This spring, before we moved, we decided that our home was in need of a new coat of paint.  What color was I going to paint our house?  No worries.  I was all prepared with the perfect color and ready to go…. so I thought.

New entry landscape longshot
Before color – gray beige

When painting a house, you first have to decide if you want to keep the existing colors or have a completely new look.  For me, I knew that I wanted to change the main color of the house because it didn’t do justice to the house.  For others, the color of their home looks great and is a perfect match with their architecture.  If you are one of those fortunate home owners , there is no need to change colors.  As they say ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Just because you’re putting on a new coat of paint, doesn’t mean you have to change the color.  If it works, and you are happy,  my suggestion is to keep it.  Just ask the painter to match the paint.  With today’s technology, it’s a  simple and easy process.  The painters just take a chip of paint from your home and the computers at the paint shop can do a match.   I know it’s natural that people want change but I’ve seen cases whereby the owners wanting a new look chose trendy colors and regretted their poor choices.

There is another thing that I must mention.  Before you choose any color, make sure to check with your city, neighborhood HOA, Home Owners Association, or any other community association to see if there are any rules that limit the choice of color.  In some neighborhoods, they try to keep the integrity of the design in the community by controlling what the homeowners can or can’t do.  Did you know that there are design and paint restraints in some areas?  In my husband’s home town in Bath, England, there is a city wide control on the exterior color and material of the buildings.  The majority of the buildings are made from the local honey colored stone called Bath stone.  If not, they are painted the color of Bath stone so the whole city is monochromatic!  It makes a beautiful composition, and no wonder it’s a World Heritage Site.  This is the extreme case, but it’s always good to check before hand on what you can and can’t do.

My painter told me he had a client who asked him to choose a color for him because he had no idea what colors would look good for his home.  The painter went ahead and chose a neutral scheme.  The client was happy with the result and the painter was paid accordingly.  A little while later, the client called to say that he needed his house repainted.   His HOA told him that the new house color was not within the rules of their association and had to be changed.  The client wanted to blame the painter so he could have it repainted free of charge.   This was the client’s error as he didn’t know about the rules.  Wisely, the painter said he would have to charge to repaint.  Mistakes can be costly.

Another painter told me that his client wanted her house painted while she left town.  She left him a small 2″ x 2″ paint chip for the color.  Well, he started to paint and thought the color was very strong and bright.  Not feeling comfortable, he called her.  “Are you sure you want to paint it this color, it’s very bright.”  She insisted that she knew that was the right color for her home.  Upon returning from her trip, she was shocked that the color of the home, looked nothing like her little 2″ x 2″ chip!  He ended up having to repaint the whole house again.  Remember repainting will cost you.  Best to get it right the first time.

Now that you know your legal constraints, it’s time to choose a color.  This is supposed to be the fun part!  Unfortunately, for many, it’s the stressful part!

A good place to start is your own neighborhood.  Drive around and look at all the homes.  Take note of what combinations you like and what you don’t like. In my neighborhood, I drive past a grey-green house that looks good year round.  In the summer it looks cool, yet in the winter it’s cheerful, not cold or depressing.  I find it’s just the right tone for our climate.  Over the years, I thought to myself that when the time came to have our house repainted, that would be our new color.   However, when the time came to paint, it didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

The house color I wanted – grey with a green undertone

Being an interior designer, I have a pretty keen eye for color.  So I brought out a big swatch of the grey with a green undertone from my files of sample sheets and taped it onto the facade of our house.  It was a sunny day so I could have a good look.  Hmm… I didn’t like it.  Somehow it just didn’t look right.  What was wrong?  I tried darker and lighter shades within the same family, but still no good vibe.  Now I was sure I didn’t like it.  Time to think about this.

After analyzing the situation, I realized the grey-green that I loved so much, looked very washed out and so unexciting on our house.  Why was that?

Our home is a one story with basement in a cul de sac.  From the road it looks like a one story three car garage. It’s very horizontal in form.  On both sides there are some shrubbery and trees. But what is most noticeable is that the house is vertically sandwiched between lots of sky above and lots of concrete below.  Now it all made sense.   The grey-green paint color that I loved so much lacked  enough contrast for the house to pop.    It was too similar to the concrete and the gray Seattle skies.  I finally admitted that it wasn’t meant to be.

New paint color – yellow based beige

So, then I thought, “why did the grey-green look so good on the other house?”  Unlike our horizontal home, this two story house sits on the main drag, in a row of houses just where the road dips.  The form is very vertical.   To the right, to the left.

I ended up with a yellow based beige that was bright, cheerful, and complimented the roof, window trim, and surrounding environment.  What do you think?

  1. Consider the style architecture of your home.
  2. Consider the climate and amount of sunlight.
  3. Consider the surrounding buildings, environment, and landscape.
  4. Remember that what works in one area or on a particular home may not necessarily work for your home.

The architecture of homes are often based on a style such as Craftsman, Tudor, Contemporary, Split Level, Cape Cod, Prairie, and Mid-Century Modern.  Each style represents a period of time or place.



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