You've been thinking about it all winter. And as the spring thaw approaches, it'll soon be time for action. The prospect of painting the exterior of your home is as thrilling as it is terrifying. And this is well before anyone hauls out the ladder and rollers. Choosing the right color for the body of your house as well as all those extras like the window frames, front door, and assorted trim is a huge undertaking. You want something that fits in well with the neighborhood and conforms to the house's structure. But you don't want it to be blah or too bold. Here are ideas for how to proceed whether you're doing the work yourself or hiring a painter.
Don't Go Color Crazy. No more than three colors, and two may work just fine, says Joan Kaufman, the CEO of Interior Planning and Design in Naperville, Ill. who does color consulting for home owners. "It's important that accent and trim colors be the same, except if we're talking Victorians. Those painted ladies can flourish with a multitude of colors," she says. But Kaufman adds even with Victorians, keep the colors to five max. Even folks who plan to hire a painter can benefit from a couple of hours of color consulting with a designer or architect for about $100-$150 per hour. Painters themselves may not always have the best sense of how to take the home's other non-paintable features into account, like the roof or stone walls.
Take a picture. Yes, you can paint samples on the outside walls but your neighbors may not appreciate your unfinished musings. And it can be unsightly to try out a variety of shades. Kaufman suggests taking a photo of the house, and printing it out in black and white. And then use colored pencils to sketch the print to test out different looks. Mario Guertin, owner of Painting in Partnership in Palatine, Ill. suggests removing paint samples from color wheels and pasting them to the photo of your home. They're both easy, and essentially no-cost ways of experimenting before you pull the trigger.
Check out the Neighborhood. Take a drive through the neighborhood and snap photos of homes whose color schemes you admire. It's perfectly fine to draw inspiration from them, but avoid creating a carbon copy. You don't want to go ultra bright in a neighborhood that's filled with tans and grays," says Kaufman.
What's Your Climate? In the Midwest, where skies are gray the majority of the time, muted colors tend to look better than brash ones. The blues and corals that look great in Florida don't work well in cloudy Chicago. When sampling paint colors, be sure to study it at different times of day. Paints can look much different during evening and morning lights. Also consider the landscaping around the house. If you're surrounded by woods or live by a lake, these natural features may influence your color choices.
Whites and Darks. White or other pale colors make homes look larger and grander. But be sure that trim or other features that extend from wall surfaces are painted dark to maximize the contrast. Using a brighter sheen with darker colors minimizes UV damage from the sun. This will also keep the color from fading as quickly. Also, don't cut corners by buying the least expensive paint. Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute, notes that monochromatic looks are becoming more stylish. "The shutters and the body of the house may be complementary shades of beige. It's harmonious and offers a peaceful look," she says. But no matter what brand or color you favor, go for top-of-the line paint because the higher-grade ingredients last longer than the cheaper entries, and are easier to apply," Zimmer says.
Historical Considerations If you have an older home that's historically significant, be mindful of the acceptable color palette. Staying accurate which might require enlisting a pro to help determine the precise, original color by analyzing paint chips.
Up on the Roof Check out your roof color. It's not essential for you to match the roof color, but it's a factor when you're choosing trim colors. As Zimmer points out, the roof accounts for 30 percent of a home's color. So you want shutters or window trim to complement the roof. You may want to incorporate tones from your roof in the trim.