Ever notice how the exterior colors of some homes really catch your eye, while others leave you totally flat? Or how some colors just seem to suit a particular house and its surroundings, while others seem somehow out of place? Selecting the perfect color combination for your home is equal parts instinct and homework, and with a little effort your home can become the envy of the neighborhood.


Chances are, if you’re ready for a paint job you have been giving some thought to what colors you like. Your house may have been yellow ever since you’ve lived there, and you’re really ready for a change. Or it’s a nice shade of green with white trim, and it blends so well with the landscaping that you want to use that combination again, but maybe a little brighter, or a little more subtle. Study what your have, and make note of what you like and don’t like about it.

Next, check in with your homeowner’s association. Some associations have very strict rules about exterior colors, which may limit your choices no matter how much you love that deep shade of purple. Your home may reside in a historic neighborhood, and that may place restrictions on your color choices as well. It pays to find out early in the process what you can and can’t do, and what the process is – if any – for having a color choice approved.


Next, make a trip to a couple of local paint stores. Pick up some exterior color selection brochures, which contain samples of exterior color combinations that work well together for siding and trim. Don’t worry about whether you like “morning mist” better than “seaside serenity” at this point – just grab those brochures.

While you’re in one of the stores, borrow a paint fan. Paint fans are a collection of every color available in a particular brand of paint, grouped together by shades. Most fans contain hundreds of colors, with 60 different greens fading into 75 shades of blue, but don’t panic. Probably 95 percent of the colors in the fan either won’t appeal to you or won’t work well with your particular house, and you’ll narrow things down quicker than you think.


Spend a little time walking or driving around some different neighborhoods, your own included. Look at colors and combinations of colors that really catch your eye, and try and decide why they appeal to you. Look at the style of the house as well, and compare it to your own. What works well on a three-story Victorian might not look as good on a one-story ranch, and you need to take that into consideration.

If you see something that really appeals to you, go knock on the door. Ask if the owners would mind if you held some of the colors in your brochures or your fan deck up against their siding or trim to make some comparisons. Write down the color names you like, since “autumn russet” and “spicy cinnamon” can look confusingly alike when you get home. If the homeowner is particularly accommodating and you happen to have your digital camera with you, snap a photo (always ask permission first).


Back home, check some of those colors against your own home. It’s tough with those tiny chips, but see if anything is beginning to jump out at you. Even if you can just narrow it down between green and brown at this point, you’re making some good progress.

Next, take a photograph of the front of your own house. Make a print, and then make several black and white photocopies of the print. This will give you a blank canvas to work from as your creative juices flow, so grab your crayons or colored pencils and start trying a few combinations.

If coloring is not your favorite pastime, try the high-tech computer option instead. Most paint stores have computerized color selection programs available, either in the store or as software that you can purchase inexpensively to use at home. There are also a growing number of Web sites that offer color selection programs you can use online.

A color selection program shows different styles of homes and allows you to “paint” them on screen. Just select a style that’s as close to your home as possible, then play with different color combinations. Start with the body color, which is all the siding, then add a trim color and perhaps an accent color for the windows, doors, and shutters. 

When you’ve finally narrowed it all down, buy a quart of the color(s) you like and try them out at home. Paint small patches of siding and trim at eye level in a few areas around the house, where they’ll catch different natural lighting. Your home will have a bit of a splotchy look for a few days, but seeing the actual colors on the wall in something other than a tiny paint chip will do wonders for the selection process, and is well worth the investment.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.


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