Color Advice for Atlanta Home Exteriors

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Design Duel is a Win-Win

by Rebecca Ewing, interior designer, Rebecca Ewing Color & Design When Jane (Doe) asked for my help on her new house at the beach, she already had bright white windows and lattice and tan siding—all vinyl, for longevity and low maintenance in a harsh climate—and topped with a black roof. White is better with clear, Caribbean colors, while the organic hues are congruous with a brownish-bark roof and off-white or light-tan trim to blend with the sandy terrain.

No matter what color they paint the front door or the porch, the materials on their house will always compete. How I wish she had asked a month earlier. Mother Nature rarely gives us pure, simple colors—most colors are complex, or at least somewhat subdued. An exception is near the equator, where it takes strong, saturated hues to stand up to sun so intense, a sky so blue, and water so turquoise. When we see Caribbean colors here in Atlanta, they usually look out of place, and here’s why:  Instead of dirt, we have clay; the bark of our trees is muted; and our sky is blue/gray most of the year. I heard once that Atlanta only has about 100 sunny days per year. We have lots of partly sunny days and lots of overcast days. But think how rarely we have those bright, clear blue skies. Pure white, true black, and a simple gray are almost as jarring against natural brick and stone as turquoise would be. We Atlantans NEED muted colors and complex neutrals to fit our natural landscape and to blend with our local building materials. Stone often has both warm and cool gray, and brick is made from our clay. To be congruent, these need to be paired with muted hues, for stark trim will make the siding appear tired and dirty, while the siding makes the white seem harsh.

Feng shui

Photo courtesy of Gibbs Landscape Company

Feng shui purports that red is a most powerful color for the front door. But Chinese red is too strong with our brick! A full-bodied terra cotta red or a merlot, however, can be beautiful and harmonious. When choosing an exterior palette, I consider:

  • homes or other structures within the same field of vision
  • any natural building materials
  • the roof
  • plantings
  • the mortar color, if there is masonry

If I’m doing a commercial building, I collect dirt, sand, bark and leaves from the site. I consider the lawn, especially if it turns from green to tan in the dormant winter months. And mortar is key to choosing the perfect trim color for the house – either a light gray or light tan will be more pleasing to the eye than white. I would have guided Jane to cream trim with the tan, a gray/blue porch ceiling and a rich-but-toned-down front door. Get more color advice from Rebecca Ewing.

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