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7 Stylish Paint Colors for North Facing Rooms

The 7 best Sherwin Williams Shades for north facing and low light (or poorly lit) rooms

Contrary to what most people think, white is usually a poor paint color choice for north facing and poorly lit rooms.  I know that this sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.  You see low lighting can make white look dull…and it can wash out many paint colors, so you need to choose the right ones, and I’ve selected 7 great paint shades to help you.

7 stylish paint colors for north facing rooms | paint shades for low lit rooms

Please note that this article contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

✅ Are you painting yourself?  If so, here are some  helpful tools to make the job faster and easier.

 

Lighting impact of northern exposure rooms

7 stylish paint colors for north facing rooms - northern exposure paint shadesNorth facing rooms don’t get much direct warm sunlight throughout the day, so they don’t benefit from the warmth that natural sunlight provides.  The light in northern exposure rooms tends to be more gray light with a subtle blue casts as the sun hits the room when it’s lower in the sky.

 

So the natural light gives your room more gray undertones and shadows making the room appear cooler.  And, if you have cool paint colors with gray, blue, or lavender undertones, these cool tones will be magnified.  For this reason, warmer…or better yet colors with warm undertones will counteract this.

 

 

best shades of paint for north facing and low light roomsAlso, note that a stark white has gray undertones and it works in very well lit and large rooms for a light and airy feel.  But, in north facing rooms, whites often look gray and dingy.  And, white will NOT make a dim room seem bright and airy.

my favorite paint colors for bedrooms facing north

 

 

Warmer tones create balance and harmony for northern exposure rooms.  Cool tones will the room feel even color, so you want to avoid these on the walls (but feel free to use them as accents such as area rugs, pillows, etc.).

 

greige for bathrooms and north facing roomsAnd, you’ll be happy to know that if you prefer cool colors (e.g. grays and blues), there are ways to utilize these colors by choosing shades with warm undertones (e.g. a warm gray or greige instead of gray, or an aqua instead of blue).

 

paint colors for rooms with only one window

 

 

Note:  In this article, I’ve included some room scenes with similar paint tones.  If you are interested in some of the room decor items, just click on the picture or “shop the room link” to find out more info.

 

A word on Light Reflective Value (LRV)

best paint colors for north facing roomsOne measure to help in looking at how light and reflective paint colors will be is to look at their Light Reflective Value (LRV). The higher the number, the more reflective and lighter the paint appears.

 

best paint shades for north facaing bedrooms

 

 

It’s a scale from 0 to 100 with higher numbers reflecting more light…and these look lighter (obviously).  For perspective, the average blackest black has an LRV around 5% meaning that it absorbs almost all the light, while the whitest whites are in the range of 85-95%.

 

bright shades of paint for north facing roomsAs a rule of thumb, most decorators recommend that your base color be a 50% LRV or higher meaning that it reflects more light than it absorbs.  For north facing rooms, you want to gravitate towards higher numbers (ideally 60% or higher).

 

bright paints for rooms that don't have good lighting

 

 

 

Now this is only part of the story.  And, this where people can get a bit mislead.

 

The LRV impacts your room depending on how much natural or artificial light you have!.  The more light you get, the more light will be reflected.  And, conversely, the less light you have, the less light there will be to reflect.

 

best paint colors for rooms that don't have a lot of lightFor this reason, if you don’t have enough natural (or artificial light), no paint will save your room.  Paint shades don’t give you light; they only reflect it.  You need to address the root of the issue…get more light!

 

best paint shades for rooms with low light

 

 

You need the light to bring the paint color to life.  While a higher LRV may help, it won’t solve the real issue.  So let’s discuss that first.

 

Be aware of the sources for low light rooms and how to address this.

Reasons that rooms may have low natural light

best gray or greige for north facing roomsThere are many reasons that a room may be dark (aside from the paint colors/decor). These include:

1. North facing rooms

2.  Limited number of windows or smaller windows (or no windows), or even old windows that have many panes or broken seals that are fogged up and therefore let in less light.

3.  Overhangs

4.  Dense landscaping

 

paint shades for northern exposure rooms

 

Solutions (other than paint) to improve the light in the room

warm greige bedroom with skylights1. Let the sun shine in:  Remove or replace heavy/dark draper with lighter window treatments or sheers.  Remove trees/scrubs that are blocking the light.

good paint colors for north facing rooms

 

 

2.  Add more lights:  Consider adding recessed lighting, pendant lights, floor lamps, table lamps or even consider this new creative invention.

 

3.  Compensate with lighter furniture and decor:  Choose lighter area rugs, furniture and wall decor.

 

4.  See if you can improve the windows if they aren’t letting enough light in.  You could replace the windows with fewer panes (i.e. make a picture window), make a larger window or add a sky light.

 

7 Best Paint Shades for Northern exposure rooms:

best paint colors for north facing roomsNow let’s get back to the original question:  Which are the best shades of paint for north facing rooms, as well as poorly lit rooms?  Now I recognize that different people have different tastes when it comes to style and color preferences.  So for this reason, I wanted to provide a range of potential paint colors.

 

good paint colors for north exposure bedrooms

 

 

And, I want you to remember that these are suggestions. If you have your heart set on a specific color, and you really love it (especially if it’s for a bedroom), my advice is go for it…because it will make you happy and make your room feel like a sanctuary.  These are simply guidelines and suggestions.

 

And finally, don’t look at the paint colors in isolation.  Think about the room holistically and colors that will complement each other.  Don’t forget the flooring, your furniture or area rugs.

 

1.  Antique White (SW 6119) – LRV 72

Sherwin Williams Antique White good for north facing roomsDespite the name, this really isn’t a white.  It’s more of a light tan.  And, it yellow undertones are warm and this helps reflect the light (hence the high LRV for a non-white color).

 

It’s kind of a wheat color.  Antique White helps make the molding and other wall items just pop.  It’s a subdued color, and it’s calming.

 

2.  Accessible Beige (SW 7036) – LRV 59

Sherwin Williams Accessible beige - neutrals for north facing roomsAccessible beige is a neutral color with taupe undertones.  Taupe is mixture of gray and green, so it’s softer than your typical builder beige.

 

It’s a welcoming color and it’s not as yellow as some of the more dated beiges.  It’s soft, subtle and neutral and complement most rooms.

 

It’s a cousin to Agreeable Gray (see below).

Would you like to see Accessible Beige in your own lighting? If so, you can get a sample here.

3.  Agreeable Gray (SW 7029) – LRV 60

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray SW7029 - warm greige for north facing roomThis  is one of my favorites of the bunch as it’s a shade of gray, but it’s a warm gray, or a greige.  It has beige/brown undertones to soften it. The overall read on the walls is a soft gray. It’s light enough and neutral enough so that it won’t take over a room.

 

Would you like to see this color in your own room? If so, you can get a sample here.

You can read read more about warm grays and greiges here.

 

Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog.

 

4.  Lattice (SW 7654) – LRV 61

Sherwin Williams Lattice SW 7654 - paint shades for northern exposure roomsLattice is a soft gray that has green and aqua undertones.  It’s soothing and peaceful.  And, it’s light enough to work in north facing rooms.

 

It can actually make a room look more spacious.  This is a special color and one of the cool features about it is that the color can look different throughout the day pending on the light.  It looks more bluish during the day and more gray in the evening.

5.  Grecian Ivory (SW 7541) – LRV 63

Sherwin Williams Grecian Ivory SW7541 - paint colors for north facing roomsThis is a great option if you love green as it’s a pale green that is light enough to work in a north facing room.  It’s soft as it has some subtle gray and beige undertones. It’s almost like a very light and neutral taupe.

 

Grecian Ivory is very classy and sophisticated.  You can use it as a soft base for subtle but not overpowering green room.  It’s light and neutral so it will allow you to add green accents.

 

It works well in bedrooms, guest rooms and even some bathrooms.  And, of course, it works in room that face north.

 

 

painting and flooring trackerWAIT! Need help keeping track of your stain and paint colors? This tracker makes it easy! GET YOUR PRINTABLE PAINT AND FLOOR TRACKER HERE! 

 

 

6.  Jersey Cream (SW 6379) – LRV 75

jersey cream - good paint color choices for northen and low light roomsThis is a bright neutral for light challenged spaces.  Yellows reflect light and this one also has some orange undertones, so it reflects the light with a high LRV value of 75, so it definitely brights up a room.  It’s the highest LRV among these choices.

 

While yellows are not my cup of tea, if you love yellow and warm tones, this is a great choice for north facing rooms and the warm tones will count the gray natural light. And, this color will also look more neutral and tones down in north facing rooms.

 

7.  Window Pane (SW 6210) – LRV 72

While I generally shy away from cool colors for north facing rooms, if I were to choose a cool color, it would be Window Pane (SW 6210) or Open Air (SW 6491).  You see when you mix a blue with a green, it warms it up. And, both of these do the job.  And, they are somewhat aqua and spa-like.

Best paint shades for north facing rooms - Sherwin Williams Window Pane SW6210   Sherwin Williams Open Air SW6491 - paint colors for north facing rooms

 

Paint Samples

Now, let’s talk about samples…

It’s always best to test the paint colors in you own home and own lighting. The colors do look different pending your lighting and can even look different room to room.

 

You can definitely go to your local painting store to buy some samples (and a brush…be sure to paint with 2 coats), but I have a MUCH EASIER way for you. Check out SAMPLIZE.

 

paint sample from sampize

 

Samplize offers 12” x 12” peel and stick paint samples that are EASIER, AFFORDABLE and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

 

Here are a few reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients:

  • Samples come right to YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, pending on location
  • At $5.95, they’re more affordable than the samples/brushes/foam boards than traditional samples…and of course easier and way less messy
  • If you keep the samples on the white paper, you can move them from wall to wall and room to room

 

They are amazingly accurate as they are made with 2 coats of real paint, so they are color correct.

 

Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE.

DIY painting tools – video

I wanted to share a VERY helpful video from Sherwin Williams, with some quick and super useful DIY painting tips. It’s just 2 minutes and covers types of brushes and painting techniques. Also, below, I share the painting tools and accessories that we use (with links to buy them on Amazon).

Sherwin Williams and Pottery Barn Painting tips for DIY homeowners

 

Do you need any paint shade fan decks?

Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).

Sherwin Williams Benjamin Moore

 

Helpful tools if you are going to paint yourself

Here are some painting tools that may come in handy if you’re going to do the painting yourself. Also, be sure to check out my article on the Top 10 DIY Painting mistakes and how to avoid them. The products below can be found on Amazon and delivered straight to your door.

  • Painting brush – this one costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it. It will help you paint faster and more accurately. If you’re going to paint yourself, don’t skimp here. Incidentally, this is Amazon’s Choice as well.
  • Painter’s tape – a must have. Use for all the trim as well as ceiling area
  • Paint roller kit – this includes a tray. Use the brush for the edges and the roller for main areas of the wall (and ceiling).
  • Drop cloths – Yes, you’ll need them for sure. Some people have some on hand, but often not enough if you are doing many rooms.

 

Related painting articles:

 

7 Stylish Paint Colors for North Facing Rooms

14 thoughts on “7 Stylish Paint Colors for North Facing Rooms”

  1. I read a review about Agreeable Gray and it said that the color turns cool with a bluish undertone in a north facing room. I love the color but concerned about it turning cool or blue. What is your experience with this?

    1. Lisa – When you have a northern exposure room, you naturally get grayish, bluish undertones from the sun, so you counteract it with a warmer gray, such as Agreeable gray. Each of these colors tends to work. But, what you should really do, regardless of what I or anyone else advises is test the colors on your own walls with your own lighting and look at it in the morning, lunch time, afternoon, evening and night and see what you like. If it’s not warm enough, the try a color that is warmer/has more beige.

  2. I used a sample of Agreeable Gray and it had a bluish tint that I liked but, when I brought a quart home and painted, it just looked beige. This was in my windowless powder room. 🙁

    1. Linda – This is probably due to the lighting in your room. You could either try to change the light bulb (which may be yellowish…try to find one that’s whiter) or change the paint color. This actually happens fairly often in powder rooms both from the bulb/fixture and other metals in the room that may reflect goldish tones onto the walls.

  3. Lisa, I have Agreeable Gray in my north facing living room. I would definitely call it a warm gray, with a slight green undertone.

  4. Help! I have cool tones and warm tones happening in my kitchen (former owners painted cabinets a cool light grey possibly repose grey ad the trim is a warm off white. I feel like the right paint color could tie them together so they don’t fight. Suggestions?

    1. Lydia – I would start by making the trim white as that will make everything easier. I’d probably take a drawer or something to the paint store to match. If it is Repose Gray (or whatever it is), then you may consider having them mix 50/50 blend with white or choose a “white” with a slightly warm gray undertone (e.g. eider white or torque white), but you will need to look at the paint swatch vs your actual cabinet to figure out the right one. I hope that helps.

  5. I have wall-to-wall berber style light grey carpet in my north-facing walkout basement. I have a swatch of Agreeable Grey on the walls and it almost exactly matches the carpet (trim is white)–is this too much grey ? The other color I’m considering is Antique White. Would really appreciate your opinion.

    1. Jessica – It’ probably a bit much. And, most basements don’t have the best lighting, especially from a natural light perspective. I’d be more inclined to do a white. (or a white w/ a greige undertone).

  6. Help with North or North East 2 story foyer. I have tried many colors. Shaker Beige, Ashen Tan, Rever Pewter, many others. Pink,green,lavender,muddy undertones nothing seems to work.

    1. Dianne – That’s probably due to the lighting as you’re getting a lot of grays in the sunlight. If “nothing” works, then maybe just try a white. Maybe one with slightly warmer tones. Try Alabaster.

    1. Sabrina – I don’t have one on Benjamin Moore shades, and maybe I should do one at some point. (but it would be a while). BUT, you can get above shades at Benjamin Moore. Both of these brands have the formula card for each other. So they can make the shade with their own paint.

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