By Lynn Byrne. Certainly one of the most intimidating design decisions is what to paint the outside of the house. This is not a room we are talking about. Generally, you just can’t redo the thing if the color is a smidge off–too much time and money is at stake. The stress is even more magnified when it is a BIG house.
Yesterday I was with a client helping her to select the colors for her large country home upstate. Here is what the house looked like before the a paint job.
The husband wanted to keep the house looking the same: white with black shutters. My vision was different. I felt the shutters should go and that the house body should be a color, so that the gorgeous trim (which I would paint white ) would really pop.
I was able to bring him around with 2 points.
First: A rule of thumb regarding shutters. Shutters work best when they are sized as if you could actually use them to cover the windows (not that you are planning to really do that, but, in theory, you should be able to). The shutters were not working here. In many places around the house, there was only one shutter on the window. You can see one example in the upper right hand corner of the house in the picture above. In that case, a vent blocked the ability to add a second shutter. There were lots of other similar examples.
Second: Nothing beats historical, architectural precedent. The oldest section of this grand home was built in the late 1700′s, placing it squarely in the federal period. It is located in the Hudson valley. The trim around the windows and door frame is beautiful. Nearby is another, famous federal period home, Boscobel. Click here to read more about it. As you can see below, Boscobel is painted a bold color and its gorgeous trim simply shines. After the homeowner saw a photo of Boscobel and I assured him that we didn’t have to go with goldenrod as the house body color, the husband half of the homeowner team was willing to consider removing the shutters and choosing something other than white for the body. (The wife was with me from the start!) He did want a neutral, however, so I focused on selecting a body color in the gray or taupe family.
Here is what the house looked like yesterday. Oliver Marinovic and his team (the painting contractor I always work with–email me for his number) have done their usual superior job prepping the house. See how well they sanded the trim areas. Oliver says that the trim is original to the house, so he took off layers of paint dating from the late 1700′s. The siding was newer, so it did not always require sanding all the way down to the wood.
Here is a close up of the beautiful trim.
Third rule of thumb for exterior house painting: Pick 3 colors. The body color, the trim color and an accent color. As I said before, once I got my way with the shutters, I was fine with the idea of sticking to a neutral tone for the house body. The only way to pick a color is to sample the colors on the house. You should try the samples in a shady spot and a sunny spot.
I picked 3 colors to sample for the house body. The wife also asked that we put a near white color on the house in the taupe family just to show her husband that it wouldn’t work! (I actually warned her that the lightest color would show pink tones, and it does, but we wanted to be sure that the husband was satisfied.) The trim was easy. We all knew we wanted a bright, true white. Here is Oliver preparing the samples.
The next shot shows our choices with the trim color in the middle. (You can see the pinky color bottom right—I warned them). Although the tones on the left were nice, we chose the gray color shown in the top right. That shade relates well to the blue stone terrace in front of the entry way. It always helps to consider all of the materials around the house when making your final color choice. You want things to compliment each other.
This shot shows the gray color we chose in a sunny spot on the house.
Next we had to consider the accent color for the front door. The front door is not original to the house. I would have loved to search some of the architectural salvage places in Stamford, CT to try to find an older door, but the clients were not interested. We decided to keep it simple and paint the door black. If you scroll back up to the first before photo, you will see that they have some black rocking chairs and we think a door to match would look great.
Finally, don’t forget the details. By that I mean one should consider the door hardware and exterior lights when you are going to all of the trouble of a new paint job. Here the outside lights are super. Often there is a tendency to pick outside lights that are t0o small. When in doubt, go bigger! These lights are the perfect scale for the house and they will stay.
But look at that front door knob! It is just not substantial enough for the house. I suggested the following exterior hardware from Rejuvenation. (Full disclosure: I recently served as a judge for a contest sponsored by Rejuvenation. I have done posts on their products. Click here and here for some of them. What can I say. I like their stuff, but I receive no compensation in any form from them in my capacity as a judge or otherwise.)
Most people also need to consider the look of their house numbers. Here that is not an issue, because this property has an entry gate some distance away where the numbers are displayed.
I think the house is going to look fantastic. I promise to show you all when it is done.
Photo of Boscobel from mta.com. Photo of exterior door set from Rejuvenation. All other photos by Lynn Byrne for Decor Arts Now.