Western Exposure – The Best Paint Colours
JUST when you’ve finally picked your FAVOURITE paint colour, you’re EXCITED and ready to run to the paint store – the sun moves (well 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 parts of picking a paint colour. So 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.
West Facing Light and How it Can Affect Paint Colours
Morning (until noon)
In the morning hours, west facing rooms are the last ones to get those sunny rays, meaning they can look a little grayed-out and shady.
Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream – this room is south west, the grayish wall has the western light shining on it
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 it’s peak and is at it’s brightest/whitest. This is the light that tends to wash-out colours the most. This is when there is a bit of a 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 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.
So, 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.
(some of this is copied and pasted from east facing rooms – I can only be so sharp and witty you know)
It’s all in the timing. Before you even LOOK at paint colours, you need to determine how much time you spend in this room…
a) in the morning and
b) in the afternoon
If you spend most of your time in this room in the morning, you will want to pick the colour that you like the BEST in the morning light.
If you spend most of your time in this room in the afternoon, you will want to pick the colour that you like the best in the afternoon light.
Check out this painted maple kitchen remodel
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 is ‘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.
Lighting is your friend. For that time of day when your room is at it’s 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 allll day long, then turn a few lights on in the shaded hours and see how your paint sample looks.
While they say that ‘daylight’ bulbs best mimic the natural daylight, I find that they really only mimic the sunlight at it’s peak – so at it’s 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.
So those are the basics, now let’s talk about colour.
When I’ve talked about the best paint colours for north and south facing rooms, it’s been easy to peg down some good colour options as the light is a bit more predictable throughout the day. However, with west facing rooms having a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde complex, it isn’t so clear-cut and there IS no exact recipe. HOWEVER, there are some pretty good tips that I’ve come up with.
If you use your room the most in the morning
You may want to choose colours that are warmer toned. These colours might be similar to what you’d look at if you had a north facing room.
Pro: Warm paint colours can help to balance the shaded look of the room.
Con: When the room DOES have the sun shinin’ it can feel considerably 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 that 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 feel a bit 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 are comfortable in those warm tones. If you live in a really warm part of the world, this could become overwhelming as not only is the AIR warm, but so is the visual appeal of the room. However, if you live in areas that can get a lil’ chilly, 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 to balance out the gray of the light in the morning hours
If you use your room the most in the afternoon
So in the morning hours, you might have a more shaded, muted room however in the afterrnoon, 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 more cool 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 starts streaming in, 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.
Now I know that’s a TON of info – 7 hours of research and work on my end, so I know it’s a lot to take in. So, you can take that all into consideration OR take a deep breath, totally ignore me (Tim has a uncanny knack for this) and just read the summary of things below, along with the best paint colour options…
Taking the info supplied above you’ll decide the following:
- Do I use my room more in the morning or the afternoon?
- Do I prefer warm colour options or cool colour options?
Now really, the colours for west facing rooms don’t differ THAT much from east facing rooms. The quality of light in an east facing room in the afternoon is similar to that of the west facing room in the morning. They both have a subdued, grayed-out look that is maybe a bit flat looking.
However, while they each get a good dose of sunshine for a chunk of the day, the eastern morning light is bright and soft but not overly HOT, while the western afternoon light is bright and hotsy totsy – particularly as the afternoon moves along. That warm light streaming in can really jack up a warm paint colour, enhancing it even more while cool colours can add a touch of balance to the warm rays.
So, you can certainly check out the paint colour options for an east facing room as many of them could work and you can ALSO explore these!
Warm Paint Colour Ideas for West Facing Rooms
(Including north west facing rooms)
These colours are ‘reasonably’ flexible and are best for the following:
- West facing rooms that are used the most in the morning as it will add some warmth to the more gray/flat light coming in the windows
- West facing rooms that also have some north facing windows. The north facing light will further enhance the gray morning light and will cut back slightly on the warm light in the afternoon
- Rooms that you use at ALL times of day OR if you can’t STAND cool colours, noting that the warm afternoon light will enhance a warm paint colour
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.
Benjamin Moore Light Khaki 2148-40
Light Khaki is a light/medium that is a mix of a creamy beige with a warm green undertone.
Benjamin Moore Ylang Ylang AF-305
Ylang Ylang is creamy yellow like Classic Ivory but with a bit more freshness as it’s a tone lighter.
Sherwin Williams Lemongrass SW-7732
Lemongrass is a beautiful green tone with a warm slant and an earthy base.
Sherwin Williams Macadamia SW 6142
Macadamia is a fabulous beige tone with a mix of warm undertone that center around orange, but can flex into a bit of yellow as well. This will of course be brought out in the afternoon light! It could fall a touch flat in the morning, just because it does have a bit more of a neutral base, but interior lighting can go a LONG way to lifting it up!
Sherwin Williams Brick Paver SW 7599
Brick Paver is a beautiful vibrant brick tone with it’s orange base. I also closely considered Fired Brick which has some more red mixed in and is darker. Both colours would be striking, but slightly more subdued in the morning and would positively DANCE in the afternoon!
Cool Paint Colour Ideas for West Facing Rooms
And south west facing rooms
These colours are ‘reasonably flexible and are best for the following:
- West facing rooms that are used the most in the afternoon. The cool colour 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!
- West facing rooms that also have south facing windows. These rooms will be CONSIDERABLY warmer in the morning, rather than more gray and flat and will also be just as warm in the afternoon!
- Rooms that you use at ALL times of day OR if you can’t stand warm colours
Benjamin Moore Woodlawn Blue HC 147
Woodlawn Blue is touch and go as it might fall a bit cool in the morning. Woodlawn is a blue with a gray undertone that CAN pick up a touch of green. It will be soft and pretty in the afternoon to off-set the warmer rays coming in.
Sherwin Williams Morning Fog SW 6255
Morning Fog is a nice light/medium gray with a decent cool purple undertone.
Sherwin Williams Austere Gray SW 6184
Austere Gray is a more neutral green as it has a decent soft gray backdrop so it’s not TOO icy/cold, but it’s definitely not a warm green.
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 resting on it’s slightly neutral base.
Sherwin Williams Rainwashed SW 6211
Rainwashed is a lighter blend of blue, green and gray. The green and blue are stronger than the gray, but will fall back a bit in the morning and work in the afternoon to combat that warmer light.
Benjamin Moore Misted Fern 2138-50
Misted Fern is a beautiful blend of gray, blue and green. It has enough colour to show up in the early morning gray light and will rise up and balance off some of those warm rays in the afternoon. It’s a STUNNER.
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 that 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 that the more neutral it is (the less ‘colour’ it has in it and the more beige/gray it looks) the more flat and drab it might feel at the ‘shaded’ time of day.
Look for neutrals that have atleast 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.
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC-170
Stonington Gray is a lovely cool gray with a very slightly stormy blue undertone. And while it will lie more flat in the morning, it will provide some nice balance in the afternoon light. It could maybe pick up a tiny wink of green when the blue undertone hits the yellow sunrays, but it would be subtle.
Benjamin Moore Indian White OC-88
Benjamin Moore Indian White is a soft, creamy neutral with a subtle beige base so that it isn’t overly yellow.
Benjamin Moore Sandy White 2148-50
Sandy White is a lighter creamy beige tone with a really neat, vague green undertone that adds interest if you’re looking for something a bit beyond beige.
Benjamin Moore Monroe Bisque HC -26
Monroe Bisque is a pretty standard ‘beige’ with a warm yellow undertone that can help with the muted morning light without going OVERLY warm in the afternoon.
Sherwin Williams Knitting Needles SW 7672
Knitting Needles is a nice cool 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.
Sherwin Williams Wool Skein SW 6148
Wool Skein is like Sandy White in that it has a vague green undertone (much more subtle than Sandy White though) with a soft beige backdrop.
Interior Furnishings and OTHER Considerations
Like I’ve mentioned, it’s not just your exposure that you have to consider (indecent or otherwise), there’s 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!
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Kylie M Interiors E-design, Virtual and Online Colour Consulting Based in Nanaimo BC on Vancouver Island Blog, Consulting and More!