WHICH PAINT COLORS SUIT EASTERN EXPOSURE?
I’ve received MANY questions from readers wondering which paint colors were best for their east and west-facing rooms. The main comment was, ‘There seems to be a lot of info out there for north and south-facing rooms, but nothing for east and west-facing rooms!’
Do you want to know why? Because they are a total and complete bugger. I curse them and throw a quarter in the jar every time (the jar is now full).
So, I have strapped on my big girl undies and pulled ALL of my thoughts together for you (scary), combined them with my 17 years of color experience, and finally made some sense of it all. However, it’s a lot of info, so today, we’re focusing on EAST-facing rooms only (west will come later on a broomstick).
EAST-FACING LIGHT & PAINT COLORS
When discussing the best paint colors for north and south-facing rooms, it’s easy to peg down some good color options as the light is more predictable throughout the day. However, with east-facing rooms having split personalities, it isn’t so clear-cut, and there IS no exact recipe.
Rooms with an east-facing morning light get a gentle, slightly clean dose of warm sunshine in the early morning (but not the same as the more intense golden warmth you’ll get in a west-facing afternoon), but as the sun rises, you’ll also notice a lot of shadows.
As we move towards noon, the light will slowly get brighter and whiter, and the chances of being judged for day drinking (which you may be doing shortly) will be greatly reduced. This bright light can start to wash out colors and lighten their appearance.
For example, in the above photo, check out the walls facing you; they’re a bit shadowed, but the paint color on the wall with the TP holder is completely washed out as it’s getting a direct hit of Eastern light.
In the afternoon, an east-facing room will look progressively grayer and flatter with fewer shadows (the room is slightly shadowed). I can hear the crickets chirping now- oh wait, that’s my phone with a message – which I’ll never check.
Notice how the same paint color (Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White) changes on each wall
WARM PAINT COLORS: MORNING
Warm paint colors can be slightly enhanced in eastern morning light without picking up a glow, but they can also glow in the west-facing afternoon sun. If you choose colors with a wink more ‘color’ and less gray, you may find that the increased color helps fight the shaded look of the afternoon light while still looking beautiful in the morning hours.
WARM COLORS INCLUDE SHADES OF YELLOW, ORANGE, RED, RUST
WARM PAINT COLORS: AFTERNOON
Warm colors can help balance the more shaded, slightly dull look of east-facing afternoon light. The more neutral the colors, the more dirty they can look, so choose wisely. If you choose a cool color with a bit more ‘color’ and less gray, you may find it holds better in the afternoon.
COOL PAINT COLORS: MORNING
If you paint your east-facing room a cool shade, it could feel refreshing and clean. A cool shade will not look much warmer than normal, nor will it look any colder in this morning light.
- You might find that blues with a green touch feel a bit softer and more inviting.
- Green-yellow, more so than green blues, can offer a soft warmth to an eastern room. However, ensure they’re not too neutral, or they could look murky in the afternoon.
- Purples that lean slightly to the pink side (taupe) rather than the blue (cool) side can help balance things off a bit if you’re worried about the gray afternoon light
COOL COLORS INCLUDE SHADES OF BLUE, GREEN, VIOLET
COOL PAINT COLORS: AFTERNOON
Cooler shades can look more subdued and grayed out and come across as even cooler-toned and flatter than normal. If you go for cool paint colors or gray neutrals, you may want to add warm accents and texture to your room for balance and visual warmth.
Don’t expect a paint color to save you and your room – help it out by giving it LIGHT!
NEUTRAL PAINT COLORS: MORNING
Cool neutrals with cool undertones will be welcoming in the morning, as the natural light won’t cast an icy cold or gray light on them. Warm neutrals with warm undertones will do what they do and be as warm as usual.
ALL of the above will start looking washed out as you get closer to noon, especially if you get good sunlight on your walls.
NEUTRAL PAINT COLORS INCLUDE GRAY, GREIGE, TAUPE, CREAM, WHITE, BROWN
NEUTRAL PAINT COLORS: AFTERNOON
Neutral paint colors can be challenging in eastern afternoon light, so your interior lighting is SO important. Many neutrals look dingy, dirty, and dull in a room with eastern afternoon light. Again, this isn’t to say NOT to choose a neutral, but you might consider one with a bit more color/undertone AND improve your interior lighting.
I’ve found that my clients can often live with paint colors that make a room feel a bit too warm vs. paint colors that make a room feel a bit too cold, something to consider if you use your east-facing room in the afternoon.
EAST-FACING ROOMS & GRAY
Not everyone wants color, and most of my Online Paint Color Consulting clients want neutrals on their walls – regardless of their exposures. Which brings me to another question that I’m often asked…
‘Do I HAVE to paint my east or west-facing room a color? Can’t I paint it gray, beige, or gray?’
Of course, you can; you can do whatever the heck ya want! Just keep in mind the more neutral your paint colour is (the less ‘color’ it has in it and the more beige-gray it looks), the drabber it might look at the ‘shaded’ time of day.
- I recommend looking for neutrals that have at least a WEEEE willy wink (super technical term) of noticeable color/undertone in them to offset those shadows a bit.
- Consider neutrals with LRVs above 60. Especially as it relates to warm gray, greige, and taupe, the darker they are, the muddier they can look in Eastern light (especially low light).
- You’ll also want to ensure that your interior lighting conditions help balance the lack of COLOR on your walls.
STEP 1: IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING
I know, this is a TON of info – it’s like verbal diarrhea on my end, so I can’t imagine how it’s being received on yours. So, you can take that all into consideration OR take a deep breath, totally ignore me (Tim has an uncanny knack for this), and start sampling paint colors.
But before you do that, take a quick second to answer these two questions…
- Do I use my room more in the morning or the afternoon?
- Am I more comfortable in warmer colors or cooler colors?
If you can’t find a color you love at BOTH times of day and can’t adjust your interior lighting (I bet you can), decide whether you naturally lean toward warm or cool colors (and decide which temperature your room best suits). Then, choose the color you like the most during the time of day you’re in the room.
Does this mean you completely ignore the other half of the day?
No, you just don’t give it priority. And while you may LOVE a color in the morning light, but not the afternoon, as long as it’s ‘okay’ and doesn’t go against your religious beliefs, it might just be a good choice.
‘But what if I’m in the room in the morning AND the afternoon?’
Well, then we move on to STEP 2.
STEP 2: LIGHTING IS YOUR FRIEND
For the time of day when your room is at its darkest and most shaded (which is the afternoon for eastern rooms), use interior lighting as a supplement. This can put an ENTIRELY new face on your paint color and make it more liveable during the shaded hours. Taking the time to improve the lighting in your room will make ALL of the difference in the world as it relates to your paint colors.
In this next photo, look at how much the different light bulbs change the look of the paint color (Sherwin Williams Shoji White)…
While they say that ‘daylight’ bulbs best mimic natural daylight, I find that they only mimic sunlight at its peak – so at its whitest, this isn’t always a ‘liveable light’ compared to what we’re used to with our old-school bulbs. I would opt for a slightly warmer light (lower Kelvins) over a daylight bulb in a shaded space.
So, what is a girl (or guy) to do now? DRINK UP BUTTERCUP! That’s right, you might need to call in the reinforcements (Mr. Pinot and Ms. Merlot) when choosing the best paint color for your east-facing room. So, grab that sippy cup, and let’s get started.
This is where the fun starts!
WARM PAINT COLORS FOR EAST-FACING ROOMS
When choosing a color for an east-facing room, you might also be considering a secondary exposure. The combos can be north-east, south-east, and east-west. I do have a blog post geared towards rooms with TWO EXPOSURES, however, the following colors are still worth considering, especially if the eastern light comes from the largest window.
Remember, you might not find a color you love at ALL times of the day, which is why your interior lighting plan is so important! Be patient with your paint color; it’s likely doing its best, given the drastic shift in natural light!
I mention afternoon light a LOT in the comments below. This is because it’s harder to accommodate, whereas east-facing morning light is much more flexible!
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CASA BLANCA SW 7571
Casa Blanca is a slightly brighter shade of cream (compared to Gentle Cream). It offers a gentle, slightly cheerful warmth to an east-facing room, making it a beautiful color to wake up to and a warm and inviting one in the afternoon light.
2. BENJAMIN MOORE CLOUD WHITE OC-130
Cloud White is a white paint color with a creamy backdrop. With this bit of yellow, Cloud White has the warmth to stand up to a flat eastern afternoon while looking soft and subtle in the morning hours.
If you’re considering white for your east-facing rooms, focus on warm whites (yellow undertones) and ones that are perhaps a bit BRIGHTER than the softer, creamier end.
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS NATURAL LINEN
Natural Linen is a light shade of beige. Like ANY color, it will lose some of its luster in the afternoon light, however, it’s still a beautiful, muted, warm neutral. If you want warmth on your walls without too much gold, Natural Linen can be a great fit.
Remember, this is the WARM color section – keep reading to get to the COOL colors!
If you like the look of Natural LInen but want a lighter shade, here are a few to explore…
4. BENJAMIN MOORE MUSLIN
Muslin is similar to Natural Linen but has more undertone (orange). So, if you find that Natural Linen is a bit flat for your space, Muslin offers a similar degree of warmth with just a bit more backbone to stand up to those gray hours.
Look at the difference from the left wall to the right – all thanks to natural light!
5. BENJAMIN MOORE NATURAL WICKER OC-1
I LOVE Natural Wicker for an east-facing room. Some homeowners love a heavy cream but get nervous about too much yellow. The great thing about Natural Wicker is that it’s a REAL cream-beige hybrid. Compared to Gentle Cream, you’ll see it has a similar yellow-orange blend, but Natural Wicker has a bit more gray, calming it down. Add a bit of warm interior lighting, and you’ve got one gorgeous east-facing room!
If the above colors are still too flat and lifeless in your afternoon eastern sun, I’ve got a few more for you to explore. Remember, you can’t change the fact that colors WILL fall more flat in the afternoon. If you want to avoid that, you need to choose a color with a LOT of life and color to it – it will still fall flat in the afternoon, but the more COLOR it has, the better it will hold up.
Just remember, it has to suit your interior finishes, AND you have to live with it at ALL hours of the day!
Alternatively, choose a color you and your room love and improve your interior lighting (I know, I’m like a broken record). If you don’t have enough lighting, Amazon sells battery-operated wall-mount sconces!
6. SHERWIN WILLIAMS KILIM BEIGE SWW 6141
Kilim Beige has a lot more meat on its bones than the more modern beige world. With an LRV of 57, Kilim Beige is darker than Natural Linen and Muslin. While it has the same intention – to be a warm beige, it has more depth and noticeable undertones.
7. BENJAMIN MOORE FERNWOOD GREEN 2145-40
Maybe you want to leave the neutral world entirely and embrace some COLOR in your life! Color is a great way to battle those afternoon Eastern blahs.
Fernwood Green is a charming shade of leafy green. Being a warm green (green-yellow), it will sit strong in the flat afternoon light while not being completely obnoxious in the morning hours.
Sure, I could go wild and crazy and suggest dark shades of green or some beautiful medium-toned blues to you, but these colors are intended to appeal to the masses and the AVERAGE home – not a particular set of personal tastes! I have an awesome Online Paint Color Consulting service if you want something fine-tuned for you and your home.
8. BENJAMIN MOORE TAWNY ROSE 2173-20
For this one, I thought I’d have a little fun! Tawny Rose is a darker, rust, cinnamon-inspired shade with a gorgeous red-orange-brown blend. If you want to warm up your east-facing room and add some personality, a color like Tawny Rose will do the trick.
Benjamin Moore Tawny Rose with Gentle Cream
What’s awesome is that it’s not only a ‘whole room’ paint color but also a great accent wall color. This is a great way to add personality to your room without overwhelming it.
BEFORE WE MOVE TO COOL COLORS…
I want you to check out SAMPLIZE peel-and-stick paint samples.
- Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1 DAY, depending on the location
- They’re more affordable than the sample pots/rollers/foam boards that are needed for traditional paint sampling
- THEY USE THE ACTUAL PAINT FROM EACH BRAND!
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
COOL PAINT COLORS FOR EAST-FACING ROOMS
Again, these colors aren’t limited to east-facing rooms. If you have an east-facing room that’s more northeast or southeast or has a mix of east and west, these colors might work for these spaces, too! If not, check out this: HOW TO CHOOSE PAINT COLORS FOR ROOMS WITH TWO EXPOSURES.
9. SHERWIN WILLIAMS RAINWASHED SW 6211
Rainwashed is a beautiful blue-green-gray blend. In the morning, Rainwashed is a beautiful shade of light blue with a whisper of green and gray. In the afternoon, while it will naturally gray out a bit, the degree of color it has in it (chroma) will still rise above the flatness better than a neutral shade.
In this next image, notice how Rainwashed has less gray and more color than Smoky Green and Comfort Gray…
10. SHERWIN WILLIAMS SEA SALT
If you like the idea of Rainwashed, but it’s a bit colorful for your tastes, check out Sea Salt. Sea Salt is a muted green-gray. And while its roots suggest it might ALWAYS look green-gray, this color ninja is well-known for leaning into blue. However, overall, it has a more toned-down approach compared to Rainwashed.
Sea Salt can look as green as it does in this dining room…
Or as blue as it is in this bathroom…
11. BENJAMIN MOORE WOODLAWN BLUE HC 147
If you’re in the mood for blue, it’s hard to beat the comforting look of Woodlawn Blue. Woodlawn Blue is a light shade of blue with a good gray undertone to calm it down and a bit of green for balance, making it a blue-green paint color.
In this next photo, Woodlawn Blue looks a bit softer and warmer compared to Sherwin Williams Rain. This is thanks to the green in it…
Again, I’d love to show you the wild and wonderful end of color, but that would appeal to the minority. Instead, I’ve selected colors with a BETTER chance of working in the average home. If you want color suggestions personalized to you and your home, check out my ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING – I’d love to help!
12. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CONTENTED
Contented is a light-medium depth shade of green. Warm greens are green-yellow, cool greens are green-blue – Contented is slightly green-blue while still committing wholeheartedly to green. However, it does have some gray to calm it down, leaving you with a softened, more muted approach to a light evergreen color. Remember, it will lose a bit of its glory in the afternoon eastern sun, so get those interior lights going!
Get your PEEL & STICK SAMPLE OF CONTENTED
13. SHERWIN WILLIAMS MOODY BLUE SW 6221
I want to show you the more FUN end of cool colors, as we did with Tawny Rose in the warm section. I am a BIG fan of Moody Blue. It’s a medium-toned mix of blue-green with a touch of gray to calm it down. It adds richness and warmth to a room just via its depth.
And it’s not just for accent walls. At this saturation, you can cover an entire room in Moody Blue’s glorious blue-green hue!
You might look at the above suggestions and think, ‘Hmmm, where are all the grays?‘ HERE THEY ARE! But first (that’s a BIG but – a Kardashian-sized one), let’s have a little chat.
GRAY, GREIGE & TAUPE COLORS FOR EAST-FACING ROOMS
If you want to paint your east-facing room gray, greige, or taupe, I won’t stop you…but I’m sure as heck gonna try!
While some shades of warm or stormy gray are okay in the morning, many will look dirty, dull, and uninspiring in the afternoon. Cool grays often fare better, as they don’t have brown in them (brown is what makes a color dirty), and their undertones can pop a bit more. However, the average home doesn’t suit many cool grays (in the lighter range), as many popular finishes need at least a little (or a lot) more warmth.
As for greige and taupe, it’s not that they can’t look lovely…in the morning. But these same gorgeous shades can look muddy and drab in the afternoon.
HOWEVER, much of this can be solved with lighting. Neutrals like these might still look a wee bit flat or dirty in the afternoon, but they’ll improve somewhat with quality light.
- If your eastern windows are LARGE and you don’t have landscaping or an overhang blocking them, you can probably get away with a gray, greige, or taupe.
- If your windows are small, but you compensate for this lack of natural light with GOOD interior lighting conditions, these colors can work.
Just don’t expect a paint color to save your room all on its own.
So, if you’re not scared off, let’s look at some neutrals worth exploring.
14. SHERWIN WILLIAMS ON THE ROCKS
On the Rocks is a gray that hovers between the warm and cool gray worlds. Warmer grays have a bit more brown, which CAN get flat/dingy in afternoon light. Cool grays don’t suit as many interior finishes. And sometimes, On the Rocks settles RIGHT in the middle!
This next photo is as warm as On the Rocks EVER looks…
This room gets great light from the window and skylight
Cool grays don’t look as dirty, but they can look DARN COLD! The great thing about On the Rocks is that it doesn’t commit hard either way and can be easily supplemented with warm interior lighting and thoughtful accents.
It’s definitely moody in a lower-light space!
15. BENJAMIN MOORE CLASSIC GRAY
Classic Gray is a gentle, off-white, warm shade of gray (also perceived as taupe). A warm gray like this can look flat in a room without enough light, but its gentle softness can help offset any dull light in a reasonably well-lit room.
Will Classic Gray look dingy or dirty?
It can. Any warm shade of gray, greige, or taupe can look dirty in certain lights – it’s the nature of the beast, as these types of neutrals have brown in them! It comes down to a) whether your room SUITS dirty colors (many/most do) and b) whether it’s a color you love, regardless of whether it’s dirty or not. Personally, I LOVE dirty colors!
16. SHERWIN WILLIAMS ANCIENT MARBLE SW 6162
Ancient Marble is an interesting approach to green and greige. Some of us love a good shade of greige but struggle to find the right fit in our eastern room. However, we might not be ready to dive head-first into the GREEN world. This is where a color like Ancient Marble comes in. Whereas some more neutral shades of greige can fall flat in afternoon eastern light, a greige with a LOT of green has a better chance of standing strong in this muted light.
Ancient Marble is more green than greige, but it’s toned down to the point that it’s an earth-toned paint color and a soft, organic look for an east-facing room.
17. BENJAMIN MOORE BALBOA MIST
Balboa Mist is similar to Classic Gray but has a bit more depth and more UNDERTONE. And while they’re both warm grays, Classic Gray can look taupe at times, whereas Balboa Mist is pretty committed to being a warm shade of gray.
The undertones in Balboa Mist are violet-pink. If you don’t love these undertones, you might want to be careful, as while they’re subtle…they ain’t THAT subtle. However, you might be surprised to know that MANY interior finishes – ones you might be having difficulty coordinating with – suit these types of undertones!
18. SHERWIN WILLIAMS GOSSAMER VEIL
I do recommend this one LIGHTLY. Well, truth be told, I recommend ALL the grays, greiges, and taupes lightly. Again, in the afternoon light, they do lose some luster, especially warm grays and greiges with green undertones.
You’ll also want to be careful with your Kelvins as SUPER low Kelvin light bulbs could have a gray-green look that’s a touch murky at times. Now, murky isn’t always a bad thing, depending on your tastes. A color like this can give you a muted, warm, slightly organic vibe – it depends on your style!
COORDINATING WITH INTERIOR FINISHES
Oh, you don’t get off that easy – there’s a whole ‘NOTHER side to choosing the best color for your room – your interior finishings.
The interior of your room adds a whole DIFFERENT set of rules, but there is only SO much I can do with a blog post! If you don’t know which paint color is best for your exposure, countertops, flooring, furniture, personal tastes, etc… you might want to check out my E-Design.
E-Design and Online Color Consulting – 10,000+ happy clients can’t be wrong!
Written in 2017, updated in 2023