A well-chosen color scheme can bring out architectural details, downplay flaws and enhance the look of your home, explains color expert Kate Smith.
Consider all of the colors currently existing on your home’s exterior. Then, select a color for the roof and accent pieces that will stand out while simultaneously blending into every element of your home.
A recognized authority on all things color-related, Kate Smith is a professional color strategist and the creator of sensationalcolor.com.
Kate Smith is a color expert and career color trend forecaster. Kate is a design lover, and color inspiration maven. Above all, Kate is an inspirational keynote speaker and seminar leader, blending color theory and psychology into entertaining and informative talks that bring color to life. For more on Kate, visit her at sensationalcolor.
Taking pictures is a good way to create an instant reference library as you plan how you will apply colors to your home. You will be able to find your perfect exterior color scheme more easily if, before you even start thinking about specific colors, you figure out the types of schemes you find most appealing.
What Style is Your Home?
Art Deco - Bungalow - Cape Cod - Colonial
Contemporary - Craftsman - Creole
Dutch Colonial - Federal - French Provincial
Georgian - Gothic Revival - Greek Revival
International - Italianate - Monterey -
National - Neoclassical - Prairie - Pueblo
Queen Anne - Ranch - Regency - Saltbox
Second Empire - Shed - Shingle - Shotgun
Will your trim be a light neutral or white? Looking at the mortar between the bricks or stones can help you to confirm you have found the right color. Look at your light neutrals next to the mortar. If the color seems too bright you may want to look for a neutral that is more “grayed down.” If the mortar doesn’t visually blend with your neutral, it may not blend with the brick or stonework.
For window frame and trim color, lighter colors will highlight the window while darker colors will outline and call more attention to the frame.
Front Door Appeal
Using a deep, rich or even a bold color on your front door can take your home from nice to knockout. This is the time to spread your wings and go for color or a beautiful finish rather than simply default to the same color as the trim or siding.
For a front door that is in an alcove, shaded by a wide overhang or porch roof, lighter or brighter colors often work best; for a door in full sunlight choose rich, deep hues.
Color needs to be viewed where you plan to apply it. For example, roofing tiles should be placed on a section of the roof that you can see from the ground while the front door color should be placed on the front door.
Once you have your samples don’t make your final color choices inside under artificial light. Colors will generally look lighter outdoors. Look at each sample outside in the natural light and location where you plan to use it.
A Leafy Matter
If your lot has no trees, natural hues will work best. For a home surrounded by trees or on a wooded lot contrasting colors will allow the home to stand out.
Fresh Home Exterior Colors
5 Steps for Finding the Perfect Hues for Your Home
- by Kate Smith
Your home makes a statement. It tells the world about the personality of the people who live inside. Whether you’re renovating or building new, each product and color choice you make is an opportunity to develop your personal style statement while enhancing the curb appeal and resale value of your property.
The challenge is that if you are like most homeowners, pciking the materials and products is easier than choosing a color. Having to choose color for one item can be difficult; having to choose several colors can be daunting.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be hard. All it takes is some "FRESH" thinking, and you'll feel confident about selecting the best color for each element of your home—siding, roofing, windows, doors, shutters, trim and accents.
"FRESH" is the approach I use as a certified color professional when choosing colors for a home exterior—and you can use this same process for selecting colors for your home:
Environment and Surroundings
Style of the Home
Historic and Have-to-Use Colors
Determine Your Direction
Before you begin using the "FRESH" approach to find your perfect colors, consider the statement you want to make on your home’s exterior. Do you want your home to look stately and elegant, or storybook cute? Does a natural, toned-down color scheme fit your vision or is a beachy bright hued look a better fit? Getting a clear idea of the overall style you are going for will go a long way to guiding you to the best material and color choices.
You can begin by looking at the type of homes that appeal to you. Whether found in magazines, on the Internet or as close as next door, one of the easiest ways to figure out what you like is to look at other homes. Determine what it is that you like about each example. Is it the color scheme or historic style? Maybe what appeals to you most is that it looks friendly and welcoming.
Walking or driving around the areas closest to home is often the best place to start your search. You bought your home because you enjoyed the surroundings and neighborhood. Looking at what your neighbors have done with their homes can serve as inspiration.
Step 1: Fixed Features
Unless you are building a house from the ground up, no home is an empty canvas. There are many things to consider as you select your colors, with the most influential being the fixed features. These include items such as:
• Foundation materials: brick, stone, stucco, concrete, etc.
• Roofing shingles: style, color, and material.
• Chimney structures: brick, stone, or stucco.
• Porch, steps, retaining and walkways: brick, stone, cement.
• Decks and patios: wood, brick, concrete, composite, etc.
Your home's features may be constructed of different materials but they will usually have a common color or color cast. Once you identify that common color, it is a sure bet that another element that has the same color, color cast or undertone of that fixed feature color will work well for your home’s overall color scheme.
Your new colors don’t have to match your existing colors, but do need to harmonize with them. Take inventory of the colors in your home’s fixed features. What color is your roof ? Are bricks or stones on your facade? Will doors and railings remain their existing colors? What about the window frames? The color of each of these areas of your home will become part of your overall color plan.
Look at the fixed features of your home and more than likely you’ll begin to see some repetition of color tones. It is this repetition that allows different materials and textures to all work well together. When choosing colors for items such as your roof, find a color or variety of colors that also includes the predominate color or color cast of the existing permanent elements.
Unless your home is brick or stone, the largest fixed feature is probably the roof, so start there. Roofing materials are rarely a flat or solid color. Even a standard gray roof often has a hint of blue, green, or red. Look closely and see what you can detect that isn’t apparent from a distance.
Tip: Begin with the largest fixed feature, then evaluate other fixed features.
Step 2: Regional Colors
Look at your geography to influence the color scheme of your home’s exterior. For example, a brighter terra cotta color that would seem garish in northern climates may be an excellent choice for areas where the sunlight is intense.
East Coast? Midwest? South? Regional color preferences come from a blend of the region’s natural characteristics—climate, topography, landscape and quality of the natural light—together with the housing styles, available materials and cultural history of the area.
In the Northwest, natural gold-based and green hues that reflect the colors found in the natural environment are popular. Nature also influences home colors in the mountain states where the colors of stone, rock and natural woods are incorporated into the color schemes. The Southwest trends towards neutral sandy or sun-drenched terra cotta colors accented with coral, turquoise, brown and green. These colors are still rooted in nature but they use more vibrant hues that will not pale in the bright sunlight.
Across the country, homes in the Northeast tend to be clad in traditional colors with deeper or brighter accents. White with black shutters, gray with a red front door, or natural stain with green trim are examples of the schemes you might find in the New England region. In the Midwest, white, tan and gray are popular color choices. These same colors are found in the Southeast, with more emphasis on tans, greens, blues, and grays in coastal areas.
Step 3: Environment & Surroundings
As you determine colors for your home, you’ll want to take into consideration the overall look of your neighborhood. While you won’t want your home to be a twin of another home close by, you will want your home to blend in with the surrounding homes.
Consider the context of your home within the neighborhood and choose colors that will standout while still fitting in. Find colors that express your individual style and complement the other homes in the area.
The natural setting and landscaping surrounding your home are other elements to keep in mind when selecting exterior colors. If you have beautiful flowerbeds or flowering shrubs, your home should be a backdrop for their colors. A prize-winning selection of red and pink roses can help you select a cream or natural color to “frame” your horticultural creations. Keep in mind, if you use a color that is too dark, like deep blues or greens, then the plants and shrubs may go unnoticed.
Step 4: Style of the Home
The architectural style of your home is the next part of the color equation to consider. You want your color scheme to fit both your neighborhood and the design of your home. Color and materials support the home’s look and architecture, not vice versa.
Colors can vary depending on the style: generally, trim colors for the Tudor and Craftsman style houses are dark—brown, maroon, deep olive and green. Georgian and Colonial revival houses are generally light—white, gray, gray-blue, gray-green, or yellow on the body, with white trim and window sashes along with dark shutters and doors. You’ll find more modern houses in light neutrals with dark sashes and bold accents of bright, primary colors.
The lines and forms of Federal style houses are usually painted with pale or light colors such as whites, pale gray, or off-white. Greek Revival houses are also often painted white, off-white, or gray but with shutter and window sashes painted in a dark contrasting color such as green or black.
Step 5: Historic and Have-to-Use Colors
While you want your home’s exterior to reflect your personality you may not have carte blanche with your color choices. Both older and newer homes may be subject to regulations of a homeowner association (HOA) or historic district. Some neighborhoods have pre-approved color palettes for homeowners to use in order to keep a similar look to all areas of the community.
You will want to make sure you fully understand any rules these organizations impose or any approvals you need to gain before you make your final color selections.
Whether your home is old or new, using historic colors allows you to create the same design excellence found throughout history. Traditional color schemes have a sense of stability and permanence because they have been around and feel like they will continue to be in style for years to come. The good news is that most, if not all, of the popular exterior paint colors have their roots in the past. Even if your home isn’t in a historic district, you might be inspired by the schemes, styles and elements that have stood the test of time.