'Where' color do you like? - Exterior Design Advice

Last month I wrote an article that encouraged folks needing to paint their house this year to choose a
color rather than a shade of beige. Well, I’m sticking to it. I suppose it would only be right for me to offer
color combinations this month but, have you ever tried describing a color to someone?

I might be saying bluish green but you might be thinking turquoise. Have you ever seen a turquoise
house? Well, I have and it ain’t right. All colors have there place, and out of the infinite spectrum of colors,
I suppose only about a million or so are appropriate for something as large as a house. The fact is that
color is a personal choice and we all have colors we love or hate. Unfortunately bad reactions to color are
probably why we have all ‘wimped-out’ and used beige to death.

To complicate matters, color is rarely used in a vacuum and is usually combined other colors. I am
actually very found of the saying ‘there is no such thing as a bad color only bad color combinations’.
Sometimes nice colors can look bad next to other colors while colors you wouldn’t normally choose might
be really nice next to each other. The only advice I can give about color in black and white, print article is.
“Get a second opinion if you are unsure”.

So what good am I? Well, there is something just as important as what colors you choose. It is where you
choose to place your color. I have been thinking about this subject since last month’s article (See www.
DesignQandA.com to read it.) and it was confirmed as I drove down the street recently. I saw what most
folks would perceive as nice houses, some with very nice colors, while most had a combination of poor
color combinations and poor placement.

I think most homeowner’s goals are to make their home’s color scheme seem ‘classy’ and to stand out in
the crowd. But, too often, I see overuse or poor placement of accent colors make there home look the
opposite. Below are some placement pitfalls to avoid:

  • Avoid ‘orphan colors’ or colors that have no relationship to each other. Most commonly you will see
    orphan colors as pure and high contrast. IE your favorite sports team’s colors like, white, red, blue,
    green, yellow, black, burgundy etc. White with green trim is great if you are a New York Jet and you
    want to be easily seen on TV. But the green and white don’t have a relationship to each other on a
    house. What usually would look better is a light to medium shade of green instead of white and a
    medium to dark shade of green that works well with the first color.
  • Most homes can easily use three colors; more if it is a ‘Victorian’, less if it is ‘Modern’. A trick that
    works pretty well is choosing two similar colors for siding and trim and a third for an accent color for
    your door or a little special detail. But, remember that it is wise to treat accent colors like you would
    rich desserts. Use them sparingly because a little goes a long way.
  • Avoid skinny trim syndrome ‘Skinny Trim Syndrome’. Skinny Trim Syndrome or STS (which is faster
    to type) happens mostly around windows and doors on post 1930’s homes. Earlier homes most
    often had wide trim plus a fairly substantial storm window trim. Later homes were given less weighty
    trim. STS happens when homeowners paint their window trim one color and their storm windows
    another color. The higher the contrast between those colors, the skinnier the trim appears. What I
    would suggest is either painting both the window and storm window the same color or Choosing two
    very similar colors to do the job or painting the window trim the same as the siding and the storm
    another color.

When I was a kid, I used to ride past a Victorian-ish house that was mostly dark brown but it had a purple
door. It was a fabulous color combination for its time in the seventies. In fact, it would probably work again
today. Everybody knew that house and commented on it. The key was that they chose an outlandish color
as an accent but by only painting the door, they used restraint, which will always be a classy thing to do.
Now, if restraint is not your thing, can I suggest a turquoise house with a purple door?



Paul Livdahl is founder of DesignQandA.com
For questions or suggestions, e-mail him at plivdahl@designqanda.com