Let's chat about how to arrive at the perfect blend of colors to make your home proud.

During a recent trip to Chatham, N.J., I had the opportunity to drive around and admire the uncommon exterior paint colors. For example, I so appreciated a traditional two story in charcoal with bright white trim and a Chinese red door—stunning.

Why, I wondered, do they choose such different colors here than in our part of the country? And my answer is that I don't know. What I do know is that if you find the perfect blend of paint colors to make your home shine, it will make you beam for years to come. With the cooler weather upon us, can you just envision a dazzling new paint color on your home for fall! Plus, if the time comes to put the house on the market, great curb appeal entices the Lookie Lous to come on in! So, let's chat about how to arrive at the perfect blend of colors to make your home proud.

Visualization Tips

Before you start looking at paint samples and patch testing, try a couple techniques to help you see how they will look on your home. The first thing you might consider is a drive around your neighborhood to take notes and, perhaps, photos of paint combinations you like. (I always knock on the door and attempt to ask permission before I photograph a home. I've never been denied permission, but it's common courtesy before clicking.) Another thing you can try is the color visualization tool on the Sherwin-Williams website ( HYPERLINK "http://www.sherwin-williams.com/"www.sherwin-williams.com), which lets you upload a picture of your home and play with colors on it.


When selecting paint colors, possibly the first thing to consider is how the home will fit in with its surroundings: the roof and brick colors, the landscaping and the other homes in the neighborhood.

If you have stone or brick on your home, take that into account when selecting paint colors. I do think painted brick is a wonderful design element. For example, a long sprawling ranch that is half brick and half lap board will look taller and not so long if you paint the brick and wood all the same color.

I am a complete goofball over roofs, which I think are the top hat of the house. Some roofs have marvelous flecks of other colors within the overall hue, and this might be just the place from which to pick up the shutter or the front door colors. Shake shingles take on that wonderful patina over the years, so if your roof is wood think about that in determining your paint color.

Consider the lot size when selecting paint as well. For a huge house on a small lot, you may want to avoid white paint. For a tiny cottage on a vast lot, you might want to use a lighter paint to give the home some needed volume. Add some exciting accent colors to all the doors, shutters and even window boxes for some additional weight. In these situations, landscaping is important as well to fill up some the abundance of yard around the home.

While on the subject of landscaping, do consider the changing hues of the plants, bushes and trees around your home. For example, if you have a maple tree that is a fall explosion of rich reds, consider this in the selection of your home's new paint color.

You might not love your neighbors' color choices, but I do think you need to consider those colors as harmony is key. If you prefer to be the darling of the street, select something that makes your home stand out in a good way—not an unusual way.

Focus on Color Combinations

Everyone describes their house by the base color—the white house, the gray house, etc. Even if you know what color you want, be sure to coordinate all the colors for the base, trim, and accents. At the very least, select a distinctive color for the front door and even the window trim. An amazing door color says welcome to all while outlining windows adds some character to homes lacking good architecture.

One way to select your color combinations is to look at complementary colors on the color wheel. A perfect example of this is a charming home on E. 12th Avenue. When I stopped to ask the resident about the paint colors, the homeowner shared this story. She had selected green for the base color and was unsure about the accent hue. While standing in the street, she noticed how delightful the boat covered in a red tarp looked parked near the home. And there you have it, red became the complementary secondary color. Complementary colors make wonderful combinations as long as you select a bit more muted versions. This home did a brilliant job with the selection. The choices are positively charming—not at all holidayish.

A safe, never-fail neutral combination is always a good choice. One of the many beige or gray colors for the basic home along with bright white trim makes for a lovely color palette. Regardless of the landscaping, theses homes look clean and fresh.

When planning what paint goes where, don't let the garage door overwhelm the house (especially if it projects out further than the entrance). The safest thing to do is to paint it the base color so it does not take center stage.

Keep in mind that blue is a tough color for exteriors. It is usually safest done in more of a gray blue with a wonderful crisp white trim and maybe a berry-type accent color on the front door or shutters. Certainly there are exceptions, as with a Victorian home. A smaller cottage-type home can handle even a turquoise exterior. When painting these little sweeties, do remember that you will need a calming color, such as white, to offset the shock of the color and maybe black as a stabilizer to quiet the in-your-face choice. In coastal areas, it's a bit easier to get away with water-inspired hues. Intense colors are better suited to smaller homes that perhaps are tucked into the trees.

Sun Factor

Sun alters the paint's intensity, so please consider that in your choice.

How much sunlight does your home get during the day?

Is your home shaded by an umbrella of trees? If so, you can go lighter with your color choice. The shade allows the paint color to stay at a truer intensity.

If you are in a new construction area with no trees of any size to shade your home, you could select a deeper tone as the sun will wash out some of the intensity. Fading might be an issue, these areas are tricky choices for several years until you have some sizable trees.

Complement the Home's Style

Imagine, if you will, if the White House isn't white. Would any other color be quite so stately? Obviously, the home's architecture and color should work together.

The fascinating gingerbread detailing on Victorian homes make them seem right out of a fairytale. These homes can support four or more colors in their palette. I recommend doing some research on these color combinations to allow for some historical integrity.

Tudor homes or half-timber construction, of which there are several around Augusta, also need to adhere to historical color combinations. Usually, the heavy timber is done in a dark stain or paint while the open area within the timbers is in a much lighter color. I have, however, seen successful Tudor paint jobs that ignore the traditional darker/lighter combination. If you want your home to feel less heavy, perhaps friendlier in appearance, do a search on Bing or Google Images for color ideas.

Contemporary homes, like contemporary furnishings, involve more color blocking and layering. Modern designed homes are sleeker and more angular than traditional homes making them almost blocky in appearance. Make a dynamic statement with a monochromatic base accented by punches of color. You might see a very geometric, angular home in gray with a shot of canary yellow for the front door and a beet color on the window trim. There are several good examples of contemporary homes in Augusta.

One last tip: Exterior lighting fixtures are another way to add one more dimension of color to the exterior of your home! If you're going to paint, updating the lighting may be in order as well. But do remember that if your home has its original antique lighting, removing it might tarnish the house's personality. Whatever lights you have, make sure the bulbs in all the fixtures are the same wattage and bulb type to prevent uneven lighting and shadows.

I hope this bit of insight helps with the tough decision of what color to paint your home next time. If some of you do a new paint scheme, please send me photos!

See you next week for coffee!

Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She accredits her mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for her intense interest and love for design.

She has taught interior design at the college level and operated her private design business since 2001. Look for her new book soon!

Jan welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: jan@jcolvininteriors.com