“Which direction do the windows face?”

Our own personal star has a lot of influence on what we paint on our walls.
Our own personal star has a lot of influence on what we paint on our walls.

When people come in to the shop seeking my advice about colors to paint on their walls, I always ask them “which direction do the windows face?”

Almost no one knows!

Here in the tall trees and concrete forests of the east coast, where one never lays eyes on a horizon (accept when facing east at the shore), I admit it’s a challenge to know what the heck direction you are facing. But it’s not impossible.

Get out your Girl Scout compass, or download a compass app to your phone, or walk outside in the early morning and notice where the sun in coming up. September is a good time to do this. We are getting close to the Fall Equinox so you will get a good read on due east.

Then about 7pm, notice where the sun is setting. Stand with east on your left, and west on your right, and you are looking south towards Antarctica. Behind you are the North Pole and Santa. From here you can figure out which ways your windows face. Which light streams, or doesn’t stream, into a room has a bearing on the colors that will look beautiful in that room.

OK OK, I lived in northern New Mexico for 21 years where, just by being there, I got a PhD in freakin’ light and color. 

Very seldom did I hear the words ‘take a right’ or ‘take a left’.  When giving directions in New Mexico, people say ‘go south on…’ or ‘go east on….”.

The pinon and juniper trees are barely 10 feet high and the one tall building in Santa Fe is five stories, so you can see the horizon every minute of every day. The Sangre do Cristo mountains are always to the east and probably always will be, and the Sandias are to the south. Unless you are high in the mountains among the aspens or the ponderosas, you have to work very hard at getting lost.

Living there gave me an acute awareness of my location on the planet and the direction I was facing at all times. In our fast-paced modern world, and in the ever-changing wildness that is life anyway, let me tell you what a comfort it was to know my position, my place on our beautiful, spinning rock in the infinity of Space.

Now, if you don’t already know it, go find out yours.


North light casts a cool, blue tone. Use strong colors.

East light is warm and yellowy in the morning, then blue-ish as the day progresses. This is good light for red, yellow and orange.

South light makes any color look great. Do what your heart desires.

West light is shadowy most of the day, then warm and lovely in the evening. Strong colors and neutrals can work well.

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