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Home Remodel

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If you’ve always got the blues, you might have the wrong paint color for your north-facing room. See, I learned all about paint while avoiding a kitchen remodel. It was the classic home renovation pick and roll; renovate the bedrooms instead of tackling the non-operational kitchen. I mean, why start on a truly urgent project when you can tailspin for months over paint colors for north-facing rooms?

I’ll show you pics of the fabulous coral and true teal we decided on as well as giving specific color suggestions below, but if all you want are bullet points without all the backstory, the key takeaways when painting a north-facing room include:

  • Stark white paint is no good in north-facing rooms. More on why below
  • Warm neutrals (and whites with warm undertones) are a solid substitute for bright/stark white
  • Dramatic dark colors give a north-facing room depth
  • Pastels with warm undertones work well
  • Pastels with cool undertones can look tragic
  • Room decor, flooring, and exterior foliage impact the undertones in your paint selection. I linked resources below for understanding undertones

Backstory:

In July 2016 our electric oven broke (bear with me, this does circle back to paint). The easy fix would be replacing the oven, but my wife really wanted gas—and that meant hiring a plumber, and our janky white shaker cabinet doors were constantly falling off and the footprint of the galley kitchen was tooooo small for two cooks; so if we were going to do one thing, we were going to do it all.


The wee kitchen galley with disobedient cabinet doors and non-functional oven

My wife and I were terrified of taking on a kitchen remodel (rightly so, it turns out the process has been fraught with drama). So over two years of remodel denial we became experts at the no-stove workaround. My wife should write a lifestyle cookbook for the Instapot, crockpot, and countertop toaster oven crowd. Finally, in July 2018, we said, this is ridiculous! We are grown women! We can face our fears…and we promptly agreed to repaint the bedrooms.

Painting the bedrooms

As any novice home renovator soon finds out, we quickly learned that just repainting the rooms does not suffice. The carpets were disgusting from years of doggies, the original 1950s baseboards were jank, and the original closet was a dysfunctional monster. So, instead of a quick paint touch-up, we embarked on a two month bedroom overhaul.

I thought the pale, icy blue of the guest and main bedrooms always felt cold and shadowy. Even when the sun was shining I’d wrap up in a depression sweater when I was back there.


Sad blue paint and sad 1950s baseboards

What I didn’t know then is that north facing rooms have minimal direct sunlight, so colors with cool undertones make cold shadows. So although the blue was, in theory, a beautiful pastel, in our north-facing rooms the color looked drab and cold.

We tend toward modern design and reasoned brighter and whiter might be a good choice. Boy was I wrong. After deep diving into blogs and paint sites, I learned that the type of sun exposure the rooms get impacts how the paint colors look on the walls. So instead of fabulously airy and light, true white looks grey and dingy in cool light, delivery dreary institutional vibes.

Counter to my ideas, light theory was teaching me that bold, rich colors bring warmth and life to dark rooms. In our shadowy room, deep colors could create a sense of coziness as opposed to the depression sweater vibe of our current pale blue.


We have large windows on the north wall of both bedrooms, but the windows look up a wooded hillside and never receive direct sunlight.

So I embarked on a new campaign to paint our main bedroom a warm, glowing deep teal and our guest room/office a fabulous coral. Here are my teal paint Pinterest inspiration board and coral wall paint Pinterest inspiration board.

In 2016 when we painted the living room and dining room, we learned the hard way that paint color cards DO NOT look anything like what ends up on your wall, precisely due to the orientation of your room and the amount of natural sunlight you receive.


My wife trying not to lose her mind amongst all those lilacs that had
masqueraded as grey at the paint store.

As a result of painting millions of misleading sample grays on our living room walls back then, we had a better strategy for painting our bedrooms this time. Try it out if you like:

  1. Search Pinterest for paint inspo for North-facing rooms! Make a Pinterest board with colors you like
  2. Consider your decor (bed frame, carpet/flooring, artwork and overheard lighting) and what colors would look good?
  3. Bring your Pinterest boards to your paint shop and have them help you color match some of the paint cards to the pics
  4. Buy no more than four paint samples to test on the walls
  5. Paint large (I like at least 2 or three foot squares) swatches of each color on the main walls

I wish I had better photos of our teal paint samples, but thanks to the crap natural lighting in our main bedroom, photographing this room is like trying to bathe a cat. Never a good time with natural light and overhead light casts strange shadows. Here is my best attempt:


From the top, clockwise: Real Teal, Seaworthy, Oceanside, Great Falls.
All by Sherwin Williams

The coral guest room photographs far better thanks to an overhead skylight that augments the natural light in the room.


From left to right: Ravishing Coral and Lei Flower by Sherwin Williams. In addition to my photog skills, this pic shows off our grody old carpet, the new carpet options (spoiler, we went w/ the darker one) and those beat down baseboards, which are now replaced.

Our final paint choices

Curious how the rooms turned out? We chose Lei Flower for the guest room / office and Real Teal for our bedroom. I LOVE the coral paint and I adore the teal but I flubbed on the teal by choosing a semi-gloss sheen. In retrospect I would have done a satin sheen in the teal like I did with the coral. The semi-gloss is just too damn shiny. Here are the final pics:

Resources: Paint for north-facing rooms

After 8 weeks with no kitchen a gentle despair sets in. You think it won’t happen to you—you’re steady, you meditate—but you’re wrong. The absence of function really starts to erode your ease. 

You think, perhaps, washing dishes in the bathtub will be an adventure. Like going camping or joining the circus. But instead, cleaning dishware in the same room that you pee sort of starts to bring you down. 

The ultimate lay flat shot

Sadly, all those cliches you heard about kitchen remodels were true:

  • The freight company will hold your wife’s range hostage out of spite
  • Cabinets will arrive late and when they finally arrive, they are damaged. Cabinet ETA will remain unknown
  • The new washing machine will malfunction, flooding one side of the kitchen subfloor
  • An appliance delivery truck will destroy 10 feet of your new neighbor’s retaining wall
  • Sewage water will overflow through an uncapped plumbing line where the sink once was. The other side of the kitchen floor will flood 
  • Skipping showers will become all too reasonable (because whoever showers has to wash the dishes at the same time)
  • Your meals will be mostly cereal (this is a secret perk, actually)

You begin to believe that the kitchen will, in fact, never be completed and that the nice, but essentially unknown, men will be in your home forever. You may even start to think you never had a stove or cabinets—and that plastic sheeting has always been your home decor. 

If this is you, dear friend of little faith, please stay strong. One day, maybe even in 2019, you’ll have a kitchen ceiling, floor and cabinets once more. 

Ruby dog and Wifey

*All this to say, complaining is insane. A home to remodel is a luxury and a privilege. But goddamn if I don’t feel uncomfortable. *