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    Tips on Choosing Exterior House Colors and Materials


    By Nazim Nice
    Choosing exterior house colors can be quite a challenge. It often takes years of experience to learn what colors and materials will work together. The average person has never done this before and certainly dooesn't have training or professional experience. And choosing the wrong color paint or material can be a very expensive mistake that you'll likely have to accept for many years (or spend a lot of money to fix). Here are some tips to help you make the right choices.

    Choosing the Right Paint Colors

    The most common error I see in choosing exterior house color is that the color is too light. The sun will wash out colors outside, so choosing a light color will end up looking like white. When choosing colors, keep in mind that they usually need to be more grey or brown than you think. For example, a grey with a tint of green in it will read more green than you usually think when painted on the entire house. If you choose a color and can say 'now that's green', you've probably choosen too 'green of a green'. The primary exception to this rule would be in more tropical locations such as Florida or other locations where a lighter more reflective color is desired to keep a house cool. Here pastel and brighter colors can work very well.

    If you are having trouble choosing siding and trim colors, keep them related to each other, like a cream trim and a darker beige on the same paint chip strip. Then add an accent color like a deep eggplant color.

    Tips on Choosing Window Colors

    Many homes have vinyl windows which will usually be white. Painting white vinyl with a dark paint can be disastrous because of the expansion of the vinyl in sunlight. The dark color will cause the vinyl to expand even more than normal, leading to paint and possibly window failure. If you have trim around a white vinyl window, it often works best to paint that trim white too. That will tend to make the vinyl windows blend in more, and look more like a traditional wood window.

    If you are choosing new windows and you want to paint your house a darker color, consider choosing a window that is cream or almond color. A bright white window on a very dark house color will generally have too much contrast. If you choose cream or almond windows, and paint the trim a coordinating color, it will work better with the darker paint scheme. There are a few manufacturers that product a grey vinyl which can work well with a more modern house or a house with metal siding, or even brick. Generally I don't care for white vinyl on brick homes, unless the house is very traditional. Choosing a grey or almond window will almost always look better. If you have the budget for wood or metal clad windows, then you'll have many more color choices, and the mid-tone to darker colors often look better with brick.

    Painting Brick:

    Just because you have a brick house, don't automatically rule out painting the brick. You will still have the texture of the brick, but you won't be stuck to the same color, which date many, many homes. Of course, if you have a Frank Lloyd Wright mission style brick home, don't paint it! But most of our homes are not so inspired. Painting the brick can really freshen up a dark and dreary house. Consult a good paint store when painting brick to be sure to get compatible products.

    How to Choose the Right Accent Colors

    This is a place where you can afford to be a little riskier because generally accent colors are limited to a smaller area. I compare this to a woman who puts on makeup: the accent color is like putting on mascara and lipstick. But keep it classy! You know what too much makeup does to a woman. The same goes for a house.

    How to Choose Roof Colors

    When the roof of a house is visible, it can be a very prominent element. Choosing the wrong color roof is a very expensive mistake so it's important to understand some general rules. When choosing the roof, consider what color the house is going to be painted (or if it is brick or stone, consider the general tone of the material). If the house is being painted warmer colors, then a brown roof will be the right choice. If the house will be cooler colors (like greys, blues or greens), then a dark grey roof will work better. If you have to decide on a roof color first, one of the most common and versitile choices is a dark grey color. If your house used to have wood shake shingles and you are replacing it with a composition shingle, most manufacturers make a dark brown color that is similar to shake colors. If you are installing a metal roof, consider colors other than the traditional green, which works well on buildings with log siding, but not too much else. Again, choose a color that will allow you some flexibility in your house paint color choices.

    Choosing colors can be really challenging. Remember, don't choose from a little paint chip! Even trained professionals have large sample boards painted (or paint directly on the house). Purchase a quart of a few colors of paint and look at your samples in different light and on different sides of your house. Color can change dramatically in different light, so put in the time to choose the right colors. When you do the results can be an amazing transformation.

    About the author: Nazim Nice is an architect at Seattle Architects: Motionspace Architecture + Design PLLC and has over 12 years of experience designing residential remodeling projects. He is also the founder of Lumen

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