HomeThe Best Paint ColoursNeutral, Gray, Greige Cream and WhiteHOW EXPOSURE & NATURAL LIGHT AFFECT PAINT COLORS (A SUMMARY)


Posted on November 3, 2022 by KylieMawdsley

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 bedroom, beach colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online virtual paint color consulting ecolour

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 offer a cool gray light (that can look slightly blue). While northern exposure is consistent, it’s a bit chilly.

Foyer or Entryway with white wood armoire for kids stuff, Benjamin Moore STeel Wool gray paint colour by Kylie M INteriors

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)…

How a room's exposure affects paint colours - north, east, south west. Shown here Benjamin Moore Tapestry Beige. Diy paint colour ideas and how tos by Kylie M.


  • 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.

Sherwin Williams Restrained Gold, north facing, traditional style living room. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting expert. Client photo

 The Best Paint Colours for a North-Facing Room

Can I Paint My North-Facing Room Gray

Remember, this blog post is a summary. For more in-depth color details, click on the links provided!


East-facing rooms have a soft, bright light in the morning that is sliiiiightly warm, but NOTHING like afternoon western light.

Open concept layout living, dining room and kitchen, wood tile look floor, cognac leather, Sherwin Pure White walls, dark wood cabinets. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Sherwin Williams Pure White

Benjamin Moore Collingwood in a staircase with dark wood stair treads, black handrail. Kylie M INteriors E-design and online color consulting blog

Benjamin Moore Collingwood 


  • 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.

The Best Paint Colours for an East-Facing Room


South-facing rooms have a warm, yellow-toned light coming in. This light gets warmer/hotter closer to the evening.

Revere Pewter kitchen cabinets, Cambria Brittanica warm quartz, URbane Bronze island, oak wood floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign (1)

See the blog post HERE


  • 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.

Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice with southwest exposure in windows. Pure White trim, Kylie M Interiors Edesign

The Best Paint Colours for a South-Facing Room


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).

Benjamin Moore Imperial Gray best blue green gray paint colour, living room drapes, wood dresser and home decor. Kylie M Edesign client photo

The Best Blue-Green Blend Paint Colors


  • 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.

The Best Paint Colours for a West-Facing Room

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 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


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).

Moderate White painted kitchen cabients with travertine, granite countertop, beige walls.

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!

The Best Paint Colours for Rooms with TWO OR MORE 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!

Sherwin Williams Pearly White warm off white on exterior, yellow undertone

The Best Exterior Paint Colours: Why Your Home’s Exposure Matters




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).


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).


The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Paint Colours Using LRV

5 Reasons You Keep Choosing the Wrong Paint Colours

Kylie M’s Quick Guide to Paint Colors & Their Undertones

The 8 Best WHOLE HOME Warm Neutral Paint Colors

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Paint Colour Using LRV

Need HELP?

Check out my Online Paint Color Consulting!


Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature



  1. I love your informative posts, thank you! I am stuck for a paint color selection for my entry, family room, and hallway. I have multi-colored swaths in each room and each time I think I’ve made a decision – BAM! it changes. First I settled on Revere Pewter but it looks so flat and not at all like the photos of the lovely light rooms wearing it. Then I went with Sea Salt. My family room has a large window and door that face East/Northeast so I get some direct bright light in the morning. Seat Salt almost looks “minty” or even baby blue in this light (not what I hoped for). However, as the light moves on to the front of the house to my south windows it looks darn right gray with a hint of green. I have poured over plenty of “what color to paint” articles and blogs, and I just paid a professional $300 to help. Basically all things should be “neutral” for a buyer, but I am an artist who favors, rich color (as evidenced by my turquoise and white kitchen). I welcome any suggestions for this difficult situation!!

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      Hi Ellen! It’s hard to say without seeing your home, finishes, lighting, etc… but check out BM Edgecomb Gray which is a light greige, I’ve had a lot of success with it!

  2. Kylie, when a room face a point in between two points on the compass ( for example north east or southwest), how does this effect paint choices?

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  3. Hi! I just bought a new house and it has skylights in both the living area and the dining/kitchen area. It’s really messing with my color sense! The walls are currently a greige that looks lovely in some light but ugly and flat in others but I can’t quite find the pattern. How do skylights affect colors?

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      Hi Liz! I’ve found that skylights will pick up a bit on their main exposure (like if they are slightly sloped south/east/north/west), but generally act a bit like an eastern light, particularly at the height of day where they can EASILY wash out a colour as they get the midday sun that is the most lightening!

  4. Hi Kylie, love your website and posts! Is it a faux pas to simply use a lightened version of the same color for darker rooms in the house (i.e., hallway)? Or should I be looking for a lighter, but different/complimentary color for those darker rooms? Thanks!

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      Hi Shani, it’s not a faux pas at all! But when you lighten your colour make sure you still like the undertones, as colours WILL shift undertones when they are lightened/darkened 🙂

  5. Hi Kylie! I love your blog. I painted my north facing living room and hallway SW Creamy which I love thanks to your advice! I have a south facing den with an accent wall I painted BM Tyler Gray. I tried painting the walls that flank the accent wall SWCreamy also but because they are south facing it looks much too yellow when compared to the Tyler Gray. Do you have any suggestions for a white or warmer white color that could go with BM Tyler Gray without going too yellow in a south facing room?

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  6. I’m late to this party, but wanted to say thank you for this awesome website! I recently used your advice to pick colors for the walls of our condo that was going up for sale. I used SW Vanillin for the living and bedrooms which are mostly east/somewhat north facing and SW French Grey for the kitchen and bath, which have no natural light (and the kitchen has awful fluorescents). (If only we had looked at a blog for how to hire painters…that went less successfully!) Thanks!

  7. Pingback: What Are the Key Steps to Painting a Room? - Total House Makeover

  8. Hi Kylie! I love Colonnade Gray! My new great room/ kitchen will face northwest. Do you think it could work? If not, is there a SW greige or white that works in that light? Thanks!

  9. I love your articles. I’ve corrected quite a few painting mistakes from the past, but this one has me confused. I have a mud room that has an east morning window. The sun swings away and in the afternoon has a west glass door. Then goes darker. Do I go cool or warm with the paint color? The room has lots of soft white trim and the floor is a gray/blue tile. I’m drawn to BM Pebble Beach. Thank you.

  10. I find a lot of people talking about how direction affects your paint colours but could somebody please talk about how the colour is affected by where you live? If a Brit takes a trip to Cancun and loves all the colours at the beach house, then comes home to the misty moors of Yorkshire and paints with the same colours, how will it turn out?

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      That’s an interesting thought, Layla! I do know that the more south you go, the warmer the light gets, whereas if you’re me, living in a gray, moody place, colours tend to get more muted and grayed out in this environment. That being said, SOME colours with blue-green cool tones can be slightly enhanced by a cooler light!

  11. We have just painted our living room and dining room dove white and the walls look lovely. The ceiling doesn’t though as it looks too greige. We are going to use a Benjamin Moore white ceiling paint that has a white tint added to it. We were advised by the people at the paint store. We put some sample paint on the ceiling in the living room and it looks like it will probably work. This is a north facing living room with two small east windows and of course the window that faces north. The dining room has a window facing east and some south exposure from the small TV room that is right next to it. Kylie can I get your thoughts on this ceiling paint. It would be much appreciated.

  12. Kylie, I so appreciate your posts. Your explanations are the best I’ve found for guidance on the unique lighting challenges in my home. Would you be willing/able to say what the paint color is that appears in the picture above with the ginormous windows? My home has a similar set of windows/lighting situation and I’m wishing for a warmer feel than the very neutral white I have now.

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      You’re welcome! If it’s the photo where you’re in the kitchen looking out into a living area and you can see two crystal type chandeliers – THAT is the lovely Sherwin Williams Casa Blanca and it is such a warm soft feeling! I also love Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White. It’s FAR more passive, but I’m really enjoying its subtle warmth 🙂

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