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Have you got a room in our house that always feels a bit gloomy and cold? Well, I'm here to share my insider tips on how to fix this like a pro.

You’ve tried everything, but it still doesn’t feel quite right. So, in this post I’m going to cover the 3 biggest design mistakes I see most people making when decorating a dark, North facing room. And give you some insider tips on how to fix them. Including what colours to use in a dark room, and how to decorate and light your north facing room like an interior designer.

So if you’re a DIY enthusiast, homeowner or landlord looking to brighten up your North facing room, then this is for you!

How do I know if I have a North facing room?

First of all, what is a North facing room? You’ll know you have  a North facing room if:

  • You often need to turn the lights on during the day
  • The key tonal feature is a blueish undertone
  • The room has a constant low light level

On the plus side, this lack of shadow or contrast means these rooms do have a tranquil feel. And that’s something you can definitely work with.

North facing neutral room with layered textiles

Mistake #1 – Painting a dark room bright white

The most common mistake I see, is people thinking ‘my room is dark, I should paint it bright white to make it lighter’.

The problem with this is, bright white walls only work when you have lots of natural light to bounce the light around your room.  In North facing rooms, bright white just sits flat and dull on your walls. And no amount of mirrors or light furnishings will help here.

TOP TIP – try painting with warm toned neutrals.

Warm Toned Neutral Paints for North Facing Room

Look for neutrals with yellow and red undertones to mimic sunlight, and avoid neutrals with blue or cool grey undertones. The best undertone for your north facing room can depend a lot on the purpose of your room too, so don’t forget to consider the room use.

If you’re feeling a little bolder, try warm earthy tones like terracotta. You could use these on all the walls or pick an accent wall to highlight. There is a colour scheme for every north facing room and personality type, from warm neutrals to moody darks.

Don’t forget the type of paint finish you choose has a big impact on light levels. A matte paint is designed to absorb light, so go for a soft sheen which will work to bounce what light you have around the room. Your ceiling – or fifth wall – can also take a glossy sheen finish for extra light reflecting points.

Mistake #2 – Using a single pendant light

The traditional light set up in a room is to have a single overhead pendant light. But the problem with these is they create dark pockets in the corners of the room. Having all your lighting in a single place introduces contrast, and makes your room instantly feel smaller as the eye can’t see into the corners.

TOP TIP – try a layered lighting scheme

Layered Lighting for North Facing Room

When an interior designer or lighting expert designs your lighting plan, they break this down into three general layers: task lights, ambient lights and accent lights. Try and have all three light sources in your room – for example, pendant lights, floor lamps and uplights.

Each has its own purpose and brings light into the room in different ways. Look for wall lights or floor lamps that wash the light up towards the ceiling, rather than down at the floor. Another designer trick is using hidden lighting behind shelves and wall features to create the illusion of sunlight.

Mistake #3 – Choosing the wrong type of furniture

Having dark coloured, bulky furniture will absorb what little light you have, making your space feel even darker.

So too will crowding your room with too much furniture, and positioning it in the wrong place. Often we see people placing heavier pieces near window sources, but this just blocks even more light coming in from your natural light source.

TOP TIP – look for slim profile furniture in light tones

North facing neutral room with gallery wall
Neutral dining space with oversized pendant light
Alex Reinders

The idea is you want the eye to be able to see under and around your furniture. This naturally makes a space look lighter. So try pieces with wooden spindles or made from rattan or perspex. Choose sofa’s with slim peg legs rather than bulky ones that sit on the floor.

Think about light reflecting accessories. Metallic and glass finishes are you best friends here! Mirrored picture frames, marble decor and copper plant pots all work brilliantly.

So, did you recognise yourself in any of these three design mistakes? If you did, please don’t worry you’re in good company! They are very commonly made, and once you know how, they’re easy to fix.

Still not sure what to do?

If you think you need some more guidance on choosing the right colour scheme and furniture for your North facing room, book a discovery call with me and see how I can help.