When you’re choosing a paint color, there are several important considerations – but the lighting in a room is the #1 most important factor. How many windows a room has, and which they direction they face are both very important!
To select the best paint color for a room with North Facing windows, there’s a few things you need to know. Keep reading to learn all about choosing paint colors for North Facing rooms (or skip to the bottom to see my list of personally curated colors).
Why Is Northern Light Different?
North facing windows have a unique lighting challenge – they never receive direct sunlight (in the Northern Hemisphere). The sun travels from the eastern horizon, through the southern sky, and sets over the western horizon.
Throughout the day East, South, and West facing windows receive direct sunlight exposure, but Northern windows are left out of the party.
This creates two problems: #1 Less Light, and #2 Cooler Light.
Here’s how to deal with each of these Northern light challenges:
How To Deal With Less Natural Light
North Facing windows have less natural light to work with. Adding more windows, or larger windows can help solve this problem – but let’s be honest – you’re probably not going to be adding any windows!
Don’t worry, there’s an easy solution. Bright paint colors can re-create the light and airy feel of additional natural light, without actually changing the lighting.
Bright paint colors are a perfect fit for rooms with Northern light. Paint color brightness is measured on a scale called the Light Reflectance Value or LRV for short. The scale goes from 0 to 100 with zero being completely black, and one hundred being pure white.
In North facing rooms, I recommend trying to select a color with a higher LRV. For white paint colors, this isn’t as important because white paint colors are inherently light and bright.
Off-whites, Neutrals, and grays will naturally be lower on the LRV scale, however, you can still keeps things bright by selecting a color in the 60’s or 70’s for LRV. Once you dip down into the 50’s and below, you risk creating a dark gloomy feel.
Keep in mind, the LRV targets should only be used as a point of reference, not as a strict rule. I wouldn’t completely rule out a color because it’s a few LRV points too low, and I also would’t necessarily seek out the highest possible LRV.
If you have your heart set on a dark or bold non-neutral paint color, I have a little hack that can help you utilize the color without darkening the room.
It’s easy, here’s how you do it: select a wall, and use your color to make an accent wall. Then you can paint the rest of the room a complementary bright white color. This way your room still feels bright, and it draws attention to your feature wall!
How To Deal With Cool Natural Light
Northern light lacks warmth, and tends to make paint colors look cooler than they really are. But it’s not all bad news for Northern Windows – because the light is indirect, it’s softer, and doesn’t create harsh glares.
Direct sunlight is a warm, and golden yellow color. However, Northern windows don’t get any of this warm golden light. What you get from Northern windows is light with a cool color profile that it gets from the blue sky. On overcast days, Northern light will also mimic the color of the sky. This gives light a gloomy gray color.
Because of this, Northern light tends to make paint colors look a little cooler than they really are. In some cases, it can wash out paint colors.
OK, so Northern light makes paint colors look cooler, what should I do about it?
Here’s what you need to know. The best thing you can do about Northern light is to just be aware of the cooling affect. You can still choose a warm, or a cool color, but I recommend selecting a slightly warmer (or less cool) shade of the color you’re going for.
With Northern light, the only type of paint colors to avoid are extremely warm colors – sometimes really warm colors can look weird when they are illuminated with cool light.
When choosing paint colors in your home, it’s important to have a cohesive color palette scheme throughout your home. Every room doesn’t need to be the exact same color, but every color you choose needs to fit it.
What About Undertones?
What is an undertone anyway?
Undertones are the less apparent, secondary color tones that can be seen in a paint color.
Paint colors with cool undertones – especially blue (but also green and purple) are the most susceptible to being influenced by Northern light.
If you choose a paint color that has blue undertones in a room with North facing windows, the color usually ends up looking more blue than you intended. This color shifting effect happens most prominently with white white, off-white, and gray paint colors.
Tips For Choosing A Paint Color
I created a five step process designed to help you choose a perfect paint color for your home. This easy system uses undertones, lighting, sheen, and much more, to help you confidently select a color. Check it out here: 5 Steps To Choosing A Perfect Paint Color | The Complete Guide.
Before making a final decision on a paint color, it’s always best to test out the colors in your home. I recommend Peel-and-Stick vinyl paint samples from Samplize. I use them myself, and I’m completely addicted! They save you from the hassle and commitment of painting sample splotches on your walls. If you want to learn more, check out my Samplize Review | My Experiences With Peel-And-Stick Samples.
What Paint Colors For North Facing Rooms?
I recommend sticking with whites, off-whites, or grays in a room with Northern light. Ready for the actual paint color recommendations? Here are a few of my favorites from each color family that are best suited for rooms with Northern light.
White Paint Colors For North Facing Rooms
When you’re dealing with Northern light, it’s hard to go wrong with a true white paint color. White paint colors are bright, and have the least promenade undertones. But there’s still a few things to you need to watch out for.
When selecting a white paint color for a Northern room, look for a color with minimal undertones, and a warm color temperature.
Although warm colors are ideal for taming cool Northern light, what’s even more important is matching the color palette in the rest of your home. If you need to use a cooler white, avoid extremely cool colors – especially ones with strong undertones.
Below are few of my top white paint color recommendations for rooms with Northern light exposure.
For even more popular white paint colors, check the white paint guide I wrote all about The Best White Paint Colors. It has many of the top white paint colors for any room (not just rooms with Northern light).
White Dove (OC-17) by Benjamin Moore
White Dove – LRV: 85.38 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Benjamin Moore White Dove is one of my all time favorite paint colors! It has the perfect amount of warmth, and brightness of 85.38 (LRV) make it an ideal choice for any room with North facing windows. Plus, this is also one of my top picks for a ‘whole home’ color.
Benjamin Moore describes White Dove as:
Unerring style defines this classic, softly shaded white. Light and luminous, it is a favorite choice for moldings and trim.
Simply White (OC-117) by Benjamin Moore
Simply White – LRV: 91.7 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Simply White by Benjamin Moore is a clean, crisp white with just a touch of warmth. With a name like Simply White, you know it’s a true white color – it doesn’t have any overpowering undertones.
This is my #1 recommendation for any room with limited natural light. Simply White can make any room feel brighter with its has a high LRV of 91.7!
If you’re looking for an equally bright white paint color but need something slightly cool, I recommend Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore.
Simply White might be simple, but it isn’t boring. This color strays from pure white just enough to achieve some warmth and richness. This makes it a perfect all around color – especially in a Northern room.
Best Off-White Colors For North Facing Rooms
When you can’t decide between white and gray, off-white is the perfect middle ground. Off-white is one of my favorite paint color families because the colors are more complex than white, but they’re lighter and brighter than gray.
Here’s a few off-white paint colors that look great in a room with Northern light exposure.
Creamy White by Benjamin Moore (OC-07)
Creamy White – LRV: 72.35 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Creamy White by Benjamin Moore is a beautiful off-white color – it might just be my #1 overall pick for rooms with Northern light exposure! As you can probably guess from the name, this paint is luxuriously creamy, and it has a rich warm color.
The warm undertones in Benjamin Moore’s Creamy White are perfect for countering the cooling light from Northern windows.
Silver Satin by Benjamin Moore
Silver Satin – LRV: 76.35 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Silver Satin by Benjamin Moore is true off-white paint color – it falls perfectly in the middle between white and gray. The color is complex and interesting.
This is a balanced color that is neither warm or cool. Plus, it doesn’t have the kind of undertones that are susceptible Northern light color shifting.
Silver Satin creates an inviting feel in any room. Here’s how Benjamin Moore describes the color on their product page:
This color is part of the Off-White Color collection. Inherently sophisticated and endlessly versatile, the Off-White collection offers subtle nuances of whites that suit tranquil, serene environments as well as creates color-enhancing accents for dynamic spaces. A compilation of 152 white and off-white colors.
Best Gray Paint Colors For North Facing Rooms
Gray paint can look amazing in a North facing room. However, gray is riskier than White, or Off-White. Gray colors are inherently darker, and have a tendency to shift strongly towards purple, blue, or green with the right combination of undertones and Northern light.
But you know what they say – no risk, no reward. If you like the idea of painting a room gray, don’t let Northern light scare you off. It’s always important to test paint samples in your home, but with gray paint colors, it’s an ABSOLUTE MUST. Peel-and-stick vinyl paint samples from Samplize make it so easy to try out paint colors in your home!
By selecting the right colors, and testing them in your home, you can pull this off!
Here are two of my favorite gray paint colors for rooms with Northern light (below). For even more of my favorite gray paint colors, check out my full gray paint guide: Popular Gray Paint Colors | The Ultimate Guide.
Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams (SW 7029)
Agreeable Gray – LRV: 60 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams is the perfect gray paint color for a room with large windows and lots of natural light. It has an LRV of 60 which isn’t particularly high for a gray. However, in a well lit room, the color is spectacular.
Agreeable Gray is slightly warm, but mostly neutral. This makes it a perfect choice for rooms with Northern light. It has just enough warmth to combat cool light.
Especially when combined with true white trim, ceilings, or walls, Agreeable Gray looks bold and distinctively gray.
Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore (OC-20)
Pale Oak – LRV: 69.89 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
In a room with limited Northern light, Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore is an exceptional color! With an LRV of 69.89 it is the brightest gray paint color that actually looks gray.
As long as you have a moderate amount of natural light, Pale Oak should be a good choice. However, if you have severely limited, or no natural light, you might be better off with a true white color. I recommend trying out a few different colors to see which one looks best in your home. Trying out multiple colors is super easy with Samplize Peel-and-Stick paint samples.
All My Other Paint Color Resources
These have been my paint color recommendations for rooms with Northern light. Helping people choose the perfect paint color for their home is one of my favorite things! I’ve created several other resources to help destress your paint color decision, and to simply selection the process.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and found it helpful. If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments below!