Color Accents and Combinations - Homeowner Decisions

Two-Story Suburban Colonial Home With American Flag
Two-Story Suburban Colonial Home With American Flag. Photo by Karol Franks / Moment Mobile / Getty Images (cropped)
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1906 Brick Queen Anne Victorian

Homeowner's massive 1906 Brick Queen Anne Victorian
Homeowner's massive 1906 Brick Queen Anne Victorian. Photo courtesy of the homeowner, robilium

Choosing exterior house paint colors can be exciting, frustrating, bothersome, and confusing. When you have to make a decision but you feel too overwhelmed, look around you. What have others done? Here are some stories from homeowners just like you. You are not alone.

"Robilium" owns a beauty. This 1906 Brick Queen Anne Victorian is four stories tall in the back and three stories in the front. It has numerous stained glass windows. The main roof is brand new weathering green slate with copper gutters. The previous paint colors were brick red, and green. The brick has very small lime mortar joints colored red similar to the brick. The house is in a historic district but homeowners are free to choose the colors.

The Project? We recently replaced the slate roof and front shingles and added copper sub-roofs. We now need to paint the trim. I have always liked the look of cream and brick but the historic district recommended a red matching the color of the brick. I find that the red hides all of the nice wood work and would like to avoid that. We have to decide.

Architecture Expert Advice:

Local Historic Commissions often have great suggestions based on their individual and collective experience. Whenever you appear before the board, ask a lot of questions about their recommendations.But, if you are "free to choose the colors," go with your gut and choose what you like.

When we look at well-known historic brick mansions, we often see that white is the complementing color. Many of the grand mansions in the United States are conservative in color schemes. Thomas Jefferson's brick Monticello has white window trim with black shutters, and Long Branch Estate in northern Virginia has a similar color scheme. But late Victorian, like Queen Anne or Octagon Styles, can be more bold, with a nice balance of brick red, green, and cream. Some of the trim color depends on the hue of the brick.

But most of us are not Astors or Jeffersons. Our sympathies are with the common homeowner of limited means, whose house is so large that you really want to paint the areas just once. The final color combination may need to be visualized with colored pencil sketch drawings or some of the free software tools available.

Also, if your town allows it, you may be able to do something with that huge fire escape—painting it the color of the brick siding would move the eye to more interesting aspects of this beautiful building. The commercial fire escape stairs are necessary, but, remember, they are not architectural details that need accent paint.

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Colors for a Red-Roof House

1975 California Home of About.com reader
1975 California Home of About.com reader. Photo courtesy of the homeowern, kerryannruff

Homeowner Kerryannruff bought this 1975 California home, with an interesting combination of colors and construction materials. The present color is a light tan with a dark brown trim, but  a multi-colored brick surrounds the front entrance, complementing a red tile roof.

The Project? We are in the middle of a major renovation of the front and back yard. Before we make any final decisions on the hardscape and plantings we thought it would be wise to pick the final color of the house. We will be painting the entire house. The roof will be staying so we will need to make sure our color selection really works with and doesn't highlight the red roof anymore.

Architecture Expert Advice:

The beige and brown colors there now are lovely, and harmonize well with the red roof and the brick trim. Because of the brick and the roof, this house seems to want to be an earthen color—brown, beige, or taupe. To highlight the front door, consider a contrasting earth color such as olive or pear green—contrast, but pull the color hue from the surrounding brick. Remember to consider different sheens, also—let your home shine! You have a lot to think about when you choose your exterior paints.

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Colors for a Split-Level Stucco Home

Split-level stucco house
Split-level stucco house. Photo courtesy of the homeowner, Jill Staten

Jill Staten's split-level stucco house was built in 1931. It has one architectural feature that she absolutely hates—the vertical wooden siding on the front gable. On the far right side of the house there is a gable (the rest of the roof is hip) and it has vertical wooden panels that extend about 10 inches past the point where the roof starts to narrow. It's vertical wood siding on an otherwise stucco house and it looks unbalanced, to the homeowner's eye. Symmetry and proportion run through the veins of the European-American homeowner.

The roof is brown and the stucco is Benjamin Moore's Texas Sage. Windows are Coastal Fog, but there isn't much painted area on them. On the left side of the house are two wood features—a large pillar on the corner of the porch and four beams under a small cantilevered bump-out. They used to be a darker version of Texas Sage, but that looked bad so I changed it to a dark brown I like.

The Project? I want to minimize the gable "triangle." I considered doing Coastal Fog, but it's pretty light and I had the triangle a creamy white before when the house was blue and it really stuck out. I am considering the next darker shade down from Coastal Fog, which is Brandon Brown, or perhaps a blend of the two. Should I paint it Texas Sage even though it's a different material than the stucco siding, and if so, should it be the same flat sheen as the stucco, or a low-lustre? If not, what color should I paint it?

Architecture Expert Advice:

A gable can be a fascinating piece of architecture. To minimize the gable, go with your idea of painting the "triangle" the same color as the stucco siding, but maybe with a low-luster sheen. The difference in sheen will provide some contrast, but the sameness of the color will make the gable seem less prominent. If you want NO contrast, go with the same sheen as the stucco.

The vertical siding probably was put there for decoration—it's meant to add to your home's curb appeal, but one developer's aesthetic may not be yours. If a structural engineer gives the okay, you could remove the gable siding and replace it with stucco. But then would you have additional problems of sameness? Some people add sculptures or other wall decorations in gables, but that brings attention to the area. Frank Lloyd Wright may have hid it with vines.

If your window sashes are wood, consider painting them the same dark brown color you've used on your porch pillars. Whatever you decide, be sure to preview your choices. Use a free home color software program or other photo editing software to try out color ideas.

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Colours for a Lattice Fence

A lattice fence in the yard of a suburban home in Canada
A lattice fence in the yard of a suburban home in Canada. Photo courtesy of the homeowner, arlenecharach

Arlenecharach owns a 30-year-old suburban home in Richmond, British Columbia in Canada. It is mainly white vinyl siding with a grey-green trim around the roofline, shutters, garage door, and courtyard lattice fence posts. The lattice is white, and so is the garage door to match the vinyl siding.

The Project? My gardener says the lattice should be painted an earthy colour to complement the shrubbery. I think if I paint the lattice, I would also want to paint the garage door. I was thinking that a taupe color would be nice but I need your advice.

Architecture Expert Advice:

Shades of gray-green and taupe blend well with surrounding greenery. If you paint both the fence and the garage door, they will harmonize with your garden. You might consider shades of green color. Regardless of the color you choose, you'll probably want to match or very closely match the color on the trim of your house. By all means, choose colors that please you AND your gardener!

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Craven, Jackie. "Color Accents and Combinations - Homeowner Decisions." ThoughtCo, Mar. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/paint-color-accents-advice-outside-the-can-178182. Craven, Jackie. (2017, March 11). Color Accents and Combinations - Homeowner Decisions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/paint-color-accents-advice-outside-the-can-178182 Craven, Jackie. "Color Accents and Combinations - Homeowner Decisions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/paint-color-accents-advice-outside-the-can-178182 (accessed November 20, 2017).