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How light affects your paint colours – trend talk with interior designer Patricia Wakely

What to expect from your aspect

Patricia Wakely- Fleetwood Paints Interior Designer 

When considering any interior one of the first questions I ask clients is “how does the room face?” – in other words “what is your aspect?”
This has a huge impact on the feel in the space.
The most common description of a perfect area is south-facing – so why is this and how do you decorate rooms with more challenging aspects?

South Facing Rooms

South-facing rooms tend to be light filled and can lend themselves to virtually any colour choices you prefer.
Pale tones – Using paler tones will add a sense of space and light.
Rich colours – stronger, deeper colours will achieve their true vibrancy given the warmth of the light in the room.
The only advice that I would take on board for these areas is that paint colours may seem yellower so consideration should be given to cooler bases, but if you have a room that is south-facing – lucky you because the sky is the limit!


North Facing Rooms

North-facing areas have a cooler and slightly gloomier feel to them which for some people can be challenging.
The light in a room like this is much duller and so for instance greys will appear much greyer and colder and most colours will have a green hue to them.
To combat this I would recommend using neutrals with warmer yellow tones like ‘Jet Stream’ from the Pantone range or ‘Candlelight White’ from the Popular Colour card.
I personally like to embrace the darker environment and so would suggest using purples, reds or browns to give a dramatic, deep but warm look and feel.
My recommendations are ‘Betsy 1920 Deep’ from the Vogue Collection or ‘Purple Dove’ from Pantone.
Let’s face it, a room facing north will never be light and bright and so I like clients to consider that paint alone will not be the only solution.


East facing rooms.

It is so important to think about the times of day that these rooms are in use, as the light changes at different times. These rooms have natural light in the morning and so appear lighter, but darken as the day progresses.
If you use this room mostly in the morning then I tend to think of similar considerations as a south-facing room.
If used in the evening the opposite is true and I would choose colours similar to northern aspects.
Light warm blues and greens suit these types of areas perfectly – ‘Gossamer’ from the Popular Colours Collection is a personal favourite of mine as is ‘Zephyr Blue’ from Pantone.
Trims also should be thought through as softer whites sit well with these tones – perhaps choose ‘Vanilla Milkshake’ from the Popular Colours Collection in a satinwood finish for timberwork.


West-facing rooms.

Similar to the east-facing aspect these rooms present a challenge in that they are darker in the morning time and brighten up in the afternoon/evening and so considering the time that is spent in these rooms, they are treated as north facing if used earlier and south-facing if only used in the evening.
While these rough guides are true, you may also consider that each room’s use could be completely different from another, that is to say that colours you might choose for a social area like a dining room may not be the same colour that would suit a more restful feeling that you want for your master bedroom.
I like to use whites and neutrals with a grey undertone like ‘Broken Shaker’ from the Vogue Collection or ‘Shadow Gray’ from Pantone for a more definite and dramatic look in a social area.
For bedrooms, rosy shades like ‘Sweet Dreams’ or off-whites like ‘Eider white’ work very well. Both colours from Fleetwood Paints Popular Colours Collection.

In all circumstances I don’t think that enough consideration is given to ceilings – in brighter areas these can become an unusual feature, or if you are challenged with an area that has cold dull light I like to use ‘Almost White’ from the Popular Colours Collection on my ceilings to soften and warm the look slightly making other colours seem less harsh.

Almost White‘ from the Popular Colours Collection


  • Other things to consider that may help in these rooms are adding more artificial and ambient light, as it is a huge problem-solver for north-facing cooler/darker interiors – filament bulbs will give a softer glow.
  • In south-facing rooms light off-whites and brighter neutrals can look totally different on a room that has panelling or mouldings than it does in a room that has plain and vast flat surfaces as there is no architectural features to enhance the simple colours scheme.
  • Consider paint colours travelling down onto skirtings to add a chic, simple look that won’t confuse the eye in rooms that are duller.
  • Whilst these are guidelines to use no matter which direction your room may face, I view each type of light positively and encourage people to work with what they’ve got and not rail against it – embrace the aspect!!!