tips for selecting exterior paint colors

#1 Honor the neighborhood. While interior colors are primarily for you and your family to enjoy, exterior colors are a contribution to your entire neighborhood! Take a walk along your street and consider what kind of palette would blend most harmoniously with other homes in the area as well as the natural surroundings. If you live in a neighborhood of little Craftsman bungalows like the one to the left, it might be best to paint your home in fairly subdued colors. Whereas if you live in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, it’s safe to say you can go quite a bit bolder if you like. (For more on SF Victorians, take a look at this previous post.)

#2 Conceal architectural flaws. If some aspect of the architecture is ugly or awkward, a strategic color design can minimize the defect. For example, this condominium complex in Sausalito (see right) had a guard rail that had been added in order to comply with new codes. The rail is not attractive to begin with, but painting it teal only calls attention to its ugliness. By replacing the teal with a light neutral tone that flows into the rest of the trim, we were able to make this feature much less prominent, as you can see in the “after” photo below.

 #3 Relate to the landscaping. Ideally, home and garden should flow together gracefully, and color is an important key to achieving that sense of flow. If decorative stone or wood elements show up in the landscape design, consider relating to those colors, perhaps selecting one of the richer tones from flowers or leaves as an accent color in your palette.

 #4 Highlight the front door, downplay the garage door. Painting the front door a cheerful or dramatic color brings the eye to the entryway, and creates a strong focal point for the home. If the garage door is large and prominently located at the front of the house, consider painting it the body color instead of the trim color. This will reduce the visual impact of the garage door, allowing the front door to dominate instead.

 #5 Consider the weather. If your home receives a lot of strong direct sun, rain or ocean spray, very dark or very bright colors may not hold up well. These colors have a tendency to fade and become blotchy, whereas lighter neutrals tend to do better in extreme conditions.

 #6 Enhance the moldings. If the exterior of your home is a bit uninteresting, or if moldings are poorly placed, consider revising the layout of moldings and decorative features before you paint. Well-placed moldings create a natural place to break the color for a more energetic exterior palette. Be sure to work within the architectural style of your home! If your home is from the Victorian era, you can find a great selection of period-appropriate moldings at SF Victoriana.

#7 Last but not least – put up a LARGE color sample! It’s amazing how different a color can look in a 3-foot-by-3-foot swatch on the wall instead of that tiny slip of paper from the paint company. It is an absolute must to see the paint color you are considering in natural light at different times of day before you paint the entire house.

Have fun and enjoy this beautiful weather!

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