If you’ve always got the blues, you might have the wrong paint 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 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
A few years ago, 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 a gas range—and that meant hiring a plumber. Besides that, 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.
Renovating the bedrooms
As any novice home renovator soon finds out, 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. Classic avoidance technique (do you see how we artfully pushed aside the kitchen work?).
Choosing the paint
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.
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.
A few years back 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. This is because the orientation of your room, your interior lighting, your decor, carpet color, and the amount of natural sunlight you receive all impact how the color looks.
- Search Pinterest for paint inspo for North-facing rooms! Make a Pinterest board with colors you like
- Consider your decor (bed frame, carpet/flooring, artwork and overheard lighting) and what colors would look good?
- Bring your Pinterest boards to your paint shop and have them help you color match some of the paint cards to the pics
- Buy no more than four paint samples to test on the walls
- Paint large (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:
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
- Guide for finding the right paint color undertones for your decor, flooring and foliage from Diana Hathaway Timmons
- Suggestions for whites with warm undertones and dramatic colors from Laurel Bern
- How light affects color from Farrow & Ball
- Why dark paint looks good in dimly-lit rooms and paint color suggestions