Changing Exterior House Colors Took From Plain to POW!

Wow! Did my choice in exterior house colors really make an incredible change? Having just finished painting, I'm probably a little too close too judge, but yes, it did!

I've lived in the same Ohio farmhouse for 19 years. It was white, like 90% of the other foursquare farmhouses around here. I was okay with that for a while, but the original paint on the aluminum siding was showing its age. Where it was in the shade it was discolored and could not be cleaned, and where it absorbed the sun the corner moldings were reverting to bare aluminum.

This being aluminum siding I was loathe to replace it. It was very functional. I did price out some siding alternatives, but I didn't want to spend the money if I could figure out how to paint the aluminum so that it would last a long time.

So, several years ago I decided to paint my house. Why did I just now paint it?


The right exterior house colors can make your house look awesome. If it is already awesome then they can make it look awesomer. I had grand visions of a beautiful, colorful house in place of my farmhouse white.

But...I ran into a problem. You see I am married. A great thing mind you, but it does make certain decisions a collaborative effort. And my wife wasn't having anything to do with this color nonsense. A farmhouse had to be white. Her grandma's farmhouse was white. End of discussion.

That stymied me for a few years. I didn't want to put the time or money into painting my house just to leave it white.

But then a couple of things happened that got me past that hump. One is I started working with colors at work. I actually had training in color theory and using colorimeters to match colors. Two, we bought a living room chair.

Buying a living room chair led to a complete change in exterior house colors? Tell me! How did this happen?

I will be glad to. We needed a new chair for the living room. The old one was no longer presentable. I went with my wife to help pick it out. We had a rug in the living room and we needed a chair that would fit with the rug and the couches. The couches were easy. They were a neutral color. Think coffee with cream. The rug was the difficult match. It had a green-blue fiber that dominated.

We found the perfect chair. It looked awesome, was a good price, and was a perfect match for the rug.

Except my wife said no, it wasn't the right green. It would clash. I respect my wife's opinion in regard to furnishings, textiles and all the feminine arts of home decorating. We ended up with chair B, which was also nice. I personally didn't think it was the right green, but I told myself the rug was due to be replaced anyway, so if the match failed, I would go rug shopping.

As it turns out I went rug shopping, but not before my wife said "You were right honey. That first chair would have been a perfect match."

That is when I gained confidence in my color skills and learned my wife is gifted in many ways other than choosing colors (choosing men for instance).

But Which Exterior House Colors to Choose?

With my new found color skills I had the nerve to push back for a color change to the house, but I still had to do two things.

1) Choose the exterior house colors I would like

2) Stay married

The latter is the harder part when there is a major house project underway. 

I started out by pointing out various houses that were similar to ours but painted. I also searched the internet for foursquare homes that were colored. That got colored houses into her imagination. She has a hard time imagining colors, but when she saw the colors she could evaluate them. Some she didn't like, but she could at least imagine our house in those colors.

As I went through this exercise with her we began to eliminate certain colors. Yellows were out. She did not like yellow houses. Green's were possible but made both of us nervous. When a green is the wrong green it is awful. We had a reddish roof, so red seemed problematic. It either would lack contrast or it would clash. 

Next I enlisted the help of my sister. I had tried some paint websites where you could digitally paint your house, but the results were clunky. My sister is a commercial artist, so she volunteered to paint our virtual house in a variety of colors.

My House simulated in a gray paint
My house simulated in a gray green blue paint
My house simulated in a gray blue paint

I also used this chance to try out my idea of removing the shutters. The black shutters always bothered me because they looked to be the wrong size and not quite placed right. With her help I showed my wife what the house would look like minus the shutters. 

My house simulated in a gray paint but I removed the shutters
My house simulated in a gray green blue paint but I removed the shutters
My house simulated in a gray blue paint but I removed the shutters

My sister also helped me test out an idea.  I thought the house did seem a little boring with just the windows and no shutters, so I added trim boards in the corners to give it more contrast. At least on paper this did add a lot to the house.

She began to feel good about the colors, but I had to show her that shutters on a foursquare were not original and not really necessary. Looking at old magazines from the 1910's we found lots of advertisements for similar houses. None had shutters.

We both decided that the lighter colors didn't look as good as the darker colors. We eliminated brown as an option, which left us with grays and blues. We even ventured into the blue-greens. 

I eventually found a couple of houses in town that looked nice and she agreed that something in the range between those exterior house colors would be acceptable, and left the choice up to me.

If you look at my sister article on painting aluminum siding you will see that I chose to use Benjamin Moore's Aura paint as a top coat. I ended up finding happiness with Washington Blue, a darker version of Prussian Blue. It is in the Colonial Williamsburg collection of Benjamin Moore's paints.

However, when I got to the paint store I chickened out. I decided Washington Blue was a little darker than I wanted to go, and Prussian Blue was a little light. I ended up finding Van Deusen Blue as a comfortable compromise. 

I think maybe I should have held firm to my original choice. I love the Van Deusen Blue, but on the house it doesn't look nearly as dark as when it was on the color sample. That is one of the tricks in choosing exterior house colors. The paint will have a different effect on the much larger canvas of your house.

For the trim I wanted white, but which white? As I had just re-sided my garage after a fire I thought I should try to match that white. The builder had used a PVC trim board that I plan on also using on the house so I took a sample with me to compare to all the paint samples. I really could not find one that matched exactly.  

I ended up with the closest match, which is called Distant Gray.

The gutters and the eaves are painted the Distant Gray. I have decided that the trim paint is close enough to the color of the PVC trim that I will not need to paint the trim to match. The downspouts are laying right on top of the PVC trim and you have to be very close before you notice any difference.

Unfortunately the Distant Gray does not cover as well as the Van Deusen Blue. Whereas I was able to use only one coat of the blue I have had to paint all the trim items twice.

The Exterior House Color on the Final Product

I am amazed at the difference. But I am also pleased at the change in color that my house undergoes throughout the day.

As dusk nears I can't imagine haven gone any darker, whereas at mid-day I am staggered at how bright it appears.

The vertical piping I added with the PVC trim has two benefits. First the downspouts blend right in to the trim, so they don't look awkward. Second, they add interest to the house. By defining the edges of the house they help to emphasize the shape. A cube can be boring, but it also has lovely symmetry, and the strong white line at the edge helps to bring out that advantage.

I don't miss the shutters at all.  Shutters can look nice, but they looked wrong in this context. Especially with the trim emphasizing the simple geometry of the house, it made little sense to clutter the surface with extra things.

Remaining Tasks

I still have to repaint my blue porch ceiling. It provided a splash of color when the house was white, but it just clashes now.

The doors also need to be painted.  As I have storm doors covering them I've always neglected them, but this time I am going to sport some flair with my color choices. 

But that will wait until next spring.

To Top of Page Exterior House Colors

How to Paint Aluminum Siding - My Story

Exterior House Colors in Pictures

Color Theory

How to Paint Vinyl Siding

Problems with Painting Vinyl Siding

House Projects - Home Repair

House Siding

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