Since most North Facing rooms do not receive direct sunlight, the quality of light is more blue influenced and this has a cooling effect on the colours you have in that space. For example, a grey or a pale blue or even an off-white is going to appear to have a blue-ish cast and you may find yourself commenting that the room feels cold and uninviting. The upside to North Facing rooms mean that the light has less glare and shadows and is more evenly balanced. This means north facing rooms are great spaces in which to do activities such as office work, computer work, and artistic pursuits such as painting, sewing, crafting. North facing light is also very calming in a bedroom.
If your goal is to liven up your North facing space and take away the coolness, then consider using colours which are very saturated. Saturated just means that it has more colour pigment in it. Types of saturated colours that work well include deep blues, ochre yellows, intense oranges, pinks and warm reds. You can also try an intense green/yellow in combination with accents of intense raspberry.
In the North Facing bedroom below Kevin Gray Interiors used a deep blue with accents of ochre yellow and brass to give warmth. We also used mirrors flanking the bed to reflect both the natural light coming from the windows on the opposite side of the room and to reflect the light from the bedside lamps.
If painting your entire room a saturated colour is too much for you or innappropriate for the architecture, consider painting the walls a warm mid-toned cream or mid-toned warm neutral as illustrated by Farrow and Ball's 'House White' on the wall in the bottom most photograph below.
The quality of light in a South Facing Room is always warmer and more yellow on the light spectrum. That means that in a South facing room if you use a yellow paint, it will appear even more yellow. It also means that you can use cooler tones without making the room feel cold. For example, if you use a very pale blue/off white on the ceiling, a soft pale grey for the trim or walls, and put accents of blue throughout, the effect of these colours on the light entering the room is that it will be more toned down yet still appealing and attractive. With this as the envelope for the room, liven it up with crisp white linen drapes and/or upholsteries, with white accents in the furnishings, along with a small hit of bright colours such as a yellows, oranges or greens and watch your South Facing Room come alive! Photograph and Interior Design by Martha O Hare Interiors.
WEST FACING ROOMS:
The quality of natural lighting West Facing rooms varies in the opposite way to East Rooms in that it is cooler in the morning and warmer in the afternoon and evening. Since they generally get more light throughout the day, you they respond well to white or light coloured walls. I suggest white/light colours if you want to create a feeling of airiness and spaciousness, and especially if you use your West room in the afternoon because the warmer natural light at that time of day will reflect wonderfully off a lighter colour of wall.
However if you want to add a little more colour then consider colours that fall in the red spectrum; anything from pale pink/neutrals to mid toned terra cotta's to deeper shades of burgundy.
Again, take into consideration the purpose for which your West room is used, and consider your personality and the overall feeling you wish to create which is appropriate to you and/or the preferences of those with whom you share the space.
If your home is more open-plan and you have a room or rooms which are open to one another from the West to the East of your home, you may need to ensure that the colour chosen for one space also works in the other. However if your West/East room or area has a logical point at which differing paint colours can be started/stopped then you may want to consider painting different/complimentary colours in the West/East spaces. A good example of this is shown in the photograph below. The 'clay' colour could be on the west side of the space and the 'leaf' colour could be on the East side of the space. In this example the green tone in the east end of the space has enough warm undertones in it which help it to blend nicely with the warmer red/orange of the clay colour on the West. Image provided courtesy of Yolo Colorhouse. www.yolocolorhouse.com
The light coming from the East is similar in quality to north light in that it is generally slightly cooler, although it varies throughout the day; In the morning the natural light is warmer, and as the sun moves Westwards light quality becomes cooler in tone.
There are two schools of thought on which colours work best; One opinion is to offset the cooler tones by using warmed up neutrals in versions of yellows, creams and golds. The other opinion is to go with the flow and not fight the cooler east light by selecting soft and muted versions of greens or blues. From the purist standpoint all other factors aside, I feel the way to get a more satisfactory result is to follow the second option. But colour is never de-facto and there are variables to consider. For example, I believe your decision making must take into account how the rooms is used and at what time of day, and it all needs to tie into your personality and/or the predominant personality of your family. For example if its a breakfast nook which sees a lot of activity early in the morning and has a great big window with unobstructed sunlight coming in, and you are the type(s) who need to emote energy and start the day with a bang, then DO consider using warmer tones such as yellows, even consider muted versions of orange, either of which could be trimmed with doors/window frames in a soft cream colour. On the flipside if your family are the type who like a quiet start to the day, then perhaps a soft green or duck egg blue would be a more calming influence. Also, don't be afraid of taking a greenish blue in a more intense colour value and trim it with clean crisp whites. It can be stunning depending again on how the room is used. Images courtesy of Farrow and Ball. www.us.farrow-ball.com
Kevin Gray is a residential interiors specialist, who has more than 20 years experience in the interior and architectural design industry.