How to Choose the Right Exterior Paint Colors for Your Home Based on Its Architectural Style
A fresh coat or vibrant new color is the ultimate way to revive your home's façade and protect it from the elements—and now's an ideal time of year to do it. Our experts explain which hues elevate the most common home styles, from Colonial to Craftsman, and offer tips on hiring pros.
If you've ever attempted any at-home painting project, you can already imagine what an undertaking it would be to tackle the exterior of an entire house. Even so, having your home's exterior walls repainted every seven to 10 years is well worth the effort and investment. "It helps protect the underlying materials from degradation," says Farrow & Ball brand ambassador Patrick O'Donnell. And if and when you decide to move, it can increase your home's sale price by two to five percent, points out Chicago real-estate agent Tabitha Murphy.
To make the process as smooth as a stroke of semigloss, your first job is to time your repainting job just right. The ideal weather conditions are 77 degrees with 50 percent relative humidity, says Benjamin Moore field development manager Mike Mundwiller, so aim for the beginning of summer or early fall. Then, pick a palette. To help you step outside the classic colors, Martha Stewart Living home editor Lorna Aragon hand-selected modern body, trim, and door (or accent) options to bring out the best features of six common home styles.
Last, hire a painting company. The cost will vary by your location and the size and condition of your abode, but Angie's List pegs the national average at $3,737. Ask local contractors for references (then check them by calling the homeowners and doing drive-bys). Get several quotes, and always be wary of overly inexpensive ones: You don't want someone taking shortcuts or doing shoddy work.
But before you start making those calls, it's important that you decide on a palette that speaks to you and your home's inherent style. Ahead, exterior color schemes that will breathe modern life into your house's façade.
Exposed wooden beams, typical of a building method called half-timbering, distinguish these homes, built mostly from 1890 to 1940. So do steeply pitched roof and side gables (the triangular sections of wall where the roof edges meet). The timbers are traditionally painted dark brown or black, and the area between them, called infill, is often white or creamy stucco.
For a modern take, go with neutrals with low contrast, suggests Martha Stewart Living home editor Lorna Aragon. They're subtle, and create a clean backdrop for a statement-making front door; this oxblood is a deep, sophisticated red.
Shop Now: Benjamin Moore Paint in Edgecomb Gray (body), Sandy Hook Gray (trim), and El Cajon Clay (door), price dependent on quantity, benjaminmoore.com.
Found all over the country, this is a less boxy version of the narrow, über-practical dwellings the first New England colonists built, with a centered door, symmetrical windows, and a flat, unadorned façade. The wooden shingles or clapboard siding are typically left unfinished and natural to weather and gray over time, or painted white.
Looking to switch it up? "A rich-green door stands out—in a stylish way—against this medium blue, which has a little gray in it to tone it down," says Lorna. Cool-gray trim with blue-green undertones complements them both.
Shop Now: Pratt & Lambert Paint in Blue Fog (body), Windham (trim), and Shaded Spruce (door), price dependent on quantity, prattandlambert.com.
Like the queen herself, Victorians reigned for nearly 60 years. There are six substyles, including the popular wedding-cake-like Queen Anne, seen here, built from 1880 to 1910, with bay windows and gingerbread trim. There's a reason that so many, like San Francisco's Painted Ladies, are candy-colored: When they were being built, brightly pigmented exterior formulas were just being developed.
Bring the home style right into modernity with a subtle lavender façade, which references the vivid historical palettes in a fresh way, says Lorna. To emphasize the intricate woodworking details, paint them in high-contrast white and slate.
Shop Now: Sherwin-Williams Paint in Flexible Gray (body), Individual White (trim), and Folkstone (accent), price dependent on quantity, sherwin-williams.com.
Sail from Italy to Spain, and you'll see certain elements at every port of call: stucco, tile, hipped (pyramid-shaped) roofs, and arched doorways. The eclectic style caught on stateside in the 1970s. The body is often white or warm-toned stucco, the roof paved with rounded terra-cotta clay or composite tiles.
"A soft, pinkish neutral body works well with the terra-cotta roof," says Lorna. Just add sandy-beige trim, and—for a twist on the style's customary rusty oranges and reds—a cool, deep blue that Lorna loves so much, she chose it for her own front door.
Shop Now: Valspar Paint in Free Wheeling (body) and Desert Fortress (trim), price dependent on quantity, valsparpaint.com; Farrow & Ball Paint in Hague Blue (door), price dependent on quantity, farrow-ball.com.
These ramblers took the country by storm during the post-World War II housing boom. They're a single story, with a low-pitched roof and wide eave overhangs—and a sleek, geometric design that brims with midcentury-modern potential. Most sport brick or wooden siding; the originals blended into nature, in hues like green, brown, and putty.
For an instant makeover, go dark. "Charcoal-gray walls and clean white trim make all the lines look really sharp," says Lorna. (The opposite will have the same effect.) A marine-blue door is bold but not too bright.
Shop Now: Benjamin Moore paint in Iron Mountain (body), China White (trim), and Notting Hill Blue (door), price dependent on quantity, benjaminmoore.com.
No wonder people call them bungalows. Deep, cozy porches with tapered columns and low-pitched, gabled roofs with exposed rafters distinguish these homes, built mostly from 1905 through the early 1920s. Wooden clap-board is most common, followed by shingles—all painted tones of the surrounding landscape.
"This earthy green and brown still feel naturalistic, but they're slightly darker than what you typically see," says Lorna. Set them off with a warm welcome of a front door—a golden orange that's cheerful and (we bet) unique to your block.
Shop Now: Behr Paint in Mossy Bank (body), Clove Brown (trim), and Butter Rum (door), price dependent on quantity, behr.com.