now, I’m a Colour Consultant, not a meteorologist, so I’m not getting into the nitty-gritty of that, but I can tell you a few things…
- At noon, paint colours will appear the MOST washed-out as the sun is at it’s brightest/whitest. So, if you sample your paint at NOON and no other time, you might be surprised at how much colour shows up in the morning and afternoon once you’ve slapped that paint on your home! You HAVE to look at your samples at all times of the day – says me
- In the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, you’ll hit the magic spot of southern light where it’s bright and warm
- You can FULLY expect south-facing light to make paint colours look lighter than you’d expect – even two to three tones lighter is not unexpected!
- South-facing light can enhance colours slightly
- If you choose a colour with blue in it, when mixed with the yellow of the southern light, it can sometimes lean a wink green, depending on the type of blue you pick
- You can also get some green if your light is filtering through trees with a lot of greenery on them
- With south-facing light being brighter, you’ll want to pay attention to the LRV that you choose, so that your house doesn’t look too washed-out. READ MORE HERE
Paint Colours on a Home with East-Facing Light (Eastern Exposure)
East and west-facing exposures are the redheaded step-children to north and south-facing homes. They’re unpredictable and UNDENIABLY the trickiest lights to pick paint colours for.
East-facing light will be brighter in the morning. Not necessarily WARM, but not cold – it’s more of a soft clean light that can sometimes wash colours out a wink.
And then BOOM, the light’s gone, and just like magic, your home is a different colour! In this case below, it really IS different…because it’s the AFTER photo, but regardless, any colour will look quite different from morning to afternoon.
This home has a slightly mixed exposure as you can see some dappled sunlight
And here’s the BACK of the same home, totally shaded…
See the full blog post of this project HERE
SO, HOW DOES EAST-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A HOME?
- East-facing morning light is bright and will make paint colours look MUCH lighter than they will in the afternoon
- An east-facing afternoon will look an AWFUL lot like a north-facing one in that it gets NO sunshine and no shadows. It’s also similar to a west-facing morning light – flatter than a pancake
- In the afternoon, east-facing homes can look more shaded – more like they do on the north-facing side (or western morning)
- With east-facing light being tricky, you’ll want to pay attention to the LRV that you choose. This way, you can land on an LRV that doesn’t wash-out too much in the morning, but also doesn’t look too heavy in the afternoon. READ MORE HERE
Read more: Sherwin Williams 10 Best Gray and Greige Paint Colours
Paint Colours on a Home with West-Facing Light (Western Exposure)
Just like east-facing light, west-facing light is a tough one to pick paint colours for.
West-facing light will be flat and gray in the morning – no shadows and acting more like northern light. A west-facing afternoon will be GLORIOUS and warm? Did I say warm? Oh, I meant HOT FRIGGIN’ TAMALES!
This next home is a good example of what looks like western afternoon light, along with some shade from trees. You can actually see the blotches on the home where the western light hits (this is the before image)…
After, same filtered western afternoon light…
And look at the detached garage and how dark it looks, getting NONE of that warm afternoon sunshine…
SO, HOW DOES WEST-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A HOME?
- Western morning light is flat and drab and will make colours look that bit flat as well – a bit more like a northern light or east-facing afternoon light
- West-facing afternoon light will cast an almost orangey-golden glow in those later hours
- West-facing afternoon light will LIGHTEN and BRIGHTEN colours, so be prepared to see your house look like a different colour – same IDEA, but a good two tones lighter and MUCH warmer looking as well
- If your western light filters through green trees, a gray home or white home could pick up some of this more so than other colours
- Western light will cast SUPER long shadows on your home
- With west-facing light being so unpredictable, you’ll want to pay attention to the LRV that you choose. This way, you can land on an LRV that doesn’t look too drab in the morning, but also doesn’t look too washed-out in the brighter afternoon light. READ MORE HERE
These are before photos of a client’s home (I don’t have the after photos yet), but they’ll show you how DRASTICALLY light can change from morning to afternoon!
SERIOUSLY, you’d hardly think it was the same house…
And btw, HUGE thanks to my Colour Consulting clients who send in their AFTER photos, you make my colourful lil’ world go round! Well, you and wine.
This also means that sometimes the photos aren’t 100% magazine ready, but that’s okay, because this is the REAL world, and sometimes we need to see real homes in action. As long as it shows the IDEA that I want to get across, I’m cool.
Check out my Online Paint Colour Consulting!
5 Steps to Picking an Exterior Paint Colour for Your Home
4 Things to Consider BEFORE Picking an Exterior Paint Colour
The Best Paint Colours for Your Front Door
Wow, it’s amazing how the paint colors look in different sun exposure. What about if your house faces north west?! Front of the house is shaded until about 3 o’clock but then we have two big trees in the front yard that keeps 1/4 of the house shaded while the rest has sunshine on it.
Do you know what color is on the exterior of the light gray house in the second photo? I’m wanting to paint my West facing house a light warmish gray. It seems the warm grays all look brown in that light though. I was thinking Stonington but it does look very light in afternoon. So then I thought it would be better to go with something darker, Coventry or Gray Huskie. But then it looks darker than I like in the morning. What would be the best with that light?
Thanks for this post! It’s great to see some info on exterior paint options and the impact light has. I am wanting /needing to repaint our exterior trim after painting our house exterior in SW Peppercorn and SW Grey Matters. Would you recommend SW Extra White or SW Pure White for the trim? Thanks for all the great info. Watching your YouTube videos and reading your blog is my new hobby!
Hi Elizabeth, With those 2 I would lean a bit more into SW Extra White :).
My husband and I are remodeling a 1956 ranch style house for our retirement. Our little 1400 sq.ft. house is facing West. We have a very light gray metal roof and hideous faded blue hardy board siding.
We want to paint it SW Alabaster on body and trim and have a cedar color front door and window box. We will eventually (when our money tree replenishes) have cedar trimmed porch added.
Should we reconsider our choice of paint? Or will Alabaster hold up in the changing west sunlight?
What color is the grey in the western facing house with the wood garage doors?
Hi Mal, I’m pretty sure you’re referring to the exterior with Sherwin William Gauntlet Gray 🙂
Hi Kylie, do you have any general color or LRV recommendations for an East facing house with no shade? Thank you for letting me pick your brain!
I mean the second and third photos on this list… Is the colour I’m seeking. Thanks!
You bet, that’s actually Hardi Light Mist, HOWEVER, it’s VERY SIMILAR to Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray 🙂 Remember, the sun hitting the house washes it out A LOT, whereas it does have a bit more depth to it in normal, average light.
I love the blue color of your home with the accented garage doors. Would you mind sharing your color scheme? Thank you so much.
Hi Stephanie, that’s Sherwin Williams Roycroft Pewter, BEnjamin Moore White Dove trim, and BEnjamin Moore Midnight Oil on the garage doors (I believe we lightened it by 25% 🙂