Foolproof Your Selection!

Choosing exterior paint colors can not only be very stressful, but also expensive!  The thought of having to repaint a bad color choice is nightmarish! Here are the key considerations to making your selection foolproof!

The two most important considerations in choosing an exterior paint color scheme are:

  • the architecture of the house
  • the neighborhood & geographical context


1. Architecture:

When you consider the architecture of your home, consider the year it was built and the style of the home, especially for historic homes.

Original Colonial and Colonial Revival homes were often quite colorful on the inside, but less so on the exterior. Victorian homes often referred to as “painted ladies” sometimes had more than six colors of trim and accents.  The Craftsman style of the early 20th century saw darker, earthier color schemes using deep browns, greens, and reds. The current popularity of the style is making more homeowners consider richer color schemes for their homes. Most paint stores will carry paint collections of various periods, or you can research specific historical or architectural palettes online.

2. Neighborhood & Geographical Context:

Depending on whether the house is in a rural or urban setting, the neighborhood has a big affect on the home’s exterior.

Take a look at the colors palettes, trim colors and accent features of other houses. Although the house does not have to match the neighbors, staying in the same color family is a good idea. For those who want to go against the grain of the neighborhood, the property value and buyer appeal will go down when selling the home. Above all, a neighborhood that looks unified is a more pleasant one to live in.

Geography plays a key role, as well. If the home is located in the tropics, colors are usually bright, playful and cheery. While homes that are located in the rustic mountains will take color cues from nature in browns, greens, and burgundy.

Other Important Considerations:

The Fixed Elements:

Next, consider the fixed elements of the home – the colors that can’t change. For example, elements such as roofing shingles, and brick, slate, stone accents or features, and even the color of the vinyl windows. Use these elements as color resources because there are numerous shades and hues in building materials. A charcoal gray shingle for example could have flecks of gray-green or gray blue that could be found on a paint color strip or incorporated into the color scheme.

Examine color samples outdoors, at various angles and different times of the day. Consider buying small quantities of desired colors and paint a section of the house where body, trim and accent colors can be viewed together.

Solar Considerations:

Pay attention to the intensity of the sun. Intense sun washes out colors, so brighter colors are suitable in sunbelt areas but might stand out like a sore thumb in northern locations. Darker colors will fade faster because they absorb more heat and are prone to damage from UV rays. If you prefer darker colors, adding gloss or sheen will help prevent damage from UV rays and reduce fading.

You’ve picked your colors – Now what?

Start by picking a color scheme, or several colors in a pattern. An exterior paint scheme should be made up of at least three colors: the field, large areas such as walls or roofs; the trim, corner boards, window trim, fascias, rakes, etc.; and accent, specific elements including doors, shutters, and other architectural features.

A good rule of thumb to follow when choosing exterior paint colors is to use a ratio of color such as 60/30/10 as follows:

  • Body or field area: 60% of the color should be used on the largest area of your home, which is considered the field area or the body. Most people choose a more neutral color for the field area.
  • Roof and trim: 30% of the color should be utilized for the roof and trim. The color of the roof doesn’t have to match the trim paint color, but it should harmonize. The trim color is used on areas of the home such as the fascia boards, gutters, window trim, and entry doors.
  • Architectural details: 10% of a different color can be given to details such as shutters, decorative molding, doors, brackets, columns and porch decks and ceilings. This is a fun area of color to play with to show dramatic emphasis or just a little for accents depending on how dark the shade of color chosen.

Stuck for inspiration? Most major paint brands offer preselected color palettes that take the guesswork out of coordinating an exterior scheme, or you can always call me!  I would love to come out for a color consult and help you come up with a combination that’s just right for your home.

Your House

What colors did you choose for your exterior?

Go ahead, tell us in the comments!

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