top of page
  • Writer's pictureSusan Wilson

What You Should Know When Choosing Paint Colours for your Exterior

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

Fall weather is the perfect time for exterior painting, when temperatures are still above 10 degrees, but without the hot sun and humidity of the summer months. Here are some tips to help you make your new exterior a success...

Fall is when we are all feeling the craving for fresh looks and tidy spaces to bolster us through the coming winter months, and if you feel your home is looking just a teensy bit blah or dated, then some exterior painting is the perfect solution. Painting is definitely the quickest and most cost-effective route to a dramatically different look for your home. However, it's also pretty intimidating to make the leap: choosing colours from a little tiny paint chip, hoping it looks exactly like you picture it, thousands of times bigger and in the full glare of the sun, is HARD.

Don't panic, I'm here to help! I've put together some guidelines that will help you make the right selections. (You can also check out this earlier post on exterior makeovers with paint)

Tip Number One

First off, it's important to remember that any colours you are looking at on those tiny chips will look a lot lighter and a lot brighter once they are up in huge swaths on your home, and in the full light of day. So a good strategy is to select what you think is the perfect colour, then to actually select a similar hue in a darker and more greyed-down version.

This blue is a bright, clean blue. It works nicely on an historic house like this, but would be too bright for most homes. Try a more greyed out blue, in a light version like this:

Or a darker one like this:

Tip Number Two

A white exterior is very popular now, and for good reason; white is classic, it works with pretty much any style of architecture, and it looks fresh, happy and welcoming. However, that tip number one about colours looking lighter and brighter when used outside, also applies here. In most cases you do not want to select a pure white--it will look very stark and startling when house-sized and shining! If you want a crisp white look, choose an off-white for your exterior. If you want a softer look, a nice greige will read as a soft white once it is up.

This white above is very bright out here in the sunlight, and while it gives a nice modern, crisp feel, many homeowners might find it a little too bright for their comfort zone. Below is an example of a softer white look. This paint colour is probably a greige, that reads as off-white on an exterior.

Tip Number Three

In the same vein, another mistake that I often see is when people have selected a colour for their trim that is too bright and clean for the rest of their home. Many homes have a muted, slightly dull colour in their brick, stone or siding, especially in the brown range. If this is the case for your home, your trim needs to be somewhat muted too. Bright white builders' standard for the window trim is only for homes with a crisp, clean colour on the exterior.

An off-white would work better than a very pure white on this stately home in warm-coloured stucco and brick.

A creamy trim, rather than pure white, harmonizes with the muted colours of this Craftsman style home.

Tip Number Four

Make sure the colours you are selecting have a reason to be on your home. If you are painting ALL the surfaces of your exterior--brick, siding, stone, trim-- then you aren't really limited, but if you are only painting part of it, the shutters, trim and garage door for example, you need to consider the existing colours on the main body of your house. The new colours need to either harmonize with, or complement the colour of your walls, whatever the finish.

In the first example, the creamy trim ties into the grout between the bricks, and the green of the shutters and door complement the reddish brick but also actually refer to the greenish grey in some of the bricks (source). In the second example, the colour of door ties in to the grout colour, creates a harmonious overall feel (source).

Tip Number Five

If your reasons for painting are to update the look of a dated house, you should probably be painting the whole exterior. Many homes of a certain age have several different finishes-- siding, brick, and stone. Often, the colours in the stone seem to have no relationship to the colours in the brick, and it can make a home seem a little 'chopped up', visually. A more current approach to exteriors is a monochromatic look. You can achieve this by painting or staining your whole home, or at least two of the three finishes, in the same colour. For example, you could paint your brick and siding in one colour-- and of course, that colour would be pulled from the colours in the stone (remember tip number four?) so that it looks like it all belongs on the same house. The houses below show how unifying the brick and siding creates a fresh updated look.

Tip Number Six

It may be that you just want to give your home a quick refresh. In that case, a new front door colour could be just what you need. This is a place where you're allowed to go a little bit crazy: a little bit bright, little bit bolder than you could go with the other elements of your exterior.

A nice restrained gold, or a bright happy yellow--which would you choose?

Or, there are lots of beautiful classic looks for a front door colour (black, navy or red are a classic choice).

Check out lots of ideas to suit every home and every personality in this post I wrote about great front door colours.

Tip Number Seven

Don't forget the roof! I don't mean don't forget to paint the roof, that would be dumb. I mean don't forget to consider the roof colour as part of your colour palette when selecting a new colour for the body of your home. The only exception to that is if you are also planning to replace your roof in the next couple of years. In that case, go ahead and ignore the roof colour for now, knowing that you have a long-range plan in place for the look of your home. (Yay, you! Having a long-range plan is the surest way to success)

Nothing gives a house a new lease on life like paint does, and following my guidelines above will get you well on the way to a beautiful new exterior. (Book your painter now, you're not the only one who will be wanting to take advantage of spring and early summer weather for exterior painting!)

And since there's nothing like an inspiring before-and-after to show off the magic of paint:

And if you feel a little overwhelmed at the idea of choosing paint colours yourself, or if you're not really sure exactly what your home's exterior needs, I'm here for you. Reach out to me, and I can give you recommendations for a solid long-range plan with exact colours for all the exterior elements of your home, along with easy clickable links for finishing hardware and styling if desired.

Here's to fall, and new beginnings!


bottom of page