Paint shade for large north facing room

shadeyApril 28, 2014


We are renovating a 1948 cape cod. the main room is 18 x 18 with 8 foot ceilings. the north wall Includes a huge bay window that overlooks a lake. This is the only natural light inthe room.

When entering the room from the south entry, it feels like I am entering a tunnel and staring straight out into a blinding cold light. It's such a gorgeous view, but the darkness all around makes it difficult to take in. the room is currently painted an icky dark salmon color.

I want to use a warm neutral, and perhaps some mirrors to bounce the light around (and lighting). I love yellowish tones but find that they look way too yellow in a room with little light -- and lots of walls.

My decorator wants to use Weston flax -- I think it is too yellow. Am leaning towards more of a creamy with red undertones, like Montgomery white or standish white.

I've read that a slight sheen is better is a north room than flat -- is this true?

Ideas and thoughts?

thank you,

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Of the three you mention, I like the Montgomery White. It has more gold than yellow, per se, than the others.

Here is an article on painting North facing rooms

Here is a link that might be useful: North facing rooms

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:23PM
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How about something a tad bolder?

BM Wythe Tan

Here is a link that might be useful: BM Wythe Tan

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:26PM
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Or BM Desert Tan

Here is a link that might be useful: Desert Tan

This post was edited by Tibbrix on Mon, Apr 28, 14 at 18:41

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:40PM
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My understanding from decorators and designers is that bright yellows are made for north-facing rooms. I think Tibbrix has picked some very good colors.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 7:23PM
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Patricia, I like that Desert Tan a lot! I think it's very striking.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 7:33PM
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I have to say I'd go with a yellow too.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:03PM
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Yes, I like that Desert Tan. I have put it on my maybe list for Autumn painting of my bedroom.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 9:12PM
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Ha, I was going to suggest Rich Cream, which is on the same "strip" as Desert Tan, I believe. I love Rich Cream -- just a little yellow but a lot of cream.

I have never heard that theory about sheen in a north facing room. I generally use eggshell anyway, which has a slight sheen compared to flat. I do have a matte finish in my living room, which I chose because the walls are sort of a mess texturally and the flatter the sheen, the less obvious the bumps and bruises, but...every time I move something in the room, I end up marking a wall -- the finish is very sensitive, and impossible to clean.

This is a shot of Rich Cream.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 1:05PM
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I have EK Buttercream in my large north facing room. I love it! It is similar to the Rich Cream above but mine looks a little more yellow in my setting.
I don't have any pictures but there are lots on the EK website.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 3:46PM
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I tried MANY yellow toned paints for my north facing room and none of them seemed quite right. I also tried some tan/beiges, blah they died in the room!
Luckily, you have a beautiful view from that window to enjoy!
I ended up with Quietude a blue green -but, more blue and now my room that tends to be dark and boring is lively and I feel happy in it....I know you weren't looking for a blue but, I just wanted to share that it woke up my space! and maybe you need more "color"

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:07AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Jeannie01 offers a great example of how any hue family can work in a north-facing room.

It's so strange what's happened with the north-facing room and white paint commentary on blogs. There's no scientific basis or reasoning for any of it. In fact, there's actually plenty of examples like Jeannie's to counter what I consider "new urban legends of color".

Donald Kaufman said something in one of his books about white paint and dim rooms. And it is true to a certain degree. A can of white paint base with one or two shots of colorant is not going to have a very interesting spectral reflectance curve - or color fingerprint to work with and partner with the unique quality of light in a dim, north-facing room. The solution is to find the right white. Maybe easier said than done.

Quality of light refers to spectral distribution - the bundle of wavelengths that make up the light in a space.

So, you have two parts that need to work together. Spectral reflectance - a color's fingerprint and the spectral distribution - the bundle of wavelengths or atmosphere.

North light is spectrally balanced when you look at its fingerprint/spectral distribution. It is typically heavy in the blue wavelength department but it's balanced out enough that north-facing rooms is preferred by artists in the know about color. Artists like north facing rooms for the spectral wavelength balance but also because north light is indirect light.

Natural, north light never beams directly into a space. Rather it bounces, tumbles and spills in.

Any hue family can work in north facing rooms. Including blues, blue-greens. The secret is nuance. Nuance is how light or dark plus how vivid or dull. Nuance is about considering those two color characteristics at the same time.

How that shakes out is light to midtone colors that lean more clear and crisp are usually good candidates for north facing rooms.

Paint colors that are midtone to deep are good candidates for north facing rooms if you want to create some drama and moodiness in the space.

Lastly, I never recommend looking at color formulas because they provide no tangible direction whatsoever and it's a complete waste of time. The only thing that matters is what the color looks like when it's dry.

However, I have one exception. And that's yellow paint colors for north facing rooms. You want to avoid yellows mixed using black colorant. When you mix yellow colorant and black colorant you (can) get olive green. Yellow paint colors with black in the formula tend to have a green-yellow hue bias.

No black will land you squarely in the yellow hue family neighborhood and/or more towards an yellow-red hue bias.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Hi Shadey,
we used BM standish white in our home and love it in the rooms that get sun. We were not happy with it in our north facing FR and kitchen. Bumped up to Laura Ashley Gold #3 in the FR and it seemed to work. It made the room a bit more cozy. (Actually did an accent wall in LA Gold #5 as well). Hope you find a color that will work for you soon. :)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 6:17AM
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What's really funny about my choice of Quietude is that I am SO NOT A BLUE person. Yet, it works in my space with the cream trim and dark HW floors.
I did an accent wall - though most of the wall is covered in windows and a large cream fireplace/bookcase. the color was actually a screw up at the paint store, They gave me a very dark teal - peacock color that turned out fabulous with
the quietude.
My original accent color was just a few shades darker than the main color - this is many shades darker and it is a nice rich and vibrant color.
Since my entry is also quietude - and I loved the dark teal/peacock color - I used it on the wall going up the staircase.

I hope you find a paint that makes you "happy" when you come into the room.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 10:55AM
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Funcolors, I'm still digesting what you explained, but I'm glad you questioned the north-facing/white wall issue.

I live in the Upper Midwest. For much of the year (and particularly during this dreary spring), every room in my house seems like a north-facing room! Moreover, the rooms in which my family spends the most time in the evenings are east-facing, and the sun has often set by the time we settle in, particularly in the winter when we are indoors. What difference does a room's orientation make if it's primarily used after the sun goes down? Most of my rooms are now painted in lighter off-white colors... it's not like they turn dreary and gloomy and depressing at sundown each day.

Also, when we turned our basement into a media room a few years ago, I was looking at deep, dark paint colors. Many friends were surprised and asked why I would paint a basement such a dark color. Well, we use it primarily in the winter evenings to watch movies... it doesn't matter whether it gets daylight or not if we use it after the sun has set.

Choosing paint colors at high noon with attention to cardinal direction seems ridiculous to me. Determine at what times of the day the room will be most enjoyed by your family, and test the paint colors then.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 12:20PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

@peony4 ahh, nothing like a little Midwestern sensibility. (I'm from Ohio) :-D

It's true. Defining when the space is used and customizing wall colors to fit that parameter is a solid color strategy.

Cardinal direction does come into play for the way/times some people use their space. Again, no hue is off limits and it's about partnering the right pitch of nuance with the inherent quality of light is key.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 12:35PM
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Funcolors: "nothing like a little Midwestern sensibility."

From the mouth of my middle-school babes: I-know-right?!?

That's tongue-in-cheek because I've had my fair share of tears over paint colors because I didn't understand how they worked in my environment. I'm sure I've spent more money on samples than I have on actual gallons of paint. I finally figured out how to experiment and adjust from there, based on the optimum time of day for the room and the true lighting it would have when I used it most.

So, to the OP, I would consider that, during the day, the focus in your lovely home will be on the view, not on your wall color. My parents and in-laws both live on properties with great views, and I don't walk into their homes during the day and think, "Wow, these walls are the wrong color." I'm too busy admiring their acreage and waterfront. Wait until evening, when it's dark outside, and your interior is more the focus. What color do you like then?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 10:44PM
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Loribee, do you still have the pictures of your beautiful home? If so, will you publish them here again, on this post?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:05PM
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The back of our house faces north and we have a lot of cool light. I live in the Chicago area. I like yellow with green undertones. Right now i have BM MonroeBisque in the Kitchen,DiningRoom, Living room. We did Sheldon Buff in the Family room a little darker. We used Pittsfield Buff in out Master which also faces north. I find all of these colors works well with brightly color linens, all types of wood, etc. They make a nice backdrop.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:31PM
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Hi Patricia,
I have some old pix that everyone is prob sick of seeing, but here you go...
first pic is LA Gold 3 and 5, the rest are BM Standish White.

thanks for asking and Jeannie, I'd love to see a pic of Quietude. :)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:30AM
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I have Windham Cream in a north-facing room that has lots of windows, though. It came down to that or Healing Aloe (very light blue/grey).

Windham Cream, "A sunlit, luscious cream with a whispery undertone of pale butter."

Traditional Bedroom by Minneapolis Interior Designers & Decorators Martha O'Hara Interiors

Contemporary Basement by Portland Design-Build Firms Mosaik Design & Remodeling

I also sampled Philadelphia Cream, Lancaster Whitewash, among others

Healing Aloe

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:14AM
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