Is Blue for You? Choosing Exterior Paint Colors
What’s the best color to paint your house?
It depends, according to experts who say color choices should be based on factors including the style of your home, landscape, neighborhood, roof color and stonework.
Red may be your all-time favorite color, but if the brick facade on your house has a decidedly pink tint to it, you’d be wise to paint another shade. And, just because all the latest home decor magazines are forecasting blue to be the color of the year in 2013 (and they are), that doesn’t mean it will work on your house.
“Exterior paint choices are less influenced by trends than fashion or even interior paint choices,” said Krim Danzinger, senior consultant for AkzoNobel, maker of Glidden paints.
Good thing. Exterior paint jobs, after all, are the kind of pricey projects that most homeowners hope to undertake just once every decade or so.
“When you’re painting the inside of your home, you have the luxury of being more fearless with color. It’s a way to convey your uniqueness to the people you know well enough to invite into your home,” said Barbara Richardson, director of color marketing for AkzoNobel. “But when we talk about exteriors, we have to look at the community you’re part of. You need to look at the environment and the other houses on your street. There’s a sense of camaraderie you want to have with your neighbors. If your house color clashes with theirs, you distract from the appearance of the whole street.”
When you’re trying to decide what color to paint your house, Richardson advises studying homes in neighborhoods you admire. Photograph color combinations you love — on houses as well as in clothing, wallpaper or fabrics. Do your research. If you live in a fanciful Victorian or stately craftsman, do you know how these homes have traditionally been painted in your part of the country? Do any of these historic color combinations inspire you?
Then, after you’ve spent time narrowing down your choices, buy a quart of several different paints and try them on your house. How do they look next to your stone chimney? How do they look in morning or at night?
Leatrice Eiseman, head of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training and executive director of the Pantone® Color Institute, says you also can’t overlook the neighborhood when choosing exterior paint.
The undertones in your next-door neighbors’ homes should help inform your palette. Are their homes warm (beige, rose, brown, gold, yellow) or cool (gray, blue, green, teal)? You’ll want to choose colors that work in harmony with the other houses on your block.
Matching location and architecture
The region in which you live will also play a role in the colors you choose.
“San Francisco is filled with ‘Painted Ladies,’ Victorian houses that are painted bold combinations like purple, mulberry and mauve. It’s bright and unusual, and it totally fits,” Richardson said. “A similarly styled house in a more conservative area, let’s say Dubuque, Iowa, might be painted off-white or very pale yellow. That would be a good fit for that region.
“In the Bahamas, you might see dozens of blue houses with bright yellow or green shutters,” she continued. “On the other hand, there might only be a handful of blue houses in all of Tempe, Arizona. Blue just isn’t a big color there.”
So, what should you do if the color you love doesn’t mesh with your architecture or region?
“Think small doses,” suggests Jackie Jordan, director of color-marketing for Sherwin-Williams. “Pops of color can be added to your exterior in much the same way you use pillows or wall-hangings to add color to your interior.
“If you painted your entire house bright red, it would probably stick out like a sore thumb,” she said. “But by painting your door red, you’re able to show your personality without having everyone in the neighborhood wonder, ‘Oh, my god, what was she thinking?’ ”
Is there a color you should never paint your house?
“Never say never,” Eiseman said. “I might not paint a house black, but black trim could work beautifully. It’s all about what colors you’re mixing it with and how much you’re using.”
Looking for more exterior paint inspiration? Consider these tips from the color experts at AkzoNobel:
- Want a contemporary appearance? Consider painting the body and trim of your home all the same color. This is also a great way to let the light reveal architectural detail through natural shading.
- For a more traditional look, incorporate two, three or four colors into your scheme. Highlighting trim will often help create a historical feeling, especially if the colors you’ve chosen are representative of a particular historical palette.
- Hide your undesirables — gutters, electrical conduits, vents and utility boxes — by painting them the same color as the body of your home.
- Don’t forget your landscaping. Flowers and shrubs can greatly enhance the color of your home. For instance, you can bring out the soft yellow of your trim color with the flowers near your entry or plant a variety of purple shades to add interest to a neutral scheme.