Exteriors: What Color Should You Paint Your House?

by Louise Shapiro

Over a period of several months during high school, I dated a guy who never once invited me to his house. I assumed his family had some bizarre secret, and it was his embarrassment or shame that kept him from welcoming me into his home. My parents also assumed the worst, and encouraged me to break up with him. So I did.

It wasn't until this past summer, while talking with him at our twenty-year high school reunion, that I found out the truth...It wasn't his parents he was embarrassed about, but rather his "house." It was PINK.

I'm not making this up. This macho football player lived in a stucco house, painted bright pink. He simply couldn't bear to let his friends, or a potential girlfriend, see him in such a humiliating setting. How he longed to be like all our classmates, who lived in white, blue or gray houses.

I tell you this to emphasize the importance of selecting the right color for the exterior of your house. Not only will the right choice spare your family and offspring from intense personal embarassment (and therapy later on!), but it will add significantly to the curb appeal, value, and overall enjoyment of your home. So, before you paint, consider the following suggestions before finalizing your exterior color decision.

Use a color range that complements the permanent colors on the house, such as the roof, brickwork and stones. If you plan on re-roofing your house sometime in the near future, be sure to take the new roofing color into consideration.

Don't clash with the neighbors. You don't need to paint your house the same color as the one next door, but it is important that your house fit comfortably with the others on the street.

Study your color samples outdoors. It is well worth the extra time and money to buy quarts of your selected colors, and paint test areas. View these colors at different times of the day and from different angles. Keep in mind that colors will appear lighter when painted over a large surface.

Consider the effects of lighter and darker colors in relationship to the size and position of your house. Lighter colors can make a small house seem larger, and appear closer to the front of the lot. Choose a lighter color for a smaller home that is set away from the street and the neighbors. Darker colors, on the other hand, can create the illusion that a house is smaller and set further back. A darker color is often a good choice for a big house that is situated on a block where the houses are built in close proximity to one another.

Tie in colors from the landscape. Use the colors of your garden, flowers, trees, and shrubs as inspiration for a pleasing, complimentary color scheme.

Consider historical accuracy when repainting an older house. People who live in old, historical homes oftentimes enjoy searching thru library and city records to find the original colors of their house, or of those like it. If your house is registered with your local historical society, they may have a say (or at least an opinion) in the colors you choose.

Ask the experts. Professional painters have seen it all. They know which colors work and which ones don't. It may be well worth your time (and possibly a nominal fee) to seek out a couple of professional opinions before making your final decision.

Harmonize with the interior color scheme of your home. Exterior and interior colors should flow from one environment to the other. Keep in mind, however, that even if you chose to paint the interior your favorite hue -- say, bright pink, as an example -- think twice about painting the outside of your house the same color!

Louise Shapiro is a freelance writer in New York.

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