Best Exterior Color Schemes

home with stone exterior and spanish influence
Boost your home's curb appeal with inspiration from these exterior color schemes.

Rely on the Classics

When it comes to exterior color schemes, there's something to be said for tried-and-true combinations. This classic abode would probably look out of place with any other setup than warm beige for the siding and bright white around windows and on rails. Another good accent piece to pay attention to: exterior light fixtures. These are wonderful for adding complementary materials or colors, as well as decorative accents. The lantern-type fixtures here balance the home's symmetry, with a pair flanking the doors on all three floors.

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Pick Two Hues in Varying Brightness for Accent

Some of the more interesting exterior color schemes are those that turn tradition on its head. Take, for example, Colonial-style homes: Very often these are painted in a single color, many times white. While that's a great solution, there are ways to update and modernize that choice, too. The accent shades chosen here—a dusty, lavender gray and a bright turquoise—would normally not be used in the same color scheme. Here, though, the gray offers refined accent on the shutters, while the turquoise—a brighter spin-off of some of those same blue-purple tones—directs foot traffic to the front door.

Limit Bold Accents

Judicious use of a bold accent color can lend your home a more restrained exterior scheme than you might expect. It's a choice that works well with classic home styles, particularly because it doesn't overpower their very traditional forms. This home—which deftly matches a deep gray with a lighter tone—also relies on an orange-red hue, inspired by some of the roofing materials. That tone is carried over on rooflines and side doors to provide a continuing color line for the eye to follow.

Play with Primary Colors

Red, yellow, and blue, the primary colors, are the basis of all other hues; as such, they're naturally complementary. But very few of us would consider painting a home in red, yellow, and blue, as represented in the original color wheel form. However, when given rich depth or startling brightness, the hues provide an exterior color scheme that's at once distinctive and deeply satisfying. The key is to select one color that pops—here, yellow—and another that's used sparingly—in this case, red. The rich, almost neutral shade of blue offers a base.

Learn how to choose house paint colors and give your exterior a colorful makeover.

Choosing House Paint Colors

Learn how to choose house paint colors and give your exterior a colorful makeover.

Use Wood for Warmth

By itself, steely gray can be a sterile choice for an exterior color scheme. But if this cool-minded color tops your preferred list for your home's facade, consider warming it up. That can be done in a number of ways, such as a bright accent color like orange that's on the hot end of the color scheme. A contrasting material, such as wood, can also be a good choice, particularly when stained a medium to dark color. In this contemporary scheme, a rich gray provides a good bridge between the two hues.

Vary the Shades of One Color

The danger of choosing a single hue for an exterior color scheme is that, without careful planning, it can feel boring and dated. In order to avoid that, identify an accent piece on your home—window frames, shutters, or trim, for example—and paint them either a darker or a lighter shade than your main color. In addition, choose one complementary color—here, red—for an unexpected highlight on a door.

Using Your Color Scheme to Direct Visitors

It's OK to pick just one element that stands out in your exterior color schemes; more often than not, that's the front door. The reason is aesthetic as well as practical: A bright hue such as this is a signal to visitors where to enter. On this house, the bulk of the color—warm gray—helps the low-slung profile gently recede into the landscape.

Explore Stain as a Color Option

As with traditional painted colors, stain offers a wide range of brights and lights to choose from. Some—particularly midrange hues—work well on a variety of home styles. As with paint colors, it's best to stain a swath of exterior wall in different versions and see how the color looks and feels throughout the day. For more classically styled homes, white is a traditional accent for window trim, pillars, and doors. 

Get Inspired by Materials in Place of Paint

Many people equate contemporary homes with a fairly limited exterior color palette. That's too bad because modern-style homes actually offer inspiration for a diverse way to showcase color and pattern in any style of home, even if the palette is fairly neutral. If you're building new or adding on to your home, consider all the shapes and sizes of brick as a way to accent your home's main color. Here, the pattern on the brick section of the front facade is nearly mosaiclike. Accents that are functional on a home can be a wonderful way to include different colors or materials, too, such as the copper drain pipes, which add richness and sheen to this exterior palette.

Choose Color as Contrast to the Landscape

If your home is surrounded by a more natural-style landscape, you can take one of two color approaches. First, you can pick hues that will make the home recede into the background of trees and plants. Or, you can choose a standout color that calls attention to the style of your space. This home does the latter; its seafoam green color selection stands in contrast to the lush green backdrop of the tree canopy. When it comes to pastel shades, white offers a successful accent color that adds contrast without being too jarring.

Ready for a change of hue? See how three homes dial up their curb appeal with fresh color combinations, and use these simple tips to transform your exterior with paint.

Exterior Color: Dos and Don'ts

See how to play up your home's best features with these simple exterior color rules.

Go Whimsical in Your Color Approach

Cottage-type homes might be more amenable to an exterior color scheme that's less bounded by formal rules and freer to experiment with whimsical approaches to shade and pattern. Here, the first impulse might be to paint the section of the front facade above the door line the same color as the bottom half. But instead, the natural wood—which will weather a warm gray if left unstained—adds warmth to the gray-green paint. As contrast, bright robin's-egg blue accents the front door. What ties these three disparate tones together is the white trim—around the door, pillars, and rails.

Pay Attention to Scale as It Relates to Color

The massing of your home probably also determines the range of color choices for your exterior. For example, a very large house in a very dark color might look too imposing; a very small house that's painted in too light of a scheme might seem floaty in the landscape. This midsize house is a good example of using a single midrange hue in a way that's complementary without being overpowering. To prevent the front door from getting lost, try painting or staining it in a warm, rich color.

Stick with the Classics

White remains a popular exterior color selection—and for good reason. It works well with a variety of home styles, minimizes the massing of very large homes, and allows the landscape to stand out for texture and color variation. However, as with other colors, there are variations in the brightness and lightness of even white. Test out several swatches, and view them at different times of the day—when the sun hits and when it doesn't—to see how the hue varies.

Accent a Single Color

The general rule of thumb in painting an exterior color scheme is to use three colors. Most homeowners assume those hues have to all be different, but this house proves otherwise. Here, light gray is the dominant color, while a medium tone accents the wood archway over the front door. A deeper shade of gray around the windows and doors supplies final accent.

Follow the Color Restraint of Materials

Materials used on a home's exterior often supply a built-in base for a color scheme; the question then becomes what to do about the accents. This limestone facade offers a base that's in tune with both the home's architecture and the natural landscape. To keep the color vibe low-key and minimalist, shutters and windows were painted a yellowy-neutral shade that nearly blends in with the stonework. For a bit of warmth and as accent, a medium-tone stain warms the front door.

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