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You can spot it on almost any street-- a house that looks great. It need
not be new, and it’s not necessarily the architecture that draws your eye.
The home’s beauty comes from its exterior color.
Many of us live in homes whose colors were chosen by someone else before we
bought them. Often these houses look faded and dated. Nowadays, people are
embracing color for a home’s exterior.
“We’re not selling Navajo White the way we used to,” observes Vic Babel,
owner of Babel’s Paint & Decorating Stores in Norwood, Foxboro, and
Needham. Painting the house is a major investment, and a major decision.
The color of your house can affect the way you feel about it. It can even
boost its resale value. Whether you’re looking to paint your house during
these last few pleasant days of fall, or are planning ahead to next spring,
here are some things to consider when choosing the right colors for your
What type of house do you live in? Different architectural styles look
right in different colors. Think of a white or yellow colonial with dark
green shutters, a tan and brown Tudor, a Cape with weathered grey shingles,
a clay-colored stucco, or a pink Queen Anne. These colors come to mind
easily, but they might serve as a starting point for your vision. Dark
colors can make a big house seem smaller, and can be used to highlight
architectural details. Light colors tend to make a house look larger.
Yellow has remained popular in New England.
Stone or brick on a house, or a flagstone walk leading up to it will
influence the colors that will enhance the home. The style and color of
your roof is important. You’ll want to coordinate the color of the body
with it. If your roof is made of grey asphalt shingles, almost any color
will look good with it. A green roof might look best on a red or yellow
house. If you have terra cotta tile up there, think about warm neutrals
that will match.
A beautiful home fits into its environment. When considering a color for
your house, think of the land on which the house is situated. A wooded site
might encourage you to paint with subtle, natural colors. If your house is
surrounded by a vivid garden, you can take inspiration from the colors of
the flowers to personalize your home.
It is not possible to select an exterior color from a paint chip. Colors
look different when applied to a large area such as a house, so invest in
some test quarts. You must paint swatches onto the house itself to get the
As you are making your decision, look at the color different times of the
day, and in different kinds of light. Morning light is a bit pink. Midday
light is clear and white. And late afternoon light looks golden red. Notice
that a color will look different on the sides of your house, even if you
have the same shingles all the way around.
Some people choose slight variations of the main color on each side to
compensate for the way the sides of the house receive different exposures
of light. You can achieve a gorgeous effect by painting the sides and front
of the house in contrasting colors.
In some historical neighborhoods, you may have to choose from a limited
palette of colors. Even if you’re not restricted in this way, you’ll
probably want the color you choose for your house to be compatible with
what the neighbors have. It’s important for your home to fit in well with
the other houses on your street, or at least, to avoid a clash!
Take a drive in your own neighborhood or in one that has houses similar in
style to yours. Look for color schemes that appeal to you, and take
pictures. The experts at your local paint store will help you find similar
colors, but realize that this method of matching is imprecise.
Depending on your style of home, you’ll probably choose one main color for
the body, and a couple of colors for trim. Trim colors go on window and
door frames, porches, columns, and railings. Window sashes usually match
the trim. Doors can match the trim color, but look their most beautiful
when they’re highlighted in an accent color. Shutters are usually painted
the same color as the door, but can be treated to another color.
Strive for harmony between your interior and exterior color schemes. They
need not be identical. In fact, many of the colors that look good in
interiors are not appropriate for the outside of the house. Do provide a
pleasant transition from the outside to the inside.
“In the next year or two you’ll see different colors used outside,” says
Babel. “Different doesn’t have to be gaudy.”