How to Select Exterior Paint Colors
by Patsy Overton
As a professional color consultant, I have found that there is nothing that strikes fear in homeowners faster than having to select new paint colors for the exterior of their home. Many times when I arrive for the color consultation I see that they have purchased numerous “sample” cans of paint and have splashed the colors up on the siding and trim. It seems the more hues they test, the more confused they become. So how would one go about selecting the right colors? There is a method, and I want to share it with you.
Step 1 –Take note of the look and feel of the subdivision as a whole. What you do on your home should be in keeping with other homes in the community.
A couple of years ago I was in an upscale Atlanta country club community for an exterior color consultation. The homes were all traditional. Down the street from the home I was consulted on was a beautifully remodeled home with a price tag of well over $1,000,000 just for the updating. It was absolutely breathtaking, but there was a problem. The home looked like it belonged in the Hamptons. It was totally out of keeping with the rest of the homes in the subdivision. (Needless to say, if you are not in a controlled area you have much more freedom to do as you please.)
Step 2 –Stay true to the architectural design of your home when considering color. If your home is Victorian, you want to play up the trim and details with strong color. If it is contemporary, you might choose a white or gray palette with a fire engine red or bright orange front door. If it is traditional, you want to be more subdued with your color selections.
Step 3 –Walk out to the street in front of your home and get an overall read on the property, paying special attention to the brick, mortar, stone and roof colors. This is where the rubber hits the road. The colors you select for your home are dictated by the colors that are already there in the “unchanging elements.” Many people overlook this crucial point. Please do not make the mistake of seeing a home down the street that is painted in colors you think look fabulous and try to transfer them to your home. They will not look the same unless the brick, mortar, stone and roof colors are identical on both homes, which is not typically the case.
For example, take a look at this “before” picture of the home of a recent client:
The homeowner wanted an updated look. In order to achieve this, I first recommended she replace the stark white and stark black trim and accent colors with more muted hues; then it was just a matter of finding the correct tones to work with her unchanging elements. Please keep reading.
Step 4 –Pull out the color charts (or fan deck) and see which palettes work best with your home. Ask yourself these questions: are you working with warm tones, or cool? Grays or browns? Do the colors complement the brick or fall flat? Are there any accent hues you can pull out of the brick? Always remember – the existing colors of your home in the unchanging elements dictate the best paint color choices. At all costs, strive for colors that are complementary to those elements.
Step 5 – Once you have narrowed the selections down to one or two good choices, it is time to buy sample cans of paint. (Of course, if you were working with a professional color consultant you could skip this step, as he/she will have large sample sheets of colors you are considering.) Paint a large area with both trim and body colors to get a good feel for how the colors read in the light. If they turn pink, go back to the drawing board.
Step 6 – If all of this is much too daunting, it may be time to call for help from a professional color consultant.
Here is the “after” photo:
The homeowner and I worked diligently to select the right warm tones for the body (sides and back) which would be complementary to the brick and mortar of the house and to pull out the deep rich hues found in the brick for the accent color. We were very pleased with the final results.
When I first began working as a color consultant, I was surprised at the number of calls I received from those needing help selecting exterior paint colors. I now understand it. If you miss the mark on the inside of your home, very few people see it and, generally, it’s an easy fix. If you miss the mark outside, it’s a very expensive mistake and one that everyone driving by immediately notices. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. It could mean the difference between “Oh, wow!” and “Oh, no!”
Patsy Overton is Director of Color and Interiors for SuperiorPro Painting & Exteriors.