Colors to avoid in north-facing rooms – 7 paint shades to swerve, according to experts

Wondering what colors to avoid in north-facing rooms? Experts weigh in on the shades you shouldn't choose, plus give their tips on alternative hues to consider

a bedroom with sage green bedhead and dusky pink walls
(Image credit: Gunter & Co)

There are a few colors to avoid in north-facing rooms if you want them to feel comfortable and cozy, according to a certain school of thought. But why is that? 

'North-facing rooms can often feel colder,' Helen Shaw from Benjamin Moore explains, 'which is why it’s important to consider the purpose and size of the room before choosing paint color ideas.'

North facing rooms get virtually no direct sunlight, which means that the light it does receive, even if it has large windows, is bluer-toned. This can lead to the wrong colors contributing to a stark, drab atmosphere for north-facing rooms. 

To help pick the perfect shade for your space, we asked the experts to list the top colors to avoid in north-facing rooms, and share some clever tricks on how to get paint to work with with you, not against you, in these spaces. 

The colors to avoid in north-facing rooms

Whether it's your living room or bedroom, if you've picked paint before, you'll know it's not as easy as choosing a color and simply painting it on your walls. Along with giving some serious consideration to the exact color you want and its undertones, you also need to think about what the paint looks like at different times of the day. And the aspect of the room can have a big impact on that. 

'All light, especially natural light, impacts how paint color appears on a wall — and ultimately, how the paint color looks in a room,' says Benjamin Moore's Helen Shaw. 'Cozy snugs, intimate dining rooms and small-sized rooms can lend themselves to a strong color palette, especially when they don’t benefit from a huge amount of natural light.' 

'Painting the rooms from floor to ceiling in rich colors can look particularly striking and you can play with light sources to create a certain mood and ambiance,' she adds. 'When deciding on a color combination, opt for colors with similar undertones that complement the light available in the room.'

1. Grey  

a cold north facing room paint colors

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Subtle, calming and inoffensive, grey has been tipped as one of the most popular paint colors of choice on countless occasions. You only have to look at the best grey living room ideas to see that this hue lends itself to just about any room. 

But when it comes to north-facing spaces, grey can leave your room looking cool and crisp, rather than warm and inviting. 

'North facing rooms can highlight the cooler undertones, so if you want the room to look brighter, then avoid tones with grey undertones,' Helen Shaw from Benjamin Moore says. 'For example, if you select a color with a grey undertone, it can appear cool in a north-facing room, whereas opting for a grey-green with more green pigment will help to warm a north-facing room – yet may feel too green in a south-facing. Ultimately, it depends on how you want the room feel like.'

2. The wrong shade of white 

a stylish white living room in a north facing room

(Image credit: Julie Soefer)

Picking the perfect shade of white is harder than it sounds. Yes, the best white paint can breathe new life into dark spaces. But in north-facing rooms, if the wrong shade of white is chosen, it can look too creamy or yellow rather than brilliant and bright. 

'Since north-facing rooms tend to receive light for the majority of the day, take advantage of the natural light and keep the space bright,' says Houston-based interior designer, Marie Flanigan. 'Of course, it’s smart to avoid deep or dark colors, but conversely, test any whites you’re contemplating for the space.'

'A lot of whites can turn too creamy or yellow depending on the amount of sunlight in the room, so find one that has the right balance for your space.'

When it comes to picking white for your north-facing space, we'd recommend picking a white with a yellow or red undertone, which will help create a soft glow in your room. 

3. Black

a retro room with dark black wallpaper

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Thought black paint would be best for north-facing rooms? Think again. According to Los Angeles-based celebrity interior designer and home stager Francesca Grace, it might be best to swerve this bold hue on north-facing rooms. 

'Avoid any colors that are vividly toned, such as blacks, purples, and anything with grey undertones,' says Francesca. 'North-facing rooms tend to have a greyer light, staying away from any cloudy colors is best. However, there are so many different shades to choose from that there are always ways to make almost any color work nicely in a north-facing room.'

4. Muddy brown 

Brown painted bedroom with iron bed and linen bedlinen.

(Image credit: Nune)

If done correctly, brown living room ideas can help you create a stylish and cozy space to relax and unwind in. But, as is the case when picking any paint color, it's always best to find a brown that works for your space – especially if the room in question is north-facing.  

'Natural light can be problematic in a north-facing room, so I always start by assessing the light at different times of the day,' says Los Angeles-based Interior designer, Kirsten Blazek of A1000XBetter. 'I like to keep paint colors, window treatments and the main items of furniture light in color and bring in any color through the art and textiles.'

'I would avoid paints that are brown-based, especially any muddy browns,' she adds. 'There are certain colors that I call “light suckers” and others that reflect the light. I like a nice bright white in a north-facing room.'

5. Cool tones

Purple living room painted with Farrow & Ball paint

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

So, as we've seen, north-facing rooms are prone to making paint colors look cooler rather than warmer. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

Interior designer and lover of color Natalie Papier from Home Ec recommends steering clear of cooler tones (think blues, greys and purples) and picking hues that pack a punch. 

'With northern light, rooms tend to bring out cooler tones that can feel harsh and sterile,' Natalie tells us. 'I like to counteract that by bringing in warm color tones.  Rose and orange hues can help bring in those cozy, comforting vibes and balance out any cooler tones.'

One way to do this without going OTT is to experiment with your ceiling – otherwise known as your fifth wall. When it comes to ceiling decorating ideas, a brightly painted ceiling can feel less overbearing than if the design was taken across all four walls.

6. Blue

Blue bedroom with panelling

(Image credit: Emma Lee)

Time and time again, blue has been listed in the top color trends – and in 2022, it's no different. After all, it's a calming, tranquil, and feel-good hue. But in north-facing rooms, some blues can look cold and unwelcoming rather than serene and peaceful. 

But before you ditch blue entirely, we have some good news. 'Just because your room is north-facing, it doesn’t mean you can’t dabble in greys and blues,' interior designer Irene Gunter, founder of Gunter & Co tells us. 

The trick? 'Just make sure they have warm undertones,' Irene says. 'These colors will instantly add a cozy feel to a space. Generally, the cool natural light of north-facing rooms brings out the cooler tones in some colors, which can make a space feel unwelcoming.'

7. Think twice about green 

Pale sage green kitchen with island and marble countertops

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

The color green has made a comeback over the past couple of years. The natural, calming hue symbolizes rebirth and renewal. And while the best green paints have a  rightful place at the interior table, in north-facing rooms, some greens can look washed-out rather than full of life.  

But it's not just bedrooms or living rooms where the light in north-facing spaces can sharpen the cooler tones. 

'When planning a kitchen or any other room facing north, the incoming light will intensify the cooler subtones of all colors,' say Marc Sporer, Senior Architect at kitchen company SieMatic.  'This means you should avoid all colors based on grey, green and blue tones. Instead, you should work with “warmer” tones which are based on yellow or creamy white. A highly effective option is our warm-colored veneers like Smoked Oak, Hazel Brown Oak or Natural Walnut.' 

'While matt front panels are possible, a polished surface for worktops is beneficial for bringing more light into the north-facing room and reflecting the light much better than matt worktops,' he adds. 

What paint colors work well in north-facing rooms?

To help brighten the effects of the cooler natural light, interior designer Irene Gunter recommends painting colors with warming yellow, red, or orange undertones.

'My current favorite colors for north-facing rooms include blush shades, particularly in a bedroom where they create an incredibly soothing and inviting atmosphere,' she says. 

To help bounce light around a room and brighten the effects of the cooler natural light, I’d recommend paint colours with warming yellow, red, or orange undertones.

(Image credit: Gunter & Co)

'In the north-facing master bedroom of this Notting Hill family home, we used Paint & Paper Library’s Rouge II on the bottom of the wall, and that same color with 50 percent white mixed in to create a lighter shade for the top of the wall,' Irene explains. 'This paint technique not only adds interest but also blurs the edges of the room, making the ceiling look higher and the room look bigger.'

Choose colors that pack a punch

(Image credit: Natalie Papier)

If you are a fan of grey, why not consider painting the walls a creamier tone that will counteract the more grey natural hues, suggests interior designer Francesca Grace?

'If your north-facing room has many windows you can choose a darker paint color to enhance the moody grey lighting,' she says. 'Make sure you have enough additional lighting throughout the space to help make the room feel cozy instead of cold. These subtle changes will help enhance your room from being grey and drab to welcoming and eye-catching.'

Freelance writer

Becks is a freelance lifestyle writer who works across a number of Future's titles. This includes Real Homes, Top Ten Reviews, Tom's Guide, TechRadar and more. She started her career in print journalism at a local newspaper more than 8 years ago and has since then worked across digital and social media for food, fashion and fitness titles, along with home interior magazines. Her own interior style? She's big on creating mindful spaces in every corner of her home. If it doesn't spark joy or happiness, it has no place here. When she’s not writing, she’s reading and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.