My yard, kitchen, and dining area face north, AND I'm surrounded on the east by trees. The biggest issue I have is trying to grow anything in my yard because of the lack of sunlight. What areas would get sunlight don't because of the forest that lines the east side of my yard. So there are only a few spots that stuff can grow in and I have to utilize my space very wisely and plant things that can tolerate partly to mostly shady. My tomatoes and peppers and things that need a lot of sun pretty much have to go in one particular spot in the middle of the yard
As for the house itself... my kitchen has 2 big windows that face west, and it's not dark and dreary in there at all. OF course, it's also bright yellow...
My dining/living area, however, only has 2 small windows that face east, where the forest is, and it is a bit darker in there even during the summer days. My house stays cooler longer in the summer which is nice, helps save on the a/c bill, but I'm also in a lot of shade which no doubt makes a difference. I don't think it's that much colder in the winter because of the way it faces, although I don't bother to open the curtains and let the sunshine in because there is none in the winter!
In short, it's not that bad and I don't mind it. I think my house is set up like the one you're talking about in that it faces south but the kitchen, dining, living areas are at the back of the house and face north. And the majority of my yard is in the back (duh) which also faces north. I like it here.