Personalize your home: Pick colors that stand out in a good way

Anne Lundgren | Improvement Center Columnist | September 23, 2013

A few years ago, I decided to repaint my home. And I had my heart set on yellow with white trim and a red door. I've seen this combination many times and love it. Luckily I had a qualified painter with a keen eye for color who was my voice of reason. Though not a major home remodel, my modest boxy home with its black roof would've looked like a squatty little bumblebee if I'd chosen that paint scheme. With his help I chose a muted gray-blue body, white trim and a unique door color called Raven Feather. The hues complement each other and work well with the surrounding neighborhood as well as the changing colors of the seasons.

Whereas repainting your interior walls is typically a simple and relatively affordable way to do a quick home remodel, choosing to repaint the exterior takes more than a trip to your local home improvement center.

Here's a list of 5 ways your exterior paint choices differ from interior projects:

  1. You can easily change your interior paint colors with minimal prep work, so many people choose to paint home exteriors only when they need it.
  2. The type of paint used for exterior vs. interior projects differ. Depending on the room you're painting, interior products can vary in levels of stain resistance and ease of cleaning. Exterior paint, on the other hand, provides additional fade resistance and mildew blockers.
  3. When painting a home's exterior, you sometimes need to pay attention to subdivision design standards, but your creativity is the limit indoors.
  4. Your neighbors can see (and will judge) your home's exterior. Interior paint schemes allow you to display your personality.
  5. Your natural surroundings play an important part in choosing the right exterior paint scheme, but not necessarily your interior decor choices.

Expect to prep

Plan to do more extensive prep work with exterior paint projects: for example replacing fascia and soffits and patching cracked stucco. Scraping and power washing are also musts. In addition, if you hire a contractor to paint your house, the prices can jump quickly. And they aren't always willing or qualified to do extensive prep work. With time and patience, you can do it yourself, particularly if you choose to rent or buy a sprayer. Rolling a home can be a daunting task, particularly if your home isn't single-story.

Location, location, location

The first thing to consider when choosing exterior paint colors is where you live, especially if you live in a subdivision with specific design guidelines. I once worked for a home-building company with a motto: "Homeowners can choose whatever color beige their hearts desire." OK, that wasn't the official motto, but the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) didn't allow for much leeway in exterior color.

Even if you don't live in a neighborhood with strict rules, it's wise to keep your neighbors and location in mind. And, while imitation is the highest form of flattery, having the same house color as your neighbor looks repetitive. Consider choosing an exterior paint color that complements neighboring homes.

With 25 years of real estate and design consulting experience, Heidi Lawson explains that climate also plays an important role in your exterior paint products. In locations with a significant change in seasons, you need paint resilient to temperature fluctuations.

Natural surroundings also play a role in color choice. For example, if you live in a wooded area consider avoiding browns and greens because your home can get lost in nature. Still, check with your Homeowners' Association because they might require more subdued exteriors that blend with the elements.

Keep contrast in mind

You might want a particular architectural feature to stand out in your home, for instance a custom garage door, porch pillars, or in my case an antique door with a stained glass window. Whatever you want to showcase, play up the color! Even neighborhoods following strict paint scheme rules can be forgiving when it comes to entryway colors. Your front entrance can be a particularly popular place to express individuality.

Design expert Heidi Lawson says, "Go with a body and trim that are in the same basic family but have enough contrast. The door is very important because it sets the feel of the home, whether you want cheerful or sophisticated. Also, whatever trim and body colors you pick, make sure they go with your windows and roof."

Ultimately, depending on your neighborhood's restrictions, you want an exterior house palette that suits the personality of both you and your home, doesn't clash with your surroundings, and makes your neighbors want to keep up with you… not complain about you.

About the Author

Long before earning a bachelor's degree in Communication/English from Boise State University, Anne Lundgren fell in love with the English language. She has over 15 years of experience in the construction industry, and writes and edits novels and Internet content. When time allows, Anne does home improvement projects, hikes with her two dogs, and gets creative with art and food.