Cape Cod-style homes usually stand one-and-a-half stories high, with one or more dormers on the half-story level, multipane windows, a steep roof with side gables, and a chimney on one end. They're sided with wide clapboards, wood shingles, or brick.
For historically accurate color, choose a mixture of cool blues and grays that reflect the style's seaside origins. Paint the front door dark red for a splash of color.
Editor's Note: Plan before you paint by using BHG.com's Color-a-Home tool. Mix and match exterior colors on roof, siding, and trim.
The classic ranch-style house is a simple one-story building typically built between the 1940s and 1970s. Although sometimes criticized for its simplicity, the ranch-style home offers all sorts of attractive decorative possibilities. This 1940s brick ranch shown has been painted a creamy yellow and a porch has been added. Shake shingles and shutters in teal paint provide contrast and interest.
There aren't a lot of rules when it comes to historically accurate color for ranch-style homes. Many homeowners use pale colors (it doesn't have to be white) to make the traditionally small ranch house look larger. Then they add interest by using a contrasting color on existing elements, like trim, shutters, and doors.
Colonial-style homes usually stand two or three stories high with narrow clapboard siding (sometimes brick), a high-pitched roof, one or more dormers, a massive chimney, and multipane windows. Colonials feature narrow, windowless, wooden doors.
For historically accurate color, choose painted earth tones such as ochre, red, or brown.
Craftsman-style homes feature simple forms and natural materials. Look for a low-pitched gable roof with exposed rafters, decorative beams, or braces under the gables; a wide, welcoming porch supported by massive columns; wood, stone, or stucco siding; and double-hung windows often grouped in threes.
For historical accuracy, choose colors that reflect the style's emphasis on natural materials and organic colors. Look at ochres, browns, and muted earth tones, as well as olive and muted terra-cotta red.
Georgian-style homes are symmetrical in shape with brick or clapboard siding. They're topped with a medium-pitched roof with minimal overhang and slender chimneys placed at roof's ends. A centered front door often features columns on each side and a decorative crown above.
For historically accurate color, choose white, light gray or yellow, or other neutral tints with white trim.
International-style homes use industrial materials such as steel and concrete clad with white stucco or wood. Look for a flat roof, simple geometric shapes, large expanses of glass, and tubular steel railings around porches and decks.
For historically accurate color, choose white or off-white combined with whatever colors naturally appear as part of the materials used for cladding.
Italianate-style homes were by inspired by Italian villas, and therefore exude elegance. They're usually two to three stories high with a low-pitched roof, imposing cornice structures, pedimented doors and arched windows, tall chimneys, and broad front porches.
For historical accuracy, choose unadorned masonry or wood and brick painted to emulate stone (grays and browns) or in a pale hue. Use strong contrasting colors for accents and trims.
Mediterranean Revival-style homes (sometimes referred to as Spanish style) boast adobelike stucco exteriors, flat or low-pitch roofs with barrel tiles, and if tall enough, balconies with black, wrought-iron railings.
For historical accuracy, choose soft, sun-inspired hues capped with a roof of red barrel tiles. Accent with darker colors to highlight architectural details.
Postmodern-style homes take traditional motifs and reformulate the design using modern materials in a playful way. Note the contemporary look and feel, large windows (often stair-stepped in placement), bold shapes and colors, and an informal appearance.
For historical accuracy, combine natural wood with white, pastels, and bright color accents.
Prairie-style homes look overwhelmingly horizontal in nature. Low-pitched roofs extend far beyond walls as if to create shelter. They usually feature casement windows, often arranged in strips. Doorways are often hard to find; rather than facing the street, they may be found on the side or behind a protective wall.
For historical accuracy, combine red, yellow, or tan bricks with stucco cladding in natural colors such as tan or off-white.
Queen Anne Victorian
Queen Anne Victorian homes feature steep gable roofs, lacy ornamental woodwork (known as gingerbread), tall, narrow windows, turned columns, turrets, porches, decorative wooden brackets, and clapboard siding.
For historical accuracy choose color combinations of three to 10 hues to emphasize different architectural or decorative features. Use rich combinations of colors to reflect a time period when all kinds of dark stains and newly available paint colors were used. A typical palette might include three shades of green, two different reds, brown, and mustard
Editor's note: Exterior colors for Victorian-era homes often varied with location. Rural homes often featured light warm colors with darker trim to bring out the details. City examples needed deeper earth tones to hide the effects of dirty, soot-filled air.
Shingle-style homes, a Victorian variation, were originally built as vacation homes along the shores of New England. Such homes feature continuous shingle cladding on all exterior surfaces, rambling architecture, a stone chimney, wide porches, dormer windows, and half turrets. The lower portion may be clad in heavy stone.
For historical accuracy, wood shingles (if unstained) should be allowed to weather—resulting in a range of colors from light gray to dark brown depending on the age of the house. If stained, the color should be brown. Choose dark green or dark red for wood trim.
Tudor-style homes feature brick-and-stucco cladding combined with stone trim and door surrounds. They're topped with steeply pitched roofs with wide gables and massive chimneys. Larger Tudors boast wood-and-stucco half-timbering.
For historical accuracy, paint stucco white, tan, or pastel in combination with brown or black framing.