NORTH, EAST, SOUTH, WEST (EXPOSURE) – Which Paint Colour is the Best?
Unless your room has no windows or you’re a vampire, you’ve probably had to deal with natural light and exposure when choosing paint colours. And maybe you didn’t even KNOW that it was exposure that was messin’ with yo’ mind as your gray went purple and your beige went green, but let me tell you, exposure is a force to be reckoned with! (I ‘reckon‘ most things with wine, it helps).
Benjamin Moore Mount Saint Anne
And while I’ve written blog posts individually for north, south, east and west-facing rooms, as well as rooms with two exposures, this post is to give you a simple, meat n’ potatoes summary. If you want to dig a lil deeper, I’ve included some great links to the other articles which are more in-depth.
NORTH-FACING ROOMS & PAINT COLORS
North-facing rooms offer a cool gray light (that can look slightly blue). While northern exposure is consistent, it’s a bit chilly.
Benjamin Moore Steel Wool, see the before and afters here
Anyone who says exposure doesn’t matter should spend a bit of time with this photo – same color, different exposures (no interior lights on, either)…
SUMMARY OF ROOMS WITH NORTH-FACING EXPOSURES
- It can be slightly easier to pick paint colours for north-facing rooms as the light is more consistent throughout the day.
- North-facing rooms can still be BRIGHT if there are enough windows, but bright doesn’t mean WARM. These rooms will also have fewer shadows to contend with compared to south/east/west.
- If you paint a north-facing room a cool gray, blue, green or purple, you risk the room feeling DOUBLY as chilly. Painting a north-facing room a warm neutral or warm colour can help to balance out the cool light coming in.
- If you still want a gray, north-facing room, consider a warm gray paint color.
- It might be tempting to paint a north-facing room white, but some whites won’t react as well in a northern space.
Remember, this blog post is a summary. For more in-depth color details, click on the links provided!
EAST-FACING ROOMS & PAINT COLORS
East-facing rooms have a soft, bright light in the morning that is sliiiiightly warm, but NOTHING like afternoon western light.
Sherwin Williams Pure White
Benjamin Moore Collingwood
SUMMARY OF ROOMS WITH EAST-FACING EXPOSURES
- As the day progresses, eastern light gets whiter and brighter until noon and can wash out paint colours at the height of the day.
- In the afternoon, east-facing rooms become more gray and subdued, acting a bit more like north-facing rooms, but maybe not as bright.
- East-facing rooms often do better with slightly warmer colours. Colours like greige may fall a bit flat in the afternoon.
SOUTH-FACING ROOMS & PAINT COLORS
South-facing rooms have a warm, yellow-toned light coming in. This light gets warmer/hotter closer to the evening.
See the blog post HERE
QUICK SUMMARY OF ROOMS WITH SOUTH-FACING EXPOSURES
- South-facing rooms can make paint colours look washed out in the middle of the day and can create more shadows.
- Painting a south-facing room with a warm colour will increase the visual warmth of the space. If you paint a south-facing room a gray or cool colour, it can help to balance out the warm sunshine coming in the windows.
WEST-FACING ROOMS & PAINT COLORS
West-facing rooms tend to be a bit flat and gray in the morning hours, but once noon hits, things start to lighten and brighten and you may hear the faint sound of Kylie poppin’ a wine cork (hey, it’s 5 o’clock SOMEwhere).
SUMMARY OF ROOMS WITH WEST-FACING EXPOSURES
- As the afternoon progresses, the light coming in appears warmer and warmer as the sun gets closer to setting, becoming CONSIDERABLY warmer in mid/late afternoon.
- West-facing rooms can handle both slightly warm and cool colours, keeping in mind that in the afternoon, SUPER warm colours will only increase in intensity.
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- Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on the location
- At $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needed 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
ROOMS WITH TWO OR THREE EXPOSURES
Again, I have a full blog post DEDICATED to this topic, but if you want some quick tips, keep reading!
If you have a room with two or three different exposures, it’s not a bad thing! When you have only one exposure, you’re 100% reliant on that particular light throughout the day, whereas multiple exposures can offer some balance to the more extreme ends (i.e. extreme north/south).
In rooms with multiple exposures, things get tricky to explain as it can depend a lot on which windows are larger and if there is any shrubbery/grass/patio overhang or any other exterior influences that could block the light, so generally speaking:
- If you have TWO or more exposure and ONE of those is either north or south (meaning the others are east or west), you’ll likely want to focus on the north/south as they tend to be the more dominant lights.
- If you have an east-west, I would lean toward the warmer end (humour the eastern side) more than the western.
- If you have north/south, this is the best mix as you can look at both north and south-facing colour options to see which ones best suit your tastes and the interior of your home!
EXTERIOR PAINT COLORS & EXPOSURES
Just when you thought choosing INTERIOR colours was a challenge! The direction your home faces can play a HUGE part in which paint colour looks best. READ UP, BUTTERCUP!
PEOPLE ALSO ASK…
WHAT PAINT COLOUR BEST REFLECTS LIGHT, ESPECIALLY IN A DARK ROOM?
White is definitely the most reflective colour, given its high LRV. Add a bit of SHEEN to that white paint color and you’ll have some great light bouncing around! And while more COLOURFUL colours won’t necessarily bounce more light than white, they can look more cheerful and upbeat than some neutrals (in dark spaces).
WHAT PAINT COLOURS ARE BEST FOR A LOT OF NATURAL LIGHT?
For many rooms, colours with an LRV lower than 50 are a great way to calm down an OVERLY bright home. Colours with high LRVs will wash out more in natural light, whereas darker colours will hold themselves a bit better (while still looking lighter than normal).
Check out my Online Paint Color Consulting!
WRITTEN IN 2018, AWESOMELY UPDATED IN 2022