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Colour and design trends create real emotional connections. They influence our purchases and colour choices before we even realize it. So, if you’re feeling a bit “neutral” about neutrals, maybe it’s time for some colour.

When I started my colour career in 2002, the world was beige. And the default neutral back in the day was pink beige. 

Then 10 years later, when the trends moved to grey, the default neutral moved to taupe.

Now fast forward, in this black and white trend we’re in, almost everything is by default, painted stark white. And, if someone decides that white is too much and perhaps another colour should be introduced, 99.9% of the time, that alternate shade is BLACK.

Allura

I received a DM on Instagram the other day and this question was so telling:

Maria, should we paint our garage doors white or black?

If someone had asked me that same question in ANY OTHER TREND, my immediate response would have been, “How can I possibly give advice on your garage door without knowing what colour your house is?”

In 2023, I know without asking. 

The house is stark white and she’s wondering if some other colour (read:black) should be introduced SOMEWHERE on her exterior.

When I posted my ‘5 ways to ruin your black and white exterior’ videos on Instagram and TikTok this past summer, I received countless messages like this one:

“But if not black or white, what colour do you suggest?”

My lovely reader. I am here to let you in on a secret: The world is full of colour. 

There is a reason we photograph the streets and cities in Europe over and over and over again. Because they are filled with colour.

Photo by Maria Killam

Are you driving around neighborhoods when you’re on vacation taking photos of all the black and white exteriors. The answer is NO –that is, unless you’re building a house and head over heels in LOVE with the black and white trend.

We’re feeling neutral about neutrals

In all fairness when we choose a neutral and it goes up – whether on the interior or exterior of our home – even it’s not exactly how we had envisioned it in our minds. . . it’s still a neutral after all. And in the end, we shrug our shoulders and say, “Meh, I’m good. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.”

Best Meh GIFs | Gfycat

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However our reaction to COLOUR is very different.

If we choose an actual colour over a neutral and it’s bad once it goes up? Or maybe it’s obviously a clash? Or, maybe it could have been more perfect? We’re not neutral about it are we?

That’s when we run to the paint store to buy more paint.

Sincerly Sirius — Switched Realities (Chapter One)

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Here’s what I mean. During the renovation of my house this past winter, the ONLY paint colours I tweaked, are the colours I had selected. I never adjusted the neutrals.

I painted the ceiling in my living room blue. I love blue ceilings because they feel like the sky. The living room in my last house was blue but I feel I wimped out on it a little.

After call, it’s barely blue (below):

So I went ahead and chose a stronger blue for my new living room.

But then later I decided having the tray portion painted blue was too much. So I had it re-painted the same off-white as my trim. 

Now it’s perfect. 

Then I painted the ceiling in our primary bedroom lavender. But it was a tray ceiling and after I stared up at the ceiling for a couple weeks I figured out why it was bothering me. 

It needed to be two shades of lavender instead  of one. I kept the tray part the same lavender but went one shade lighter on the flat portion of the ceiling.

Now, it’s perfect. Once again.

Why yes this night stand is being held up by a stack of magazines while I wait for new ones to arrive, haha. The movers picked it up and it fell apart. 

A new king size bed is also on order.

Then, I chose a fabulous gold colour for my dressing room ceiling. And because I love yellow, I selected a lighter shade for the walls. After the closets were installed and I saw the pieces of wall that were left in yellow I told my painter to repaint it the same off white as my cabinets. 

I decided I only wanted yellow on the ceiling and the drapery fabric I’ve selected. Fabric is on order, not installed yet.

Now it’s perfect, yet again.

The point is, if I had simply painted everything the same shade of white, beige or grey, it’s unlikely I would have changed anything at all.

Nevertheless, the adjustments were worth it because in the end, seeing those colours in my home fill me with joy everyday.

Because colour is timeless.

How the black and white trend has evolved

So first, when the black and white trend arrived on the scene 5 years ago, I too thought it seemed SO FRESH.

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There’s a mint green house in my neighbourhood that I’d driven by a million times, and suddenly it was painted white with black trim and I remember thinking, “Wow so much better.”

Then a new restaurant in our small town was painted white with new black signage, and again I admired how fresh it looked when compared with every other store surrounding it.

But then the trend caught on like wildfire. 🔥

Homes and buildings that should never have been painted white (or black for that matter) were suddenly everywhere.

Then my eDesign clients kept asking me how the white house they wanted could somehow be different from their neighbours identical white house.

And to add insult to injury, as if it was possible for WHITE or BLACK to get worse, it did. Because in an effort to differentiate our homes from the neighbours house, we installed black or grey brick, and suddenly black accent walls on the EXTERIOR became a thing.

And then? I became jaded about the black and white trend. 

So, when the reader at the beginning of this post innocently asked me if they should paint their garage door black or white, here’s how I responded:

“Neither. I would avoid black like the plague.”

Her response to that?

“Well that’s rude.”

And she was right. Without the context I’ve just given you, it did sound rude.

But really all I’m trying to do is save the world from the grey, black and white movie that we are suddenly living in.

Silent Movies GIFs | Tenor

So, what’s the answer to her garage door colour? She should leave her garage door white to match the house.

Terreeia and I were in Victoria this weekend and we drove by a mural that was black, grey and white. I’d bet a million dollars that wall mural was painted in the last 3-4 years.

Because since when are murals black, white and grey? 

Colour is timeless

In August I received this photo from a follower along with this message:

“Hey Maria, I just wanted to show you a picture of a yellow house you saved! We recently bought this house and I had been dead-set on painting it white.

While I still think it would be pretty white, I 100% agree with you that it would end up just blending in with all the white/black houses going up.

You’ve helped me embrace the COLOUR! It’s so true that you can’t tell when a yellow house was painted. Thank you!”

When I posted this yellow house on Instagram another follower said, “Funny enough, my realtor told me yellow houses sell faster. Everyone pulls up, smiles and says I love a yellow house.”

So if black or white still seems like the freshest, most exciting choice for you, that’s fine – I get it. But if it’s not too late, I’d like to suggest that you choose anything other than black or white because I promise you–and I know this from decades of experience–you will fall out of love with too much of any trendy neutral.

It’s kind of like during the grey trend, a client asked if I thought it was a good idea to paint her house charcoal. And I replied: Why not brown?

“Brown?” She replied. “Ewwwww.”

Here’s the thing. 5 years before that she would have asked me for brown. Because that WAS the trendy neutral.

It might seem like you’ve always loved grey, black or white, but in reality you’ve been conditioned. You’ve seen it so much over months and years that you start to think you’ve always loved it.

The trendy neutral of the moment will come and go but colour is timeless.

If I cannot talk you out of black or white then try using it sparingly. Remember, I’m trying to save you from regret.

Over to you my lovelies. Are you team colour or team black and white?

Learn how to choose colours for your exterior with my masterclass here.

Work with me on your renovation, exterior or new build project here.

Become a True Colour Expert this Spring live with me.

Related posts:

The Black and White Exterior Colour Mistake Everyone is Making

Never Paint this Style of Exterior Black

What Colours are Trending on Commercial Exteriors?

53 Comments

  • Cindy says:

    I sure wish there was a way to send you a photo of my house. It is seafoam green and I love it as much today as I did 8 years ago when I painted over the nondescript white. I even had the old white garage door painted to match. Every time I drive up to it, I smile. I love that you are driving home the happiness factor!

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  • Sigrid Wild says:

    Maria, everything you said about Black and White is so true, looks cold and uninviting . My opinion, and exciting to see your colours in your new home. Absolutely stunning, you have opened my eyes and given me understanding of undertones which has stopped me from making so many mistakes and wasted money and time. Keep teaching , we will keep learning! Soon I will be ordering your colour boards package, just going through some financial issues.

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  • Dana Dalbak says:

    Making the world a happier place with color! Thank you. Going with timeless, instead of trendy, would be a good rule to follow in other areas of life also!

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  • Tina says:

    Yes, I am seeing so many black houses going up here in Australia and I find that they look so dismal and depressing. A colour is so refreshing. Not a glaring colour but subtle. These black houses are going to be with us for many years, I suspect, as it’s unlikely the owners will change the colour. I love a light colour on a house with a different colour trim. Will be glad to see the back of the black trend. BTW, your two tone ceiling looks just lovely, Maria.

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    • Cynthia says:

      Just came back from a month in Western Australia. I can not imagine how awful a black house would look there with the beautiful bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine! It’s so briht and black would just stick out like a sore thumb😳

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    • DPam says:

      And with all y’all’s sun, your homes can really carry color well! How unfortunate.

  • Susan Hubele says:

    I’m a realtor and I always say that “yellow doors sell houses”. Bring on the yellow! The other thing about white is that it just blends in with snow in our Calgary climate.

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  • Maggie S says:

    I’m never sure why anyone wants to paint their garage doors ANY color other than the color of the house. It is not a “ feature” to draw attention to…better that it blends into the house!

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    • Tnix says:

      Amen! I lived in a neighborhood where they were painting them lighter than the house and garage, what’s worse than that, lol. Yes…blend those doors in people! And build garages so doors don’t face front center builders, please.

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      • Benesse says:

        Not everyone has the square footage to enable the garage doors to face the side. But yes, that would be preferable.

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      • Kathi Steele says:

        I don’t want my garage door off to the side.
        I LIKE it front and center because I can see who is coming to visit and they have a very short walk to my door.
        It is safer for me when I am returning home if my door is “front and center” because I can see if anyone is lurking.
        And it takes much more land covered in concrete to build a side load garage.
        But, to each his own and this is just my opinion.

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    • Jennifer says:

      Lanette Jennings would agree with you 100%!! Think she had one of the earliest design shows on TV in the early 90’s…I remember watching it in the afternoon when my daughter and the kids I babysat were napping. Christopher Lowell came on right after her… funny how I can still remember that, lol!

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      • Liz says:

        I learned so much about tablescapes from Christopher Lowell! And as you said, watching while kids were napping. Thanks for such a happy memory!

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        • DPam says:

          I do not vibe with his personal style preferences at ALL, but his 7 layers are a great way to break down interior decorating. He’s really very practical which is easy to miss if you just look at his rooms and see all the frou frou.

  • Lorena says:

    Typical sheep think like that. I refuse to do such a boring combination, that looks good only on a Tudor house. My reaction was painting my house a fiery yellow and I love it!

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    • DPam says:

      Using “typical sheep” to denigrate others is really unnecessary. You can build yourself up without tearing others down here, we will support your fiery yellow house without the extra.

  • M says:

    Wow just wow, your living room looks fantastic!! I can’t wait to see the full reveal of every room … and closet. :-).
    And I can’t believe how quickly it’s happening! Congrats on your new home.

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  • J Comparto says:

    Enjoyed the post and excited to see your progress and reveal! Would you please share what color you used on the walls in your new living room and the bedroom – Sorry if I missed it. I am so excited to see your use of Lavender – I had that color in a bedroom that made me happy – was just wondering how to incorporate it in a room I plan on redoing soon. Your post has motivated me to revisit.
    Thank you for sharing.

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    • Marte Rieser says:

      Would also love to know. It looks like a pink beige complex cream in the pictures. Could be the lighting?

  • Lorri says:

    I recently decided I want a yellow house with white trim, and a bright fresh yellow at that.

    It looks good in all four seasons and yellow looks wonderful against a blue sky.

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  • Lisa Laursen says:

    Please, please, Maria! Stop using the flashing photos in these emails. They are so hard on the eyes! I’m only reading the parts of your email because I have to scroll quickly by the flashing pictures. Your emails are interesting on there own. They don’t need the distraction of flashing photos!

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  • Jane says:

    A red brick house in my neighborhood was painted white with black trim and a Kelly green front door 7 Yrs ago. I loved it! But hubby just wouldn’t agree with my wanting to paint our brick home. SO GLAD!! New neighborhoods now have houses after house with the combo. My major issue is people who paint the trim on their home in a neutral or pale sage or blue, but leave the garage door white!!??!! I’ve thought to put a PSA on our neighborhood FB page suggesting painting the garage the same color. I’m now retired, even thought of offering a free color consult for neighbors, just so neighborhood would look better!

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  • Melissa says:

    The soft yellows our house was painted when we bought it definitely won my husband over. His favorite color subsequently became yellow.

    There is, however, a new house on the lake near here which is painted flat black and it looks so dismal, like a giant lump of coal sitting out in the blazing sun and in such contrast to the prevailing atmosphere of people boating and enjoying water sports. The stark white houses bring hospitals to mind for my husband. He hates them. So neither black nor white for us.

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  • Tnic says:

    Maria — this post is the reason you have so many followers! As inspiring as it was smart! Love you and appreciate your advice so much!

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  • Here in NeBrAsKa, most neighborhoods have a “earth tones only “ rule for exteriors… as a result, we have lots of bad choices being made. People who use stone and don’t consider it in their paint choice, people who just go white or black. It’s especially disheartening in winter when houses don’t have any contrast with the snow. Ugh. 😕

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    • Tamara says:

      I live in a neighborhood in Texas where the HOA dictates the color choices, and everything is brick, stone and earthy neutrals.
      Maybe I should buy Maria’s exterior door color package and add some color! After HOA approval of course 🙂

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  • Kathy says:

    I decorated my guesthouse in white and black with red as an accent color in 2012. No one was doing black and white. (Everything was gray) Bums me out that the trend happened because now my guesthouse will look dated when this trend is over—and people think that I decorated this space black and white because of the trend! Ugh!

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    • DPam says:

      Maybe you should just reverse the color percentages? Majorly red with black/white trim – who doesn’t love a little red schoolhouse? And they are pretty timeless!

  • Liz in Oregon says:

    I’m team color! I grew up in a white house with white trim, the smallest and most non-descript house on the street. But my dear color-loving mother painted the front door a beautiful shade of aqua.

    My favorite local house is a cottage painted a just-right shade of yellow with periwinkle shutters…be still my heart!

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  • Cari says:

    I have NEVER liked black and white anything. Once in awhile, I see a black and white tile floor or something and I think, “Wow! Black and white does look crisp and beautiful sometimes.” So I am definitely a color person. When I moved into my current house almost 8 years ago, every interior I saw was some shade of taupe. Although I loved creams and buffs, I thought I should go with the trend and ‘upgrade’ the walls in my new home. They were actually a strange yellowish beige that someone nicknamed “nicotine yellow”. That was before I knew you NEVER paint samples on an existing wall color. Well, nothing taupe looked good on it. Neither did gray. I finally picked a lovely buff that was much brighter than the existing color. I still love my choice and ironically, my colors are back in vogue! I’d like to think I’m a trendsetter but it was purely a happy accident by an amateur.

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  • Mary says:

    I paint pictures and was taught to avoid black — very few things in nature are truly black. So maybe instead of using black try very dark green, burgundy, brown, or navy. It reads as black but is softer and more natural. I love a traditional home with white siding and dark green trim and shutters.

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  • Julie S says:

    Another meaty post from Maria! Love it. I remember when Lauren Liess stained her cedar contemporary black about 7-8 years ago and it was sooo innovative to my eyes. I am jaded now right along with you!
    We have a fixer that needs new siding and since we are likely not changing the maroon metal roof, the only color I like with it is a wheat toast shade of tan. If we could get a new dark brown roof then I would choose mid blue siding.

  • Mimi says:

    I live on a busy road and once had white siding on the house. Never again! The front was always needing to be washed because Everything shows on white. Similarly, the (now gone) black shutters also showed every speck. The house is now a mid-tone gray-green and nothing shows on it. Just something practical to keep in mind when trying to decide on exterior anything. I would recommend any medium tonal range if you love low maintenance like I do…
    Maria, your stories are always well thought out and your readers always step up to the plate to add such value-I learn equally from both, thank-you All!

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  • Kelly Craig says:

    Maria, I thought white was a timeless color – like with permanent fixtures (sinks, tubs). We have a cape cod, but I’m in NC. We built it 27 years ago – and painted it then white, white trim w black shutters and a beautiful red door (well the painting of the door came later as it is solid mahogany door and my husband couldn’t stand the thought of painting it! Over time we didn’t preserve the door well so I talked him into letting me paint the outside portion red! The inside is still beautifully stained). It is one of the prettiest houses in the neighborhood (others say this) and seems like a winning combination for this style home. I still love it.

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  • Cindy says:

    I have loved grey as a neutral forever, and painted my interior walls grey before it was a trend. But the tone on tone grey and the grey floors are what kill it for me. My floors are cherry and I use deep blues and greens and pops of pretty florals here and there. We are moving soon and they painted every wall in the new home white. I can’t wait to get in and change it. I need color! Funny thing, the outside is a neutral yellow and we don’t love it.

  • Dona says:

    Here’s a thought….
    When the white and black trend starts to wane, people will start painting their homes the new trendy neutral, and only a few white and black houses will remain for those who really love the combination. In the midst of all the newly painted homes, those white and black homes might look fresh again to our newly acclimated eyes.

  • Athena Nicolaides says:

    I am team color! However, I live in a brick house with taupe vinyl siding. Had I discovered you a few years back, perhaps I would’ve chosen a color instead. None of the houses in our neighborhood are brightly colored though. I use landscaping to to inject color (mainly pinks and purples). I like how pink looks with taupe. As far as black and white houses, there is an old house at the end of our street that’s an old farmhouse dating back to the 1800’s and it’s black and white. It’s been black and white for the entire time I’ve lived here (almost 17 years). I don’t mind that black and white house one bit. However, a few streets over they are flipping a house and it’s going to be black and white from the work I can see being done on the exterior. There’s also another house nearby that originally was some neutral color (can’t remember what exactly), but the new owners made it black and white. It really stands out against all the other houses in the neighborhood, but not necessarily in a good way.

  • Connie says:

    I don’t like black/white exterior or interior. An expensive new development a few blocks from my home (and I see everyday) is black/white/grey/charcoal. Every house. We live in MN where all of winter is the same colors. It’s dreary.

  • Yes, I’m all about color! My last house was painted with SW Retreat 6207, a lovely color.

  • kitykat says:

    Maria,
    You are so incredibly fortunate to have the resources to correct ‘color imbalances’ in your wonderful new home projects! For most of us, however, these ‘mistakes’ would need to be lived with. Good quality paint and painters do not come cheap, especially if multiple coats are needed to correct the wrong choice. And as you are sharing, even a color expert can say, “Oops… not right/not good enough.” While helpful, using color boards over a white background still does not provide the actual impact of seeing the finished product in a room. That may be the #1reason so many of us make safe paint color choices. As you have taught us, use COLORS in fabric, accessories, styling… it’s safer and less costly. Loving your new home!

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  • Rebecca says:

    My mother has just built a white house and her exterior accent colour is a medium grey. I know Maria just said that you might think you’ve always like white but actually you’re mistaken and just influenced by trends, however in my mother’s case she has always loved white. She put a white kitchen into our house 35 years ago. I remember the kitchen designer was horrified with the idea of a white kitchen and tried to make her change her mind. Since learning about Maria’s timeless advice I’ve often thought back to that house and how blessed the subsequent owners must have been by my mother’s choice.

  • Sarah Hoover says:

    We remodeled a 1880’s farmhouse in the county and had it sided with deep blue vinyl siding and white trim. White garage doors, white front door, white porch railing etc. I did beautiful black wall sconces for outdoor lighting that look like old fashioned street lanterns and even a hanging pendant to match at the front door. We get so many compliments on our house.

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  • Pam says:

    I’m in southern US, all houses in my neighborhood are brick, various shades of brick, a few have painted them white🥴. The personality of the houses are the front doors. My favorite are the colorful ones😁 colors spark joy!

  • I’ve got to say I still love black and white, but a warm white, but it must have gold fixtures to warm it up, Then add pops of colour and some green plants, maybe pink pillows….. ummm… I think I’m slowly converting to colour. haha!

  • Ally says:

    I feel about home exteriors they way you feel about kitchens- white is classic! But not black. My house is white with wood shutters and it fits my farmhouse perfectly. But all white is only if you have some interesting architectural features or something to warm it up. SW Alabaster is a perfect exterior white IMO.

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  • Marte Rieser says:

    I would also love to know what color you painted on your walls in the living room and bedroom.
    I love how you kept the walls neutral and painted the ceilings. I would love to do this in a couple of my rooms. However, I have the flower type stippled ceilings. That’s not going to change anytime soon because our home is over 4500 sq ft and I have cathedral ceilings in the living room. Boy that would be a huge undertaking. Got to love the 90s. lol
    Would it be too weird to paint a stippled ceiling?

  • ML says:

    I think your brutal honesty is SO REFRESHING. I see nothing wrong with, “…I’d avoid black like the plague” comment. After all, they did ask for your advice. If they didn’t want an honest reply, why did they bother asking? I’ve never quite understood that tack. Maybe someone on this blog who is smarter than I can explain that to me one day.

    I’ve been a fan for what seems like a decade now. Please keep those harsh but true notes coming! As a result I know you’ve saved me what must be thousands by now.

  • KNJ says:

    Love, Love, Love this post…especially since the interior of our home has lots of colour. I’d also like to add, yes, yellow houses sell faster but please don’t paint your house yellow if there are many lovely plantings close by….yellow attracts aphids (who knew). I had no idea until our neighbour painted their house yellow and shortly thereafter, some of my plantings close to their home didn’t do so well. Upon inspection, I was informed of what had transpired. I had to spray the heck out of the plantings near their home to rid my plants of aphids. Apparently, a common complaint and loved by the bug removal specialists. Thank you so much for your time and insight and especially your generosity in sharing your experiences and knowledge.

  • Janine says:

    Love the blue ceiling! Besides paying attention to undertone are there any other tips for picking the right blue?

  • KG says:

    I live in a booming semi rural area and this is what I see. Neighborhood developers, who make huge investments, seem to be avoiding the black and white trend; they’ve moved on to softer colors. However, many of the homes built on acreage embrace the trend to the point of absurdity. I pass one home everyday where most of the body is all white, but the other 25% is all black and it’s just odd. I’ve also seen 20 to 30 townhomes lined up and painted all black.

    My personal opinion is that too many smaller builders defer to their significant others on matters of taste and design instead of professionals.

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