What colors to avoid in North facing rooms?

Zippity-do-dahNovember 8, 2012

Hi Everybody

The front rooms of our house face North and are shaded by trees. There are plenty of windows but....yet....those rooms are a bit darker than the other side of the house.

What colors should be avoided so those rooms don't become sad and dreary please?


What colors do you recommend to keep these rooms welcoming and pleasant please?

Thank you - GW is such an awesome community!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

Recommend: Colors with a nuance that is light and clear. Meaning choose paint colors that are clear but not vivid or bright. For example a mint green is better in a northern exposure than a grayed sage green.

You can use colors from all 12 key hue families. A popular tip is to only use colors from the warm side of the color wheel. That's simply not true. You can use colors from any of the hue families as long as you get the nuance right.

Stay away from muddy colors, toned colors, colors known as chromatic grays.

Choose light to midtone colors that are clear with a discernable masstone in order to bust through the dim quality of north light.

Or, play into that dim quality and choose darker paint colors with low or single digit LRVs. Like navy blue, charcoal, chocolate, oxblood, etc.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 12:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Funcolors advice is right. I'm certainly not an expert at selecting colors - but I can tell you what I did wrong. My son's bedroom only has one window and it faces north and also is shaded by the garage roof. After removing 2 layers of wallpaper only to discover that the bottom Holly Hobby paper had been glued onto unpainted, unprimed drywall (argh!) I painted the room white.

I thought it would brighten the room. Nope. The white merely looked depressingly gray. He also had a gray rug. Then we let my son select his own color and he picked Ralph Lauren Hunting Coat red. It was stunning. What a gorgeous color. It was so rich that it didn't make the room look dark. But it was unforgiving - if you brushed against it you left a mark.

After he left home my DD decided to paint the room Moonshine (Lowe's Olympic) and that worked great. Forgive my description here - I know it sounds like Mrs. Blandings - but it's a warm color, creamy yellow without a hint of strong, daffodil colors. Both the rich red and soft cream worked in that room.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 8:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

First -- please consider posting photos .... so we can be more helpful! :)

Next -- think of warm cozy rooms -- lots of different lighting options (table lamps, standing lamps); artworks of all sorts and kinds -- plus lots of accessories with "texture" -- books, plants, textiles and fabrics, baskets or woven area rugs etc.

For colors ideas-- think of visual cues -- coffee with cream; hot tea; dark rich pumpkin, claret wine; warm forest green with brillant leaves; thick clotted cream and biscuits (see? - even a neutral image can be very warm and cozy! :)

Just some thoughts ... hope this helps! :)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 8:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

Omigoodness, teacats. All I can think of is a cup of tea, a lil something for a snack and a nap. I want a room that fits that description pronto!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 2:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

marie cate - amazing how white can be challenging, sometimes more challenging, than a color/color. Hunting Coat red is one of my favorite reds ever. Mixed in Aura matte is rather awesome because it won't burnish.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 2:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nothing could give the feel of warmth better than a burgundy. red, wine, or a combination of any of those colors. A brown with a slightly red hue could also a warm cozy feeling. ;o)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 7:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Does this help? Run your cursor over "explore colors"(far right)and click on "interior". A bunch of warm colors should pop up.

Here is a link that might be useful: warm colors

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 7:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We painted our north facing living room Behr's Brick Red and it is beautiful.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 8:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We went for very saturated colors in our north-facing rooms--Sherwin Williams Underseas in the dining room (a delicious blue-green), and circa yesterday, Benjamin Moore Kingsport Gray in our living room. We like the feeling of coziness, and our bungalow seems to want rich colors/tones.

Previously, the living room was Sherwin Williams Roycroft Red, which was a fabulous changeable red. It had slight elements of brown, and terra cotta, too, so it wasn't a straight "red" (which I really dislike on walls).

Really, though, your choice will depend on what the light looks like in your rooms. My north-facing rooms have a bright, almost bluish light to them, which completely ruins any pale colors. My friend's north facing rooms have a cold, pale gray light. Completely different.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 10:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nancy & other pro- red people - Red! I love red....one of those dim rooms is the dining room and red would be rich & wonderful....I was avoiding it because it be dark.

Funcolors, great instruction to point me to the clearer shades....I do tend toward the muddier colors so I will remember your advice. This is the part of color selection that I was not figuring out. Was looking at Ben Moore colors today and came home with the overly muted complex greige samples.

Patty cakes - the Sherwin Williams website was tons of fun! I kept thinking to watch out for muddy colors.

Teacats - what marvelous visualizations of warming, cheery, cozy things...therefore color. There are no photos at this time. We have torn out the front of our dim dark house and it is being rebuilt. HooRay!!!!

Mairecate-you are so right.....white was a depressing dim noncolor in our living room before....made it worse! Thought it was my fault...couldn't even pick out a white that was right.

Xantippe - now that is a worry - different types of North light!

Everyone of you had colored pearls of wisdom for me. Your feedback is tremondously appreciated. Thank you.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have a dark master bedroom. North windows with roof overhang. We painted SW Icicle which has slight blue undertones. I love it! Makes the room look very fresh and cool - clean.

We also used SW Torque White on the hall way and kitchen. Love it. Appears like a creamy white without any yellow. Again, both these areas have little or no light.

Our biggest mistake was painting the living/dining room BM Shaker Beige. It appears like a muddy, gold/green depending on the time of day. I had used it in our previous house and loved it. But we had bright rooms which we lack now.

I am amazed at how different color looks in dark rooms. Even our furniture looks drab.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 12:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am having such a problem with this too. We have a north facing room but with a wall of windows. You would think that would be enough light, but everything just falls flat in there.
I thought I had settled on Ashen Green around this area, but would that be considered muddy? Why is this so hard!!
Thanks for the Torque white. I'm going to look at that. The darkness in the corners seems to make things go peach. Not what I was hoping for either.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 8:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do you want to hear about my "color laboratory" saga in a north facing laundry room that has one large north facing window and one glass, northeast facing door? I wanted a Swedish blue, maybe tending slightly toward the periwinkel arena paint color. I tried all the Farrow and Ball blues, some of the Ellen Kennon blues, some of the Sherwin-Williams blues. The exterior around the room was also full of tall pine and post oak trees, so a green cast fell over all colors. Then, to top it off, we have multipaned, gas-filled windows, and I've never been sure exactly how that affects interior color (Does anyone know?). Note, the cabinets in that room are white birch stained with Sherwin-Williams Jamboree jade, courtesy of DH, who got a wild hair during the build. It turns out I love them. Talk about a color that stands up to the dulling, deadening, dour effects of my northern light! And the fabrics in there are Tully stripe in Spa and Sunbrella Dupioni in Paradise, with Sapphire welting. Most blues that I tried turned out dead. Cook's Blue, which always looked perfect to me in books, magazines, samples, and so forth, turned a deadened blue-gray. That was emblematic of my experience with blues. I ended up with Farrow and Ball Blue Ground in the main part of the laundry room, Teresa's Green in the windowless mudroom/hall, and Pale Powder on the entire ceiling. The Pale Powder looks like a light gray, except immediately next to the windows, where it occasionally takes on a faintly turquoise cast. Very pretty, but not often apparent. I enter that room first thing in the morning to get my dogs dressed for walkies, and it's immediately inspiring--like diving into a pool. It glows. I love being in that room, even though it is unlike anything else in the house. The "take home lesson" of my experimentation was embrace the green, don't fight it. Use blues that are warm, not grayed. Use clear colors, not muted. I veer towards Farrow and Ball because it does not give me a headache and I enjoy the texture and chalky look of it. The only wall that has another brand on it is a small wall above the boot bench: Ellen Kennon Giverny Blue. This gets a bit of a harsh edge on it in the afternoon, but it's very nice paint and I am leaving it there for the time being. I am in Central Texas where there has been a killer drought and a prohibition against watering, until recently. During the worst of it, we lost many trees. Heartbreaking. We lost the ones outside the laundry room, and all the walls changed dramatically! The colors became clearer and brighter. The ceiling still reminds me of a Caribbean sky at the start of a gathering storm, though, trees or no trees. Are you bored yet?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lori A. Sawaya

Bored? Funny, very funny. This *is* the Garden Web after all. I read it twice. ;)

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

kitchendetective, I would love to see some pictures. Pretty please? :)

This whole discussion is very interesting to me: Our kitchen has north and east-facing windows and therefore presents a big big challenge. The colors of fixed things, i.e., cabinets, floor, a stone wall, beams, all courtesy of previous owners, and north and east light have made it so difficult to think about the walls and trim that need painting. I'm hoping to learn something here!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I live in a north facing condo. Before I moved in I painted over the neutral beige (it was everywhere and made the space lifeless) with a soft green and pale blue (not a grey blue). Better but wasn't working so after a little reno I changed up the colour blocking (I blew it the first time and stopped my two colours on outside corners). Now the blue in the foyer runs into the living area and I changed the wall around the kitchen that was blue in the foyer and pale green in the living area to white. Boom - so much better. Colour blocking\placement and contrast can make a difference.

Red and beige are from the bedroom and ND002 didn't pan out:

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 11:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've lost most of my photo files, but this is a pretty good version of how the Pale Powder ceiling looks against the Blue Ground walls and the Jamboree Jade cabinets. This is the wall across from the North-facing window, during the day, with iPhone flash, but no other artificial light.

This shows Giverny Blue meeting Teresa's Green and the Pale Powder ceiling. I do not know why it rotated.

This is what you can do with all your left over sample pots: paint a faux backsplash for the cat landing pad. ;

(Cabbage White, Off Black, EK Cornflower, Drawing Room Blue, Folly Green, Arsenic, Pitch Blue, and Cook's Blue. LOL.)

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

kitchendetective, your photos didn't come through. Would love to see them. Try again,


    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 11:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This was a terrific thread - learned so much here from everyone.

Thank you

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 1:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My kitchen and living area are both north facing. I painted my kitchen a deep peacock blue and my living a clear gray. However, I feel the gray works very nicely because nearly all of my furniture and accessories are very warm. I live in a very hot and humid climate, so I've used warm paints sparingly.

Here are some pics. Hopefully this gives you an idea of a direction for your room...either toward or away!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 2:39PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Do all decorative vases need flowers?
Just moved and trying to decorate new home. I bought...
Why do you decorate?
I'm sure this has come up a million times before ....
Help with window treatments
Hi, we put in new living room windows, and now I need...
Laundry room paint & would you remove the door?
Decided to askā€¦ What color would you pull from the...
Ikea mattresses
We need to get a new twin mattress for my DS (9). ...
Sponsored Products
Home Decorators Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Home Decorators Collection Rugs Dudley
Home Depot
Nuevo Living Florian Bulb Pendant Lamp
Somerton Dwelling Signature Cocktail Table
Colors in Motion (Light) Luxe 4-Light Multi-Swag Chandelier
Lamps Plus
Tao Sahara Tan Glass and Stone Mosaic Tile
$15.95 | TileBar
Florence Knoll Style Loveseat-Red - 100% Italian Leather
IFN Modern
Emerald Home Beacon Media Chest - B150-06
$499.99 | Hayneedle
Caspian Bowl by Minka-Lavery
$298.00 | Lumens
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™