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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


Scooter, my old man dog, has recently embraced incontinence as a lifestyle choice. 

Poor little dude. I took him to the vet, and they ran a $300 test to tell me if there’s a thing to do, but in the meantime my reactions to taking him out to pee every 30 minutes make me feel like an asshole

My kid parent friends are noble. They stay up nights and feed babies and tend to sick kids and clean barf out of beds and I never hear them say things like, “can I just put him in a kennel?”

I love him like crazy. I don’t want him to suffer, but I also don’t want to wake up three times each night to let him out to urinate. And those times that he doesn’t whine to be let out, he just pees in his bed. My mom friends (I don’t know about all dudes, but among my hetero couple friends, it is really only the ladies who are doing this work) seem to be more focused on their baby’s well-being than urine ruining their carpet, while I constantly am concerned about Scooter pee leaking through his bed. 

Unto you a doggy is born

It all started two weeks ago while my wife was out of the country. I was having an emotional melt (not directly related to being alone, but certainly the loneliness compounded it) and woke up wanting comfort (poor me!) and looked to Scooter for morning snuggles. Instead of a soft and fluffy coat I found his bed soaked and his fur drenched in pee. I felt it really lent a type of gravitas to the depths of my self-pity to get on my hands and knees and blot urine stains from our new carpet (!) instead of crying softly in bed over the weight of my feelings. Next, a de-pee fur bath. I even tried to blow dry him, but he was not interested. 

Later that day, I face-timed a friend to recount my sorrows, and she happened to be at the doctor’s office. She was waiting for an appointment for her littlest one, due to the fact that her three kids, all under age seven, were up the night before barfing and she had spent the night comforting them, bathing them, and cleaning up vomit. She was tired but mostly just concerned about her daughters’ health. What I mean to say, she was more concerned with her kids than herself. 

So.

I feel like there’s a lesson here:

  • It’s great that I’m not a kid mom
  • Maybe I could pray for patience

*Just so you know, I am really sweet to Scooter and always tend to all his needs, but inside I secretly wish my dog brought me bed coffee and fed himself. *

Redwood glamour dog

There’s a spider who lives behind the driver’s side mirror of my car. For over a year she’s relentlessly rebuilt hundreds of blown down, torn down, and wiped off webs. I’ve tried to (lovingly!) evict her, but she’s crafty. She likes the dark space behind the glass, tucked deep in the casing of the mirror. She must creep out at night, weaving, spinning, re-creating the house I’ll accidentally or intentionally destroy the next day.

It seems clear to me that I know best. How she could live, trauma-free, if only liberated from her groundhog day prison. But she refuses to accept my help.

Once I spotted her, poised at the lip of the mirror and I leapt to catch her, intent on giving her my idea of her freedom. No luck. My wife suggested I might not know what’s best for her. That I just leave her be. Meaning I just keep wrecking her home. Or maybe I take off my side view mirror?

We leave the state, the country, for a week, for a month, and I return to a side view mirror cocooned in silky thread. Back from the Pacific Northwest my poor, abused pet had been busy at work. Are there no trauma memory banks in a spider’s brain? Has she mated for life with my mirror?

I wonder what I should name her?

by _Annie_Crawford