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 picking exterior paint colors 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 regarding 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 sun’s direction. There are ALWAYS exceptions, of course, like unique homes with more modest fronts and impressive backsides (sounds like a description of me). Still, generally speaking, orientation refers to the front of the home, also known as its facade. And if you’re new to my blog – yes, this is how my brain thinks. Not only am I funny (wink wink), but I’m also one darn smart cookie regarding exterior colors.
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…
Paint colors look several tones darker in the shade than they do in direct sunlight.
Same colors, different exposures.
The reality is that SOMETIMES, you can’t make all four 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, 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 in your neighborhood see?
- Which side affects YOU the most (i.e., 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 colors 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 – 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 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.
Looking at this next home, I would bet the FRONT of the home is north-facing, and the side is west-facing.
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 – it hardly looks like the same colour!
Let’s look at a boring beige before of that bad boy, just for fun – also notice the previously unpainted brick…
See the full blog post of this project HERE
Lastly, let’s talk about TREES. Even glorious southern sunshine can be blocked by a well-placed forest. In this case, exposure will play LESS of a part in your painting process as the trees will limit the amount/quality of light you get. However, as the sun breaks through the branches, expect it to pick up a bit of a green hue that can be cast on your home. If every paint color you sample looks slightly green, this could be why (the same goes if you have grass that the sun bounces off of).
So, now that you know the EXPOSURE of the most IMPORTANT side of your home, let’s look at each one more closely…
BTW, I don’t remember the exposure of ALL of these projects; I’m just using the photos for reference.
PAINT COLORS ON A NORTH-FACING HOME
A home with a 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 when choosing exterior house colors.
Let’s look at a good before and after.
Realistically, they could have kept the white paint color on the siding and trim, as it tied into the brick and windows. It was the green shutters that were really dating this home. Regardless, these homeowners were ready for a bigger change…
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 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’ created by the lack of it.
HOW DOES NORTH-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON A HOME’S EXTERIOR?
- The gray north-facing light will subdue earth tones, toning them down slightly compared to how they might look in the southern or western sun.
- Gray northern light often suits gray paint colors with a BIT more ‘colour/undertone’ to counteract some of that gray light. Of course, it also depends on what your brick/stone/roof can handle!
- With north-facing light being that bit heavier, you’ll want to pay attention to your paint color’s LRV so your house doesn’t look TOO dark. READ MORE HERE
- North-facing homes often suit LRVs above 15, although there are exceptions (such as personal tastes…below) depending on mixed exposures and your home’s natural surroundings and landscape.
PAINT COLORS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A SOUTH-FACING HOME
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 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 not as simple 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, and everything looks a little flatter…
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 color palette looks warmer in the direct sunlight than the photo showing a gray, cloudy day. The siding color looks a touch more yellowish.
- The shutters look a wink greener in the sunny photo vs the cloudy one, where they pick up less green and more gray.
- Notice the trim in the sunny photo looks warmer and creamier than the cloudy day trim.
- I LOVE that brick!
Want to see an even BIGGER change? Check out this next exterior on a 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 colors are CRAZY, and the more info you’re armed with going in, the better chances you have of picking the best colors for your home!
HOW DOES SOUTH-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON A HOME’S EXTERIOR?
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 colors will appear the MOST washed-out as the sun is 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 its warmth is at its loveliest.
- You can FULLY expect south-facing light to make paint colors look lighter than expected – even two to three tones lighter is not unexpected!
- South-facing light can enhance colors slightly.
- If you choose a shade of blue (especially gray-blue), when mixed with the yellow of the southern light, it can sometimes grab a green undertone, 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.
- 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
- When choosing the LRV, a great place to start is 50. Of course, this might not work if you want a white or off-white home, but for everyone else, start at 50 and work out from there.
By the way, HUGE thanks to my Online Colour Consulting clients who send in their AFTER photos; you make my colorful little world go round, and give my readers the inspiration to update their own homes!
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.
PAINT COLORS ON THE EXTERIOR OF AN EAST-FACING HOME
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 colors for.
East-facing light will be brighter in the morning. It’s not necessarily WARM, but not cold – it’s more of a soft, clean light that can sometimes wash colors 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
HOW DOES EAST-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON A HOME’S EXTERIOR?
- East-facing morning light is bright and will make paint colors look MUCH lighter than in the afternoon.
- An east-facing afternoon will look an AWFUL lot like a north-facing one in that it gets NO sunshine or warmth but also 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 doesn’t look too heavy in the afternoon. READ MORE HERE
- If I were to find the best LRV for a home with eastern exposure, I might start around 50-60 and adjust from there according to my tastes. Of course, if you want to go darker, have at ‘er, or if you want a white exterior, fill yer boots – this is just for those wanting a place to start.
PAINT COLORS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A WEST-FACING HOME
Just like east-facing light, west-facing light is a tough one to pick paint colors 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!
The facade of this next home is a good example of a slightly cloudy, western afternoon light being filtered by trees. You can see the blotches on the home where the western light has filtered through the trees (this is the before image)…
After, the same filtered western afternoon light, but on a sunny day…
And look at the detached garage and how dark it looks, getting NONE of that warm afternoon sunshine…
HOW DOES WEST-FACING LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLOURS ON THE EXTERIOR OF A HOME?
- Western morning light is flat and drab and will make colors 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 afternoon hours.
- A home with western exposure will LIGHTEN and BRIGHTEN colors, so be prepared to see your house look like a different colour – same IDEA, but a good two tones lighter and MUCH warmer looking.
- If your western light filters through green trees, the color of your home, especially lighter neutrals such as gray, tan, cream, and white, can pick up some of this undertone.
- 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 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 I can’t wait to see the AFTER photos!
Check out my Online Paint Colour Consulting!