It seems as though every year, more consumers pay attention to the green benefits of top quality latex paints. But there is one aspect of the environment that is important to anyone painting his or her home exterior: the color environment.
Unless you’re living out on the plains or in a wilderness area, your home doesn’t exist in isolation. It’s probably part of a neighborhood. As such, your ideal exterior color scheme will not only enhance the appearance of your home, but also the look of the entire neighborhood.
Designers of townhouse communities and condominium complexes have long recognized the importance of house-to-house color compatibility – so much so that many new communities have strict rules concerning the colors you may paint your home.
Even if your home is located in one of these neighborhoods, you’ll probably want to paint your exterior in a color scheme different from those to your right or left. But if you live elsewhere, it’s critical that you take your surroundings into account when making your color choice.
Before going to your paint retailer to look at color cards and certainly before developing any preconceived ideas, walk up and down your street and take an inventory (literally, take notes) of the colors on the homes. Don’t just jot down the colors, note where they are used. A house painted brick red with dark green shutters and trim looks a lot different than one with green walls and brick red accents.
When your inventory is complete, visit your local paint store and try to find color cards that match what you’ve seen on your neighbors’ homes. Line them up in the order of the homes on your street, leaving a gap for your home. Then see how different paint colors would look on your home in relation to your neighbors’. This is a great way to picture what architectural designers call the “streetscape”, and see how your home fits in.
What other factors should you take into account when selecting an exterior color scheme? Your home’s architectural style, for one. A Greek Revival home screams for a white exterior, while playful Victorian homes, with all their fretwork and gingerbread, can be painted in a rainbow of colors. Do you live in a bungalow? Here, too, you have a lot of leeway, but cheery colors, perhaps repeating colors from your garden, seem to work best.
Every once in a while, you’ll see a home that “goes against character” with an architecturally un-characteristic color scheme, but choosing an unconventional color scheme is risky, so proceed with care!
Then there’s the matter of the “fixed” colors on your home. Do you have a partial brick façade or any exterior stone? What is the color your roof? The hue and tone of these (relatively) immutable elements should be factored into your color choice. From curbside, the eye will take them all in at once.
Finally, pay attention to the “real” environment around your home – where the birds and bugs live. Nature’s paintbrush is a great source of inspiration for color ideas.
Homes in a beach setting look great in oceanic colors like blue, blue-green, coral and turquoise, while those in the deserts of the Great Southwest harmonize seamlessly when painted in the natural palette of the region – dusty gold, terra cotta, muted red and olive. If your home is located in a tree-dotted landscape, think in terms of your local earthy hues – greens and browns; these colors work well in most parts of the country.
Whatever color scheme you ultimately decide upon, your home will look best when it harmonizes with the color environment, not when it fights it.