Looking for paint colors that look best in a north facing room? Here’s a list of the best white & gray paint colors for northern exposure rooms. Use one of these popular paint colors to help brighten your north facing room!
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 Does Northern Light Matter When Choosing Paint?
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 at some point receive direct sunlight exposure, but Northern windows are left out of the party.
This creates two problems:
1. Less light
2. Cool light
Let’s first talk about how to deal with less natural light in a room with northern light exposure.
How Do You Brighten A North Facing Room?
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.
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. Bright paint colors, or paints with a higher LRV, are a good choice for rooms with Northern light.
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 keep 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 the space starting to feel dark & gloomy.
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.
Related: How To Brighten A Dark Room Using Decor
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.
Create an accent wall!
Use your bold color on one of the walls in your room for a fun design element in the space. Then 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 Do You Warm Up A North Facing Room?
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, 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.
Know Your Undertones
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.
What Paint Colors Are Best For North Facing Rooms?
I most commonly recommend white and neutral paint colors (white, off-white, gray, greige, beige) in a room with Northern light because they are most likely to look great. However, don’t be afraid to try out non-neutrals.
Ready for the paint color recommendations? Here are a few of my favorites from each color family that are best suited for rooms with Northern light.
Best 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: 83.16 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Also known as Benjamin Moore – PM-19
Benjamin Moore White Dove is one of my all time favorite paint colors! It has the perfect amount of warmth, and the brightness of 83.16 (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. You can see this color all throughout our first home. Every white wall in that house is White Dove.
Benjamin Moore describes White Dove as:
“Unerring style defines this clean and classic white.”Benjamin Moore
Below is another look at White Dove on the walls – you can really see the creaminess of the color when paired with a bright white trim color.
Greek Villa (SW 7551) by Sherwin-Williams
Greek Villa – LRV: 84 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Greek Villa is a perfect white paint color choice for any room with northern light exposure! It’s a member of Sherwin-Williams Top 50 Colors, so you know it’s good.
The color is mostly neutral, but it does lean slightly warm, which is perfect for a room with North facing windows. This also makes it an excellent choice as whole-home paint color.
“This sunny white comes to life in natural light. Use it to brighten any space or try it on trim to make other colors pop.”Sherwin-Williams
Simply White (OC-117) by Benjamin Moore
Simply White – LRV: 89.52 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Also known as Benjamin Moore – 2143-70
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 89.52!
Tip: If you’re looking for an equally bright white paint color but need something slightly cool, I recommend Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore – grab a sample of Chantilly Lace.
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 north facing room.
“The slightest hint of warmth makes this clean, crisp white a favorite to use anywhere in the home.”Benjamin Moore
Looking for the best color to paint a north facing kitchen? Simply White will give your cooking space a clean, crisp look – perfect for the heart of the home!
Related: Farmhouse Bathroom DIY & Decor Ideas
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.
Cloud White (OC-130) by Benjamin Moore
Cloud White – LRV: 85.05 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Also known as Benjamin Moore – 967, CC-40
Cloud White by Benjamin Moore is a beautiful off-white color, and 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 soft & subtle with a creamy warm color.
Benjamin Moore describes Cloud White as:
“Soft and balanced, this go-to white can effortlessly buoy a space.”Benjamin Moore
The warm undertones in Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White make it a perfect paint color for countering the cooling light from Northern windows.
As with all creamy paint colors, the warmth and undertones are primarily from yellows. With some paint colors, the yellow undertones have a tendency to be overstated, and unwelcome.
However, that’s not the case with Cloud White. In most lighting, it looks like a true white that leans slightly warm, but doesn’t look overly yellow. In northern light, it’s very unlikely that it will look yellow.
Silver Satin (OC-26) by Benjamin Moore
Silver Satin – LRV: 74.9 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Also known as Benjamin Moore – 856
Silver Satin by Benjamin Moore is a true off-white paint color – don’t let the name fool you. It falls perfectly in the middle between white and gray, making it a complex and interesting paint color.
This is a balanced color that is neither warm nor cool. Plus, it doesn’t have the kind of undertones that are susceptible to Northern light color shifting.
Silver Satin creates an inviting feel in any room. Below you can see just how soft and subtle this color looks in a master bathroom with lots of natural light coming in.
I love this meet-in-the-middle paint color choice for north facing rooms. Definitely recommend!
“Crisp lavender-gray undertones define this sleek shade of white.”Benjamin Moore
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 pick a gray paint color for your north facing room with confidence!
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 (SW 7029) by Sherwin Williams
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.
“Our best-selling paint color is the perfect complement to just about anything. With a beige undertone, this gray exudes a subtle warmth.”Sherwin-Williams
Pale Oak (OC-20) by Benjamin Moore
Pale Oak – LRV: 68.64 (LRV, or Light Reflectance Value is a scale commonly used by design professionals where 0 = absolute black and 100 is pure white.)
Also known as Benjamin Moore – Athena (858)
In a room with limited Northern light, Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore is an exceptional color! With an LRV of 68.64 it is the brightest gray paint color that actually looks gray.
“With its warm gray undertones, this versatile neutral conjures the quiet majesty of white oak.”Benjamin Moore
As long as you have a moderate amount of natural light, Pale Oak is a good choice. However, if you have little to no natural light, you might be better off with a true white color.
I used Pale Oak in our north facing guest room and love how it made the room feel light & airy, yet also added a bit of depth when paired with a white shiplap wall (BM White Dove).
Need help deciding on the best paint color for your North facing room?
Check out this Samplize sample bundle! It has all the colors from this article!
Psssttt…want my A-to-Z blueprint on how to design a room that’s beautiful and stylish?
There you have it – my top paint color recommendations for rooms with Northern light. Which one was your favorite?
I hope you enjoyed reading, and found it helpful. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!
Up Next: Best Paint Colors For South Facing Rooms
More Paint Color Resources
Helping people choose the perfect paint color for their home is one of my favorite things! I’ve created several other resources to help take the stress out of decorating & designing with paint.
- Popular Paint Colors For South Facing Rooms
- White Paint Color Guide | The Best White Paint Colors
- Best Gray Paint Colors | The Ultimate Guide
- Green Paint Colors | Top Colors Of The Year
- Relaxing Blue Paint Colors For Your Whole Home
- Best Black Paint Colors & How To Choose The Right One
- Trending Paint Colors for 2021 | Colors Trends From Top Brands
- How To Choose A Paint Color | Lighting, Undertones, Sheen (and more!)
- Samplize Review | Peel-and-Stick Paint Samples
- White Dove Paint Color Review | After Painting My Whole House!