These are the best colors to paint your kitchen depending on its orientation, according to color experts

Here's why it's important to know whether your kitchen is north, south, east, or west-facing

(Image credit: deVOL, Farrow & Ball, Benjamin Moore)

The heart of the home, the kitchen is one of the most important, hardworking rooms. Whether your kitchen is a large, social space that doubles as a dining room or a compact cooking space, choosing the best paint colors for your kitchen is key.

When deciding on the best kitchen color ideas, there are many things to consider. Beyond design styles, arguably the most important consideration is the orientation of your kitchen: in other words, whether your kitchen is north, south, east, or west-facing.

'Natural light impacts the look of paint colors more than anything else, so the orientation of the room is a vital consideration when it comes to choosing a paint color for your kitchen,' says Helen Shaw, Director of Color Marketing at Benjamin Moore.

The best colors to paint your kitchen depending on its orientation

Below, we explore each of the four orientations for kitchens and the paint ideas that experts recommend for each. These room color ideas will ensure your kitchen works in harmony with the sunlight received throughout the day, whether that's large amounts or limited; warm-toned or cool-toned.

'Depending on the direction your kitchen faces, the light it receives is often described in terms of warmth or coolness,' explains Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director at Little Greene.

'North-facing rooms receive cool light with little direct sunlight, whereas south-facing spaces receive the warmest light and are bathed in sunlight for almost the entire day.'

'As a general rule, cool spaces can be made to feel cozier with the use of brighter or warmer shades, and warm spaces work well with cooler neutrals, blues, or green tones.'

1. North-facing

bright yellow farmhouse kitchen

(Image credit: Little Greene)

If your kitchen is north-facing, the natural light throughout the space will generally be less intense and fairly cool-toned. In short, you're going to want to balance the cool tones by incorporating warm undertones with your paint colors to ensure it feel cozy and inviting.

'North-facing rooms tend to make colors look consistently flatter and cooler than they would be when bathed in direct light, so use warm colors to avoid this,' advises Ruth.

When choosing the best warm-toned colors, choose nuanced warm neutral paints such as gray-green which will provide just enough warmth whilst creating a timeless, calming backdrop to the heart of the home. 'A gray-green is a great choice,' says Helen. 'The green element of these hues will lift the overall effect and add much-needed warmth.'

Additionally, north-facing kitchens present an opportunity to inject a splash of bold color. 'Consider painting a shadowed area in a vibrant color,' suggests Helen. 'We always love Hawthorne Yellow HC-4, Palladian Blue HC-144, and the warm terracotta of Potters Clay 1221 for accent walls in darker nooks.'

When it comes to choosing the best paint finishes for north-facing kitchens, Helen suggests opting for gloss to add depth since these spaces can often appear flat: 'Consider a higher finish on trim or cabinetry, like semi-gloss or high-gloss, to bring reflection and dimension to slightly darker spaces.'

2. South-facing

i-shaped kitchen with a neutral, rustic finish

(Image credit: deVOL)

'South-facing rooms usually have warmer light, making colors appear more yellow, so cooler shades tend to read as more neutral, and warm tones become creamier,' explains Ruth.

When it comes to choosing the right paint colors for these well-lit rooms, experts say soft neutral hues that enhance the bright and airy feeling are a safe bet. Whether you opt for warm or cool tones depends on whether you want to offset the warmth or enhance it.

'For south-facing kitchens that benefit from lots of sunlight, we recommend layering soft tones such as blush, sage greens, and taupes to enhance the airy feeling,' says Helen. 'October Mist 1495 will almost glow in brightness whilst also providing a wonderful canvas for pairing with other colors.'

If you're looking to make more of a statement in your south-facing kitchen, these rooms can also take bolder shades of yellow, dispersing a warming glow throughout the space. 'Strong, bold yellows such as Mortlake Yellow or Giallo will radiate warmth in a south-facing room,' says Ruth.

For darker paint colors, Ruth recommends rich blue shades instead of decorating with gray which will work cohesively with the room's warm-toned natural light. 'Dark blues like Marine Blue and Hicks' Blue can be used in place of grays to achieve a neutral scheme with added depth.'

3. East-facing

Modern farmhouse kitchen with shaker cabinets painted pale blue

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Unlike north and south-facing rooms, the sunlight changes more noticeably during the day in west and east-facing rooms.

'A room with light coming in from the east tends to get more direct light in the morning, and more muted, indirect light past noon,' explains Helen. 'The afternoon natural light in a room with eastern exposure tends to have a cooler cast so it is important to choose a paint color with the right amount of warm and cool undertones to bring balance.'

Generally speaking, decorating with neutrals will flatter east-facing kitchens throughout the day, but getting the right undertone will make all the difference.

'A lighter warm gray shade such as Balboa Mist 1549 will brighten things up while a darker shade such as Cumulus Cloud 1550 will make the room feel cozy and more intimate, perfect for evening entertaining.'

Alternatively, Ruth adds that neutral paint colors with a subtle green or blue undertone work well in these rooms if you're looking to balance the morning sun: 'East-facing rooms face the sunrise with its soft yellow glow, so neutrals with a cool green or blue undertone such as Pearl Colour or Mirror will create balance.'

'Or, if you want to maximize the feeling of sunshine in your kitchen, make the most of the morning light with a strong or radiant color to wake up to such as Harley Green.'

4. West-facing

Benjamin Moore best selling paints

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

'West-facing rooms are bathed in warm orange sunset-toned light in the late afternoon and early evening but may feel cooler in the mornings, so choose when and how you use your kitchen most,' says Ruth. 'If it is mainly used in the morning, consider warming the space with a deep neutral such as Clay Mid.'

However, if you spend more time in your kitchen in the afternoon and evening, choose paint colors with a cooler undertone to balance the warm light received later in the day.

'The natural light exposure tends to be a warmer cast with amber tones, therefore paint colors that provide varying levels of cool, blue tones are best to balance this out,' explains Helen. 'Blues such as Hale Navy HC-154 work particularly well on kitchen cabinets and can be married with the perfect mid-gray to enhance its glamorous characteristics and create a sophisticated, classic scheme for the kitchen.'

Choosing the best paint colors for your kitchen can be tricky, and it can take some trial and error before landing on the right shade. To avoid making any costly decorating mistakes, make sure to try out paint swatches to get a feel for how they look in your space throughout the day.

'To see how colors work in your kitchen, test them by painting samples onto a piece of A4 paper first, then view them in different parts of the kitchen at different times of day to see how they perform in different areas and different lights,' advises Ruth.

'It’s amazing how much tones change from natural to artificial light, and from direct sunlight to cloudy conditions.'

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.