Western Exposure – How to Pick the Best Paint Colours for Your Room
JUST when you’ve finally picked your FAVOURITE paint colour, you’re EXCITED and ready to run to the paint store – the sun moves (wel, technically the earth moves, but let’s not get into those little details). Oh, the glory of exposure.
However, exposure is one of the most IMPORTANT considerations when picking a paint colour. Not only do you need to consider the size of your room, your countertop, flooring, furnishings, and the colour of your underwear, you ALSO need to figure out how the sun (or lack thereof) can affect your paint colour.
And btw, the beginning of this blog post is INFO HEAVY. There’s no use looking at pretty colours if you don’t UNDERSTAND your room and it’s needs – so humour me on this lil’ journey (in other words, break out the box o’ wine, we’re in this for the long haul).
West facing light and how it can affect paint colours
Morning (until noon)
In the wee morning hours, west-facing rooms are the last ones to get those sunny rays, meaning they can look a little grayed-out and shaded.
Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream – this room is south-west, the left wall has the morning western exposure.
And remember, there is a difference between shadowed and shady. Shadowed is what you get when the sun is shining in, cutting the light and creating sharper edges. Shady is when you pour me a 6oz instead of a 9oz. Oh, and when a room is a little bit more gray-toned and subdued because there isn’t a lot of light coming in.
At noon, the sun is at its peak and its brightest/whitest. This light tends to wash-out colours the most. It’s also where there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel (pun intended) for west-facing rooms as those sun rays start tickling their edges.
As the sun starts going down (Elton John style) it starts warming up a west-facing room – adding light and a warm, bright, golden glow. This is similar to what you get in south-facing rooms.
This is the same wall space as the first photo. See how the afternoon light warms it up and brings it to life compared to the morning shot?
The sun is at it’s most red/warm in the late afternoon and casts the warmest light on a west-facing room. Not that your walls will be tinted pink (well in a glorious sunset they might be) but in general, it just casts a significantly warmer (think golden type of warm) light on a room.
When the Sun Goes Down
It’s dark. Nuff said.
That covers the basics. Now you need to know what to DO with that information, so let’s get into the guts n’ the glory.
Step 1: It’s all in the timing
(some of this is copied and pasted from east-facing rooms – I can only be so sharp and witty you know)
Before you even LOOK at paint colours, you need to determine how much time you spend in this room…
a) in the morning or
b) in the afternoon
If you use your west-facing room mostly in the morning
For you morning dwellers, you may want to choose colours that are warmer-toned. These colours might be similar to what you’d look at for a north-facing room, as they can help balance out that flatter, grayer morning light.
Pro: Warm paint colours can help to balance the shaded look of the room.
Con: When the room DOES have the sun shinin’ it will look warmer (somewhat like an oven – not to be confused with a Dutch oven which is what I first typed out). Now I wouldn’t say this is a CON necessarily as it depends on what your personal preferences are – if you love warm colours then you’re GOLDEN (literally). Also, if you simply don’t use this room at the ‘golden hours’ it might not be an issue for you.
- Warm colours that have a touch of green in them, can look slightly less warm than those without. The green offers a tiny bit of cool balance (but I find that a lot of people are sensitive to warm colours with green undertones – some of them can look a bit fugly under artificial lighting)
- Rich warm colours become GLORIOUS in the later afternoon light – as long as you’re comfortable in those warm tones. If you live in a really warm part of the world, this could be overwhelming as not only is the AIR warm, but so are the visuals of the room. On the other hand, if you live in areas that get a lil’ chilly (hellooooo Alaska!), you might appreciate the inviting warmth of a more saturated, rich, warm paint colour
- You can also look at cool colours if they have a bit more ‘colour’ to them and less gray in them. The increased colour can help balance out the gray light in the morning hours
If you use your west-facing room mostly in the afternoon
In the morning hours, you might have a more shaded, muted room, however in the afternoon, HALLELUJAH, LET THE SUN SHINE IN! That’s right – seeing as I’ve been TOLD that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, mid-afternoon and early evening is a good time of day to be in a west-facing room.
You may want to use colours that a) are cooler toned (think blue/green/purple) and b) you can explore cool colours that are both a bit more colourful AND a touch more shaded (have a bit of gray in them).
These colours might be similar to what you’d look at if you had a north-facing room.
Pro: Cool paint colours can help to balance off the warm afternoon light in a west-facing room.
Con: Cool colours, particularly ones with more gray in them, can fall a bit flat in the morning and the room may not feel as inviting (meaning it can look more chilly). However, if you don’t use this room at that time of day then it may not matter as much to you.
- When that warm sunlight hits your room in the afternoon, it can enhance warm colours and this can be a bit too toasty for some folks – particularly those who live in warmer climates. Cool colours help to balance off that warm golden light
- And of course, you can choose a warm colour, you might just want to choose a warm colour that has a bit of an earthy base so that it doesn’t get overwhelmingly warm with those sunshiney rays coming in.
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 colour in the morning light, but not the afternoon, as long as it’s ‘okay’ and doesn’t look completely bugly, then it might just be a good choice – sometimes you can’t satisfy every single aspect with one magical colour.
‘But Kylie, 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 that time of day when your room is at its darkest/most shaded, use interior lighting to supplement. This can put an ENTIRELY new face on your paint colour. So, if you live in a room all day long, turn a few lights on in the shaded hours and see how your paint sample looks, as again, sometimes there isn’t one colour to suit ALL purposes.
While they say that ‘daylight’ bulbs best mimic natural daylight, I find they really only mimic the sunlight at its peak (whitest). This isn’t always a ‘liveable light’ for what we’re used to with our old-school bulbs. I would opt for a warm bulb over a daylight bulb in a shaded space.
In the afternoon, it’s about light control via window coverings. Consider light filtering blinds (ie: cellular blinds) or drapes that allow light through, while cutting back on the intensity of it.
WE’RE ALMOST AT THE COLOURS! BUT FIRST (sip sip)…
When I’ve talked about the best paint colours for north and south-facing rooms, it’s easier to peg down good colour options as the light is more predictable throughout the day. However, with west-facing rooms having a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde complex, it isn’t as clear-cut and there IS no exact recipe. HOWEVER, I’ve come up with some pretty ideas.
And I know that is a TON of info – eight hours of specific research, three bottles of wine (and 17+ years of experience) on my end – it’s a lot to take in (wine included). So, you can take that all into consideration OR take a deep breath, totally ignore me (Tim has an uncanny knack for this) and just read the summary of things below, along with the best paint colour options…
Taking the info supplied above, decide the following:
- Do you use my room more in the morning or in the afternoon? Or do you use it at ALL hours of the day?
- Do you prefer warm colour options or cool colour options?
Warm Paint Colour Ideas for West Facing Rooms
A few notes on these colour ideas…
- They’re good for west-facing rooms that are used in the morning as they’ll add some warmth to the more gray/flat light coming in the windows
- West-facing rooms that also have north-facing windows will benefit from the warmth of these colours. And while the north-facing light will further enhance the gray morning light, it will also help to soften the warm afternoon light
- If you have south-western light, most of these colours will hold up in the afternoon, but be aware – they’ll ONLY look warmer!
1. Sherwin Williams Classic Ivory SW-0051
Classic Ivory is a nice warm creamy yellow with a subtle neutral base. It will come to LIFE in the afternoon and help to balance off the more muted morning/gray light. Make sure you’re okay with yellow warmth before you commit to this one!
2. Benjamin Moore Navajo White OC-95
Navajo White has been a LONG time fave of mine. Its soft creamy look has just enough warmth to liven up those flat mornings, but not so much that you get overheated afternoons. Read more: The 5 Best Cream Paint Colours
3. Benjamin Moore Light Khaki 2148-40
Light Khaki is a light-medium neutral that is a mix of a creamy beige with a warm green undertone.
4. Sherwin Williams Lemongrass SW-7732
Lemongrass is a beautiful green with a warm slant and an earthy base.
5. Sherwin Williams Macadamia SW 6142
Macadamia is a fabulous beige with a warm undertone that centers around orange, but can flex mildly accommodate yellow as well. This will, of course, be brought out in the afternoon light! You might see it fall a WINK flat in the morning, because it does have a neutral base, but interior lighting can go a LONG way to lifting it up! Read more: The Best Beige Paint Colours
6. Benjamin Moore Wilmington Tan HC-34
Wilmington Tan is a golden colour that in the morning, will look a bit more beige-gold, but will come to golden life in the afternoon!
Read more: The 5 Best Cream Paint Colours
Cool Paint Colour Ideas for West Facing Rooms
A few notes on these colour ideas…
- West-facing rooms that are used mostly in the afternoon will really suit these cooler tones (as long as you LIKE cool colours!). The coolness will help to balance off some of those warm rays. Just pay attention to blue tones as some of them can mix with the warm (yellowish) rays coming in and cast a vague green tint on the walls!
- If you have west-facing rooms that also have south-facing windows. These rooms will be CONSIDERABLY warmer in the afternoon and again, these cool colours can help to balance that light
- In the morning, they COULD feel a little chilly-willy and flat, in which case, adding a bit more ‘colour’ vs more ‘gray’, is a great way to bring things back to life
7. Sherwin Williams Silver Strand SW-7057
Silver Strand is a subtle approach to colour. It’s a blue-green-gray blend, but its HEAVY on the gray and more subtle on the blue-green, while still leaving some decent colour on the table (er, walls). It will look that bit flatter on the morning light but will balance the afternoon light out while keeping a more passive look. Read more: The Best Blue Green Blend Paint Colours
8. Benjamin Moore Woodlawn Blue HC-147
Woodlawn Blue is touch-and-go as it might fall a bit cool in the morning, but MAN is it pretty. It’s a blue with a passive gray in it and a touch of green to soften it up. It’s the green that saves it for me!
9. Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue HC-144
10. Benjamin Moore Abalone 2108-60
I’m not going to lie and say that Abalone will be GLORIOUS in the morning hours, you’ll need a bit of interior lighting to help you along, however, with its blend of gray with a passive warm purple, it’s just beautiful in the afternoon. BM Portland Gray is also beautiful but a bit more of a commitment to purple. Read more: The Best Purple Paint Colours
11. Benjamin Moore Fernwood Green 2145-40
Fernwood Green is a super cool lighter green (with a touch of warmth) and a nice life to it. Not too colourful, but it’s definitely not resting too hard on its slightly neutral base. I also love SW Liveable Green, although its a wink cooler. Read more: The Best Green Paint Colours
Benjamin Moore Woodlawn Blue
Read more: The 8 Best Blue-Green Paint Colours
Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages!
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
The Best Neutral Paint Colours With Decent Undertones
Not everyone wants colour, in fact, MOST of my e-design clients are wanting gray, beige and greige on their walls, which brings me to another question I’m often asked…
‘Do I have to paint my west-facing room a colour – can I paint it gray, beige or greige?’
Abso-tootly! However, keep in mind, the more neutral it is (the less colour it has and the more beige-gray it looks) the more flat and drab it might seem in those morning hours.
Look for neutrals that have at least a wee nugget of colour in them to off-set those shadows a bit! You’ll also want to make sure that your interior lighting is sufficient to help colours come to life.
12. Benjamin Moore Indian White OC-88
Indian White is a soft, creamy neutral with a subtle beige base so that it isn’t overly yellow. It’s quite similar to Navajo White which was mentioned previously. Read more: The Best Cream Paint Colours
13. Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream OC_96
I’ve been using Gentle Cream for MANY years in my own homes with a variety of exposures. This heavy cream is a great way to add warmth to a room without going into the darker golden-beige end of things. Read more: Paint Colour Review of Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream
14. Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC-170
Stonington Gray is a lovely cool gray with a very slightly stormy blue undertone (colour review HERE). While it will lie flatter in the morning, it will provide some nice balance in the afternoon light. It could even pick up a tiny wink of green when the blue undertone hits the yellow sun rays, but it would be subtle. Read more: Paint Colour Review of Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
15. Benjamin Moore Sandy White 2148-50
Sandy White is a light creamy beige tone with a really neat, vague green undertone that adds interest if you’re looking for something a bit beyond beige.
16. Sherwin Williams Gray Screen SW 7071
Gray Screen is a beautiful, gentle, light gray with a decent flexible blue undertone (meaning it can flash slightly blue-green or blue-purple). Remember, it WILL be chilly in the morning (too cold for this gal) but could balance that afternoon light out nicely. Read more: Gray Paint Colours: the 3 Undertones You Have to Consider
17. Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan SW 7531
18. Sherwin Williams Knitting Needles SW 7672
Knitting Needles is a gray with a vague stormy purple undertone. Again, cool in the morning, but still ‘pretty’ and will offer some balance to the warm afternoon sun.
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream
Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan
Do you have a west-east, southwest or northwest facing room?
While it might seem confusing, having dual exposures isn’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‘.
Interior Furnishings and OTHER Considerations
Like I’ve mentioned, it’s not just your exposure that you have to consider (indecent or otherwise), there are MANY more things to consider when picking the best paint colour. If this info doesn’t get you well on your way, check out my e-design, it’s affordable AND fun!
Not sure which paint colour is best for you?
Check out my E-Design and Virtual Colour Consulting Services
KYLIE M INTERIORS E-DESIGN VIRTUAL PAINT COLOUR CONSULTANT & ONLINE SERVICES DIY DECOR BLOG SPECIALIZING IN BENJAMIN MOORE AND SHERWIN WILLIAMS PAINT COLOURS
Originally written in 2017, AWESOMELY updated in 2020