Free Advice on Which Exterior Paint Color to Choose

American Suburban House
American Suburban House. Photo by John Parra / Moment Mobile / Getty Images (cropped)

Should the style of your house dictate its exterior paint color? Think back to what Leo Tolstoy wrote: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Let's re-write literature and say this: All painted houses are alike — and each peeling house needs paint in its own way. Here are some projects from our neighbors.

Colors for a Cottage

grey shake-shingle cottage with a green roof
Grey Shake-Shingle Cottage With a Green Roof. Photo courtesy of the homeowner, Suzanne

Suzanne purchased a small, neglected 1920s-era shake shingle "cottage-esque" house. The shake is painted a dark grey; the eaves, windows and the enclosed front porch are painted white. There are dark green accents here and there. The roof is a pastel green shingle, and the foundation is tan.

The roof has seen better days. Suzanne would like to replace the old 3-tab green shingle with architectural shingles. She hates the green roof, especially with the grey shake. The grey of the house limits the colors she can choose for roof color, so she's considering giving the whole house an exterior makeover.

The project? I'm having trouble visualizing my makeover. I could really use some suggestions. I recently saw a barnyard red shake cottage with dark trim that was lovely, but it might be a bit too overwhelming for my home. My house is small, so I think going lighter with the exterior paint will make it seem bigger. Is that true? The porch is also quite prominent. I don't want the house to stick out like a sore thumb, but I keep coming back to ho hum safe colors like taupe. Looking for a middle ground. Once I decide on the shake color, the roof color will be easier to decide.

Architecture Expert Advice

One of the joys with a small house is you can go bold with your colors if you'd like. And, although lighter colors can make a house look larger, dark colors can be quite striking, especially if combined with bright white trim and a colorfully painted door. Check out some black-and-white colored houses or, if you want more subtlety, examine the softer shades of pink and salmon colors on house exteriors.

It looks like you have a modest chimney pot, maybe attached to a wood stove.  To make your house appear taller than it is, think about a more eye-catching chimney extension in clay or copper that would move the onlooker's eye upward.

Purchasing a "neglected" home is exciting. Often the first task, however, is to cut away what was once "landscaping." Overgrown shrubbery hides the innate beauty of aged homes. The plantings also hide the size of your home, which may appear larger once you can see it. You need to be able to see what's there to know what needs to be done. Don't worry—vegetation grows back.

Colors for a White Colonial

A homeowner's white colonial gets lost in the white snow
A Homeowner's White Colonial Gets Lost in the White Snow. Photo courtesy of the homeowner, snan

A homeowner named "Snan" owns this center hall Colonial, like many you can find throughout the Washington, DC suburbs. It is late 20th century and is white with rust-colored shutters, a double wood door with decorative carvings and oval cut glass, and a wrap-around porch with a light gray stained floor. The house also has dark gray trim—dental molding and around the windows. The roof has blackish gray shingles.

The neighbors' houses coming up along the access road or pipestem include a red brick house with black shutters and light gray trim, and a creamy yellowish brick house with deep chocolate brown shutters. Snan's house is separated from the others because it sits on a hill and is the last house at the end of the pipestem. They have a huge, wooded front yard and a wrap-around porch, which the other houses do not have.

The Project? We are thinking of re-siding, but not replacing the roof as it is fairly new. We want to include a natural stone winding walkway to the front door and are open to replacing the double front doors, although they are really pretty and add a beautiful decorative touch to the interior entryway. A single entry door with sidelights would be acceptable. I am thinking of going with a deep sage green colored siding, black shutters, white trim around the windows, white porch trim, and white garage, etc. I've considered a black front door with a decorative glass panel of some kind at the top with matching sidelights and then a solid white garage door, perhaps trimmed out in black up against the sage vinyl siding.

Architecture Expert Advice

You sure DO have a lot of snow! Once the snow has melted, I imagine that your black roof is very visible. And that's OK! White-and-black is a traditional scheme used for many Colonial style homes. White-and-green is also a popular choice, but, as you know, house paint color combinations can be extensive.

Deep sage is also a good choice, if you feel like you want more color. But, don't be afraid to go dark! A deeper color scheme can look rich and handsome on a larger home like yours. You want your home to blend in with your neighbors' homes, but try not to move toward ho-hum-ness.

Stucco House With a New Roof

Homeowner's stucco house with a new, grey roof
Homeowner's Stucco House With a New, Grey Roof. Photo courtesy of the homeowner, Patricia Hood

Patricia Hood has a stucco house. It is white with dark brown trim and brown roof. Like many other homeowners at the cusp of decision-making, she is having the roof redone. The new shingles are thunderstorm grey, and she's thinking of painting the trim white. She's leaning towards painting the stucco a light grey. The surrounding houses are tans and browns, some grey, yellow, and orange, and she doesn't want to stick out—but she sure doesn't want to be too plain either.

The Project? The new roof is almost done. I will be painting trim and stucco house. I was thinking of painting the trim white with white gutters and possibly a grey paint on the house. I'd like advice on colors to paint the stucco and/or trim.

Architecture Expert Advice

The new colors don't need to match the roof, but they should harmonize. Cool, muted colors work well with gray. Possibilities include slate blue, dusty green, and darker shades of gray. A bright red or yellow door can add oomph to a gray-and-white house. Browse our gallery of Black and White Houses for more ideas.

Others have called this architecture "a beautiful meridional house," which is a term used to describe homes in southern regions, especially in southern France. If you categorize your home similarly, go for warm earthy tones, "something reminiscent of tribal America," like an Alamo Brown or Valley Smoke with trim of Cherokee Tan. There are many things to think about when choosing exterior paint.

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Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "Free Advice on Which Exterior Paint Color to Choose." ThoughtCo, Aug. 13, 2021, Craven, Jackie. (2021, August 13). Free Advice on Which Exterior Paint Color to Choose. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "Free Advice on Which Exterior Paint Color to Choose." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 26, 2021).