How to Choose Exterior House Colors: A Guide to Enhancing Curb Appeal

Choosing exterior house colors is an important decision that significantly affects a home’s curb appeal and value. The right paint color can enhance the architectural details of a home, make it stand out in the neighborhood, or even correct design flaws. Given the variety of factors to consider, such as the style of the home and the surrounding environment, selecting a color scheme can be a complex task.

Home holding exterior color swatches and choosing a color for his home.

Understanding color theory is essential in creating a harmonious exterior palette that reflects the homeowner’s style while fitting within the context of the neighborhood. It’s also crucial to evaluate the home’s fixed elements, such as roofing and stonework, which will influence the color selection. Moreover, the type of paint finish chosen can affect both the appearance and maintenance of the home.

Key Takeaways

  • Select colors that enhance architectural characteristics and boost curb appeal.
  • Consider surrounding elements and materials in color selection.
  • Choose an appropriate paint finish for durability and aesthetic appeal.

Understanding Color Theory

Selecting the right paint colors for a home’s exterior is a critical decision that combines both aesthetics and practicality. Applying color theory, one assesses how different hues relate and how they affect human psychology. With a sound understanding of color theory, homeowners can curate an appealing color palette that complements their style and home architecture.

Choosing a Color Palette

When crafting a color palette, one must first choose a dominant color, which will be the main hue for the exterior. This color should reflect the homeowner’s style and the home’s setting. Neutral tones like whites, grays, or beiges often serve as the base color due to their versatility and timeless appeal. A cohesive color palette can include:

  • Main color: This neutral or soft tone acts as the backdrop.
  • Secondary color: A shade or tint that provides subtle contrast to the main color.
  • Accent color: A bolder hue used sparingly to highlight details.

Considering Color Combinations

Color combinations are guided by the relationship between colors on the color wheel. A harmonious combination can be achieved by using:

  • Complementary colors: Colors opposite each other on the color wheel, used to create a bold contrast.
  • Analogous colors: Adjacent colors on the color wheel, which offer a more subtle and cohesive look.
  • Monochromatic scheme: Variations in lightness and saturation of a single color, providing a sophisticated and unified appearance.

Selecting Accent Colors

Accent colors serve as the finishing touches that bring a color scheme to life. They are typically applied to doors, shutters, and trim details and are chosen to stand out against the primary and secondary colors. When selecting an accent color, one should consider:

  • Use of a bold color that can draw attention to architectural features.
  • Choice of color combinations that maintain the overall harmony of the exterior color scheme.
  • Application of color in a deliberate manner to enhance curb appeal without overwhelming the main palette.

Through the strategic use of paint colors, a color palette, and color combinations, homeowners can achieve a visually compelling exterior that enhances the character and value of their property.

Evaluating Your Home’s Architecture and Surroundings

When choosing exterior house colors, one should consider the architectural style of the home and how it fits into the surrounding landscape and neighborhood. These factors can significantly influence the appeal and coherence of the final color selection.

Accounting for Architectural Style

  • Colonial: Traditional Colonial homes often feature a palette of white, gray, or beige with shutters in black or green.
  • Victorian: Victorian homes can handle vibrant and varied colors that accentuate intricate architectural details.
  • Cape Cod-Style Home: A Cape Cod tends to have a subdued and natural color scheme, often with sea-inspired blues and grays.

Each architectural style carries its own set of characteristics that should guide the color choice. For example, Victorian-style homes may exhibit more elaborate trim and therefore can support richer, more numerous colors. In contrast, the simplicity of a Colonial or Cape Cod-style home might call for a more restrained palette.

Harmonizing with the Landscape

One should select exterior paint colors that complement the natural surroundings. If the home is in a forest setting, earth tones or greens can blend harmoniously. Coastal homes might benefit from shades of blue or sandy hues. The key is to choose colors that enhance, not clash with, the natural landscape.

Observing the Neighborhood

Observing the neighborhood can provide a context for color decisions. If the home is among a sea of Colonials, one might choose a classic color scheme. For homes in a varied architectural environment, one could opt for a palette that stands out yet remains tasteful. It’s also respectful to consider the color consistency in the neighborhood to avoid colors that might be jarring or out of place.

Assessing Fixed Elements and Materials

blue house exterior

When choosing exterior house colors, it’s essential to consider the fixed elements that are not easily altered. These include brick, stone, siding, and roof colors as well as pre-existing wood stains. Cohesion between these elements is key to achieving a harmonious exterior aesthetic.

Coordinating with Brick, Stone, and Siding

Brick and Stone:

  • Matching: Select colors that complement the tones inherent in brick or stone. For example, if the brick has warm red undertones, consider warm-based paint colors.
  • Contrasting: Alternatively, a contrast can be striking. Against deep gray stone, a crisp white can make for a classic juxtaposition.


  • Consistency: Ensure the paint color for trim or accents works well with the siding. Materials like vinyl or fiber cement often have their own range of colors that should inform your palette.

Matching Roof and Wood Stain Colors

Roof Color:

  • The roof color significantly influences the choice of exterior color palette. One should match cool roof tones with cool paint colors and similarly, warm roof tones with warm paint colors.

Wood Stain:

  • Naturals: For natural wood stains, identify the undertones to find complementary exterior colors.
  • Treated: If wood stain is a bold color, select a more subdued palette for the main colors to let the stain stand out.

By carefully considering these fixed elements and how they interact with potential color choices, one can ensure a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing exterior house design.

Selecting Exterior Paint Finishes

When choosing exterior paint finishes, homeowners should consider durability and the desired amount of sheen. The right finish can protect the home against weather elements and enhance the chosen colors.

Choosing Between Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Other Finishes

Satin: This finish has a slight gloss and is known for its durability, making it ideal for siding. It provides a low sheen that helps conceal surface imperfections, and it’s easy to clean, which is beneficial for high-traffic areas.

Semi-Gloss: Semi-gloss finishes are highly durable and offer a noticeable shine, perfect for trim, doors, and architectural details. They reflect more light than satin, which can highlight surface flaws but are excellent for easy cleaning and resisting mildew.

Other Finishes: While satin and semi-gloss are popular, other finishes like flat/matte and gloss are also options. Flat finishes offer minimal reflection, which helps hide imperfections but can be less durable. Gloss finishes are very shiny and best used for accentuating details due to their high reflectivity.

Designers often recommend that the finish chosen should complement the overall design aesthetic of the home and the exterior paint colors. A balance between aesthetics and practical considerations ensures the home’s exterior looks good and stands up to the environment.

Making Final Decisions

When selecting exterior house colors, finalizing the choice involves hands-on approaches and expert insights. They ensure the chosen palette complements the home’s architecture and surrounding landscape.

Sampling with Swatches and Visualizers

Sampling colors is crucial before committing. Swatches should be tested on different sides of the home at various times of the day. Renowned paint brands like Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, and Behr offer sample sizes for this purpose. Color visualizer tools available online allow homeowners to upload a photo of their house and apply different paint colors digitally.

  • Testing with Swatches:
    • Obtain swatches from stores or order online.
    • Affix to different exterior walls.
    • Observe changes in natural lighting.
  • Using Visualizers:
    • Upload house photo to brand’s visualizer (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr).
    • Experiment with different hues.
    • Evaluate color coordination digitally.

Consulting Color Experts

Engagement with a color expert or designer can provide personalized advice tailored to the specific style of the house. Color experts have a deep understanding of how paint colors translate in various settings and can suggest options that homeowners might not consider.

  • Expert Guidance:
    • Review the nature of paint colors suggested by professionals.
    • Discuss how these selections harmonize with the home’s surroundings and style.
  • Brands Offering Expert Advice:
    • Many paint brands offer consultations:
      • Sherwin Williams: In-store or virtual color consultations.
      • Benjamin Moore: Access to color and design experts.
      • Behr: Color clinic sessions for personalized advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing exterior house colors is a significant decision as it affects curb appeal and property value. These questions address common concerns to guide homeowners through the selection process.

What considerations should I take into account when selecting paint colors for my home’s exterior?

Homeowners should consider the local climate, the architectural style of their home, durability of paint, color fading over time, and how the chosen colors blend with the surrounding neighborhood and landscape.

How can I determine which exterior paint colors will complement the architectural style of my house?

To complement architectural styles, homeowners should research historically accurate colors or choose a palette that highlights the design features of their home. For example, a Victorian home may suit bold, rich colors, while a ranch-style house might look best with an earthy, neutral palette.

What color combinations are recommended for enhancing curb appeal while remaining timeless?

Neutral colors, such as greys, whites, and beiges, are often recommended for their timeless appeal and ease of matching with accent colors. Darker trims with a lighter body color can create a classic and appealing contrast.

What are the best strategies for choosing a color scheme if I have a small house to help it appear larger?

Using lighter and brighter colors can make a small house appear larger. Continuity in color, with a monochromatic scheme or similar hues, can visually expand the space, making the home seem less constrained.

Can you recommend tools or apps that are helpful for visualizing exterior house colors before making a decision?

Yes, several paint manufacturers and home improvement stores offer apps and online tools that allow homeowners to upload photos of their houses and experiment with different color combinations virtually.

How many exterior paint colors should I use to achieve a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing home exterior?

Most homes benefit from using three colors: a dominant field color, a trim color, and an accent color. This trio allows for visual balance and highlights the home’s architectural details effectively.

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