Exterior Color Cues

home exterior

While exciting, the task of picking a new color palette for your home's exterior can be a bit daunting. Here are some helpful tips.

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Exterior Color Advice

home exterior

Color is as important to your home's exterior as its interior. But exterior color is usually applied in the form of siding, trim, and roofing—a far more permanent investment than wall paint or accessories. With a little color know-how, you can pick the perfect color scheme that not only reflects your tastes, but your home's architectural style.

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Tour the Neighborhood

Tour the Neighborhood

As you prepare to choose colors for an exterior painting project, tour some neighborhoods and note which colors catch your eye. Pay particular attention to homes that are similar in architectural style to your own.

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Landscaping Cues

Front Doors for Tool

Take color cues from your landscaping. A house surrounded by woodlands may look out of place painted in pastels, but natural in earth tones. Sunbelt houses can wear bright colors, but in a cold climate, bright shades can look cartoonish on a gray day. Climate plays a role, too. Imagine your proposed paint color in stark, snowy winter as well as in lush, leafy summer. Remember that colors intensify and look brighter in outdoor daylight than they do on the color card in the store.

Tips for Landscape Lighting

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Fitting In


Consider the context of your home and aim to blend in. If all the houses are white and you want a darker house, you're better off with a midtone rather than a dark color. Use bolder strokes of color on smaller elements, like the front door or shutters. Harmony is more important when houses are close together. In neighborhoods with spacious lots or visual buffers of foliage, paint schemes can be more personalized.

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Select Three Colors

home exterior

Choose at least two colors for your home's exterior when the siding is brick or stone. Select three colors when the siding will also be painted and is the main color. Pick a complementary color for the trim and an accent color for doors, shutters, and decorative trim. Need more help? Try hiring a professional colorist to design a color scheme unique to your home.

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Choosing House Paint

See how to choose exterior paint colors with these tips.

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Consider Climate

blue chair

Take into consideration your climate and how the seasons play out in your region. Imagine your proposed paint color in stark, snowy winter as well as in lush, leafy summer. Remember that colors intensify and look brighter in outdoor daylight than they do on the color card in the store.

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Take it Outside

Front Doors for Tool

Look at your paint chips and material samples outside in different lighting. You'll want to get an idea of what the colors will look like in the shade, on bright, sunny days, and on overcast days, as well.

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Pick the Right Roof Color

home exterior

Roofing is a much more permanent investment, as it's designed to last 15 to 20 years or more. A coat of paint is only designed to last one-third of that. Pick a neutral, go-with-anything roofing material and you'll leave yourself open to more paint color options down the road when it comes time to repaint your home.

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Proportion is Key

Restore a Lawn with New Sod
Photo by Kim Cornelison.

Factor in your home's size. Depending on the proportions, you may want to emphasize or tone down certain features. Keep in mind that lighter colors tend to visually grow a home or feature, while darker colors shrink them. Bright colors call attention to features while neutrals let them fade into the background.

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Pay Attention to Fixed Elements

Consider Fixed Elements

Brick, slate, stone, and concrete are known as fixed, or given, elements because you cannot, or probably would not, change them. You could paint brick and vinyl siding, but doing so would only increase maintenance. In general, the foundation color should be the same or darker than the siding color.

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Consider the Style

Front Doors for Tool

A home's style is another cue to its paint treatment. If your house has no particular style, paint it in colors that appeal to you. However, if your home is a colonial, Greek Revival, Prairie, or another distinctive style, respecting the integrity of the original architecture is important.

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