How to Decorate North Facing Room
Let’s Get The North Lowdown
Looking for how to decorate north facing rooms? We’ve all usually got at least one, perhaps two or three. How to decorate a north-facing room is the $64000 question.
When you understand a little more about reflected and diffused light, the Purkinje shift, how to work with undertones and overtones, and some savvy tips and tricks to maximise the little light you have, well, it becomes so much easier. So that’s exactly what I’m going to be covering today.
Okay, you want to learn how to decorate a north-facing room? First of all, what’s going on in a north-facing space? Rooms facing north have cooler natural light and much less of it.
You may have been met with contradicting advice if you’ve looked for a solution to decorate a north-facing room.
It’s common to assume that northern light is blue light because it is if there is nothing surrounding your window. North light is reflected light. It’s not direct light; a reflection of the northern sky is blue, whereas direct light would be the sun’s yellow.
The reflected light is exactly as it sounds; it is reflected from elements surrounding your windows. The greenery in your garden (giving it a cooler feel), the red bricks of an adjacent wall (giving it a warmer feel). You get the point.
Reflected light is diffused and does not cast strong shadows or give high contrast. The lack of light and crisp shadows removes a little drama and can create a calming feel, but if the colour choice isn’t considered carefully, it can sometimes feel a little lifeless.
North facing rooms also suffer from generally lower levels of light. Bringing me to a bit of science of what can happen if you’ve got a darker, dimly lit room.
How To Decorate North Facing Room: The Purkinje Shift
Yes, it’s no typo. The Purkinje shift is the real deal. It’s all about how our eyes process colours when light is lacking. If you’ve ever wondered why blue appears bluer at dusk, the Purkinje shift is the answer.
When light levels are low, our eyes switch off the red + green cones, and the blue cone carries all on its own. This brightens the scene by helping the primitive man catch his prey. It’s not convenient for catching Farrow and Ball paint colour chips!
What does this mean for north-facing rooms that don’t have as much light?
Using cool blue colours in north-facing spaces will make the blue feel brighter, and any colour you add will have a blue tint, so a neutral beige might look a little green and cooler.
Colour For North Facing Room? How To Make North Facing Room Brighter? Let’s Go White, Right?
Okay, I’ve got a dark room; I need more light or white, right? It’s easy to think that white is a good idea when decorating a north-facing room; light means bright, right?
Well, it does, but add in cooler light, with a lack of crisp shadows, and you may feel white is a little lacklustre and gloomy. As the light is more diffused and less direct, softer, warmer shades can make the most of the lighting conditions. If you want to try white, make your space feel as bright and airy as possible. Choose a white paint colour with a warm undertone, avoiding any whites with cool undertones.
Best White Paint Colours For North Facing Rooms:
The Best Paint Colours For North Facing Rooms? Deep + Dark?
Rather than trying to fight the gloom, sometimes it’s just better to work with it and go all in deep and dark. Go all in and ignore 60/30/10; go dark with walls and furniture.
Just make sure you add plenty of texture and contrast to stop it from consuming, with rugs, throws, soft furnishings and as much tactile texture as possible to contrast the space and give the perception of bouncing that indirect light around a little.
Choosing colours with a warmer yellow base (basically mimicking the sun) or red base will stop it from feeling too cold, and if the light is lacking, adjusting for the Purkinje Shift may mean that you might not need to go as dark or deep on warmer colours, or they’ll end up feeling like blacks. Metallics are particularly effective against darker hues if you want to brighten and lift.
Tips To Trick
1. The Highlights
The diffused light in north-facing spaces can be a problem for highlighting features and architectural details. With softer shadows, things don’t contrast in the same way.
Here colour can be your BFF as you learn how to warm up a north facing room, and you can use this to create contrast or trick the eyes into thinking that at least.
2. The Natural Light
Try not to cover windows in north-facing spaces, stack curtains beyond the window reveal, and if aesthetically possible, face-fix blinds to the wall above the window rather than recess fitting covering the natural light.
3. The Details
Mirrors are always a good idea, but especially in north-facing spaces, they will help you bounce around the little light that you have. Try placing mirrors adjacent to a light source, such as a window or lamp, for maximum effect. Don’t stop at mirrors alone. Think about other reflective surfaces to help you bounce the light as far as possible.
4. The Colours
The key to selecting the right colours for your room is assessing all the considerations above. Get lots of tester pots and look at them in your room. Check your lighting throughout the day, especially under artificial light, as my guess is you’ll often have the ambient lights on, adding to the cocooning cave-like ambience.
Depending on light levels, you may need to adjust your colours and perhaps not go quite as dark as the perfect shade in the showroom.
So to recap, here’s your checklist for how to decorate a north facing room:
- The light is reflected + diffused in north-facing spaces. It is calming but can feel lifeless.
- If light levels are low, bear in mind the Purkinje shift. Blue’s will be brighter. Warm tones will head more towards black (you may not need to go quite as dark).
- White’s with warm undertones will work better, but you may be better opt for a mid-tone.
- Don’t fight it. Go all in with deeply saturated hues to create cocooning cave-like drama.
- Allow as much light to flow with clever design tricks and bounce around as much light as possible.
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