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The Black & White Exterior Colour Mistake EVERYONE is Making

By 07/24/2022July 28th, 202238 Comments

This exterior colour mistake is ruining neighborhoods everywhere. Find out what it is and learn how to avoid it as the black and white trend continues to dominate our decisions.

The black and white trend

When the black and white trend first came along 4-5 years ago these were my thoughts about it:

“Okay I get it, it was too soon to go back to beige because we just did that for 30 years before the grey trend.”

Then some time passed and I watched the new trendy living rooms emerge all over social media and I thought:

I like it. It’s fresh and clean and I don’t even mind the black/white/cognac/pampas grass living rooms that I see everywhere with those two stained wood frame chairs everyone has as well, because it’s fresh and clean. And it seems like an easier look for the non-decorator to pull off then the grey trend which needed colour, but that detail often got missed.”

What happened during the grey trend?

The grey trend, let’s face it, left us with all kinds of debilitating grey-on-grey rooms and let’s not even go near the brown trend, because getting all those beige undertones to coordinate, well that was the decade when I INVENTED my Understanding Undertones system because the mish mash of neutrals everywhere was bad and needed to be rescued.

And hey, if you have the grey living room I just mentioned, do not despair, all it needs is colour. There are so many colours that bring grey to life, including cognac which is easy to find in all the stores because it’s a trendy neutral, so all is not lost.

I love you, and I want to add colour to your life! If you’re new to my blog, start searching how to decorate with grey, you’ll find countless articles that will help.

We all make trendy mistakes before we know better. Now that you know better, you can do better. And when you do better, you’re happier. 

The black and white exterior colour mistake everyone is making

Okay fast forward to today, it’s the Summer of 2022. I didn’t think we could screw up white and black as badly as we have and I believe the overuse of stark white on the exterior of homes is ruining the character of our neighbourhoods.

Last week I drove down a street filled with homes that were built in the 70’s.

One house was white with black trim.

The next one was white with black shutters.

The next one was white with a black garage door.

The next one was white with an existing orange brick waterline.

Do you see the pattern here?? Wow. It’s way too much.

And the worst part is, if it’s even possible, stark white is being done wrong, over and over and over again because it’s being slapped onto homes where that shade of white does NOT belong with way too many black accents which kill it again.

Exterior Colour Selection Masterclass Update

So I decided to update my exterior masterclass with where the trend is today and how to handle it!

Watch this module where I’ve also included the minimum pale neutral that’s much better than stark white and I’m sharing the two styles of homes that can still be white. Hint: it’s NOT the farmhouse new build.

Log into your account to watch it, it’s 3a.

 

Here’s an exterior (with colour hooray) before & after we recently received from a reader:

Long time reader and fan here!

We asked for your advice about our exterior elevation, specifically regarding what to do with our dark reddish-brown brick against a light blue-gray siding. You had recommended painting the brick to match the siding color, so I researched exterior paints and tackled the job. We could not be happier with the way it turned out! We went from being one of the least attractive homes in our neighborhood to getting compliments everytime we step outside.

Looks so much better now that the brick waterline has been painted to match the house! So pretty!

The colour of this house is in my latest masterclass update!

Here’s a random question I received this week on my Instagram stories:

Hi Maria, should I paint my windows black?

Well, what would you do?

Is black the answer?

If not, what is the right answer? Post your thoughts in the comments below,

You’ll find the answer in my latest Masterclass update called “Update to the Black & White Trend 2022: ANYTHING but Stark White.

Here’s the latest review I received:

The Course was well laid out in easy-to-follow modules. I appreciate your direct approach. My biggest takeaway was that I should largely not be considering what I like, but rather what works. My intuition has always been strong on that, but you accelerated my confidence greatly. Now I know that I can be confident in the guidelines rather than in my personal preferences. The other big takeaway is landscaping > stone/brick. My only complaint is that I cannot drive through my 70s neighborhood without clawing my eyes out due to all the brick skirting at the bottom. of. every. house. 

Buy it here. 

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38 Comments

  • Melissa says:

    The picture in the Master Class frame of the white house with the black roof and window trim is so similar to one near me and I think is the epitome of what goes wrong with the trend. Perched high on a hill with the lowest windows many feet from the ground, with every window a different size and shape, the trend emphasizes rather than balances the inherent imbalance. I wanted to limewash our brick, but having seen that house, my husband associates any treated brick look with a house he passionately hates and cannot be budged.

    1
    • Maria Killam says:

      I love this perspective yes!! Black highlights windows that are less than fabulous! Well said, Maria

      • Melissa says:

        Thanks. Love your work; if you keep applying your skills, maybe the good will soon overwhelm the bad and I’ll make some headway with my husband. Ha.

  • Liz says:

    You really know how to get to the heart of colour issues! Absolutely no to painting above windows black — I’d start with a pretty landscaping plan (the ‘hedges’ are oddly positioned, very off-balance); some well-placed flowering hedges & more greens/flowers (varying heights) would go a long way to uplifting the aesthetics there. Thk u for all u teach us! 💕

    7
  • Cee Gram says:

    I would paint that unattractive brick a pretty seafoam green and paint the railings to match the windows. Add some lush greenery and pink flowering bushes.

    Color!

    1
  • Heather Beach says:

    I wouldn’t bring attention to the windows so I’d suggest a color similar to the body color of the house.

    3
  • Sheila says:

    Thank you for writing about this. It has been on my mind as I visit places in Ontario, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts this summer. Black is so bossy! (your words).
    For the house above… Keep the white windows and warm up the door colour to something green that relates to the landscaping. And beef up the landscaping!
    I am sharing this post widely… and for that, I think I should get a new painted colour wheel!!! 🙂

    1
  • Maggie S says:

    I live in a town with a lot of Victorian houses —and one of the biggest in town just was repainted stark white with all black trim-I hate to drive past it:-(
    I don’t think black works with the beige house -if they want dark windows maybe a color like Urbane Bronze.

    2
  • Soni F says:

    It’s funny that you would post this today. Last week, my husband and I traveled to Shipshewana, Indiana. It is a fairly well-know Amish community here in the Midwest.

    I was amazed at the number of Amish houses that have recently been updated in the Black and White Trend. Maybe it’s not so amazing, as many of the construction workers for local home improvement companies are Amish.

    These “modern” looking exteriors seemed so out of place in the Amish community.

    1
  • Cee says:

    If it were my home…. i would try to make the house look less stark & more inviting….. (1) although I’m not in love with the brick color, I don’t hate it… and I imagine it would be expensive to repaint? (2) definitely implement a more attractive & abundant landscaping scheme; (3) change the color of the front door (deep green?) —- and whatever color is chosen, do not “outline” it in black; (4) depending on color of door chosen, paint railings same color?; (5) balconies: add plants along railings (decorative & privacy) / and add some outdoor furnishings so balconies can be comfortably used; (6) if the front of the home gets a lot of sun, maybe install awnings over the tall balcony windows (although they too can be expensive).

    Just personal ideas based on the picture! It might be much more appealing in “real life.” It was interesting reading the comments!! Thanks

    1
  • Floridian says:

    Hmm, maybe the window trims in the same blue as the doors on the left lower level? Or maybe a bronzy neutral to match that railing? I don’t like that yellowy brick and might start instead by choosing a new color for the entire house, then coordinate the window trims, railing, and door. Really,I have no idea but I’ll be glad to read your thoughts.

  • Lorri says:

    Painting those windows black would be a disaster.

    I’d paint that house some shade of white to coordinate with the window casings, including the railings. The door color is fine and will look fresh.

    Then I’d rip out the evergreens and landscape.

    1
  • paula says:

    I would de-beige the brick(paint) and hire your landscape planner to come up with plantings that lead you to the front door. Took a while to find it amongst all those windows I don’t know what color paint, just that it be something else.

  • Rachel says:

    This is quite a design question – thanks for posing it!
    The whole house feels a bit sad and neglected to me. While black could help in some ways – since it might be less “busy” visually if the black blends with the window appearance – I think it would certainly make it more somber and formal – and still sad.
    And is the whole house covered in that pale brick? Or is it paint? If brick, I would definitely pressure wash it as it seems so dingy/dirty in places.
    If the brick color has to stay, I wonder if there is any way to accent with a eucalyptus green or warm ochre brown? Landscaping could help a TON here as mentioned by other commenters.
    And, if total transformation could be possible, I think the color needs to be cleaner, like painting the whole house a clean, warm ivory, painting the windows and rails a nice slate color, and then accenting with a eucalyptus green/other mid-tone on the doors and the “window tower” area to make that pop out and give the house some dimension and personality. It’s a tough one because it’s one of those houses you don’t hate but are just not attracted to because it is too busy and dreary at the same time- yes? Good luck!

    2
  • Nancy says:

    My neighborhood is mainly 60s ranches. A house up the street had the brick painted white and the window frames black. Unfortunately the window locks were left white and they really stand out. In my opinion, it looks just awful.

  • Andrea Schwartz says:

    Because the roof is tan and the brick is off white, I’d paint the windows chocolate brown. Black would be wrong in my opinion.

    1
  • Mandy says:

    Hello! I would say “no” to black windows because I don’t think there is anything black (that is substantial in size) to relate them to.

    I would probably paint the windows the same color as the trim.

    I also think if they want a colored door, I would either paint the door the same as the trim (or similar) or a navy.

    Also, I can not tell you how many homes in our neighborhood are now white with black windows/black shutters. It seems to be contagious!

    Our friend painted her house a green-gray, and I can not tell you what a breath of fresh air it is!

  • Barbara says:

    The roof appears to be brown so I would not add another distracting color in windows. I would build a fabulous wide arcade to the door using the same square posts and curved arches that already exist. The house would then have a focal point of welcome and be more balanced. Next landscape the arcade with curves in the lawn and large pots of plants, flowers if possible between the posts. Then paint the doors black to match the railings and finish landscaping the rest of the yard.

    1
  • Erika says:

    I am one of those people who hates painted brick at least on older homes. Unfortunately in my neighborhood I see a lot of 20’s and 30’s Tudor revivals that get painted, and it’s not a good look. I would go with a beige in a similar undertone to the brick. The white doesn’t work IMO and black def doesn’t work either. I don’t even think I would do dark brown; I think dark brown would work if the roof was darker but not the current roof color. as someone else pointed out, dark is probably just going to highlight something that is not the best feature. The shrubs are too tall; they shouldn’t obscure the windows they need a mix of flowering and evergreens and a nice walkway to the door. Also it looks there is a patio area that is hidden— build that up to be a focal point. Paint the door brown and flank it with planters/urns. The blue isn’t really working with anything I see there.

    2
  • Penny says:

    I think the brick reads a nice complex cream (orange-beige?) that coordinates well with the roof. I would leave the windows as they are, paint the front door a better blue and get a hard and soft landscaping plan from Maria’s contact, Maryanne White. Repeating the white windows with white flowering plants and possibly blue hydrangeas repeating a new front door colour. Pots in a blue like the new front door colour with white flowers. Oil rubbed bronze updated light fixtures would be a nice add. Oil rubbed bronze furniture on the balconies with pillows coordinating the blues and whites and complex cream would also be a nice touch to tie everything in.

    Crying for a plan to repeat the white and make this look like an inviting front of a house. Black windows would not do anything to achieve this.

    2
  • Faellie says:

    I don’t think that last house is too bad, although it looks more like a picture of the back rather than the front.

    I would grow a wisteria on the left hand wall and a clematis to climb up to the balcony on the right. The evergreens were the right idea but too randomly placed. If that is the front door it needs to make a lot more of a statement, as does the path up to it. I wouldn’t change the windows (getting that high middle window painted would not be easy or cheap)

  • Shana says:

    Maria,

    I loved the update and the fact I can always go back to this course for reference. My instincts were the same as yours regarding the “should I paint my windows black?”
    I shouted, No! My thoughts on what to do instead were the same as yours.

    We have a second family home in the Catskills of NY and our neighbor painted their cabin all black. Head to toe. All the greenery surrounding it doesn’t even help. It just looks sad!

    Thank you for sharing all your wisdom with us!

  • Lisa B says:

    No to the black windows. It wouldn’t tie into anything but the railing. If you look at the door frame as an example it seems clear black would not be the way to go. Not sure if it was said already, but the door frame should be updated to white or to the color of the door. I also don’t think the door color is doing the house any favors. There were some really good comments on updating the landscaping which needs help. Some black accents in outdoor furniture might be nice. I’d love to see patio umbrellas that matched an updated front door color. A coral color maybe…

  • Linda Gail Trammel says:

    This picture must be the back of the house because I see no sidewalk. But anyway no to painting the windows black. I would paint those two tall pillars and the windows a medium brownish color as well as the door that is now blue. The landscaping is off so I would plant things of bright color. The present bushes are mismatched and need a different placement. This one is pretty hard to figure out without photoshopping it with different colors.

    1
  • Cee says:

    I agree…. to me, the balconies & patios are more “back of the house” features…. it also looks like there might be a garage entrance on the left side. I wonder what they plan to do with the yard? 🙂

  • Heather says:

    What do you do if your windows frames and gutters are already dark? We are buying a house which is green beige brick and dark grey (aluminium slider that won’t paint well) windows, gutters and a dark grey brown roof? It all looks off to me. I want to paint the roof lighter but not sure what direction to go – a beige for the brick or a grey for the windows?

  • Gina says:

    No to black or white windows. If they keep the brick and the roof color the windows should be in the beige family.

    1
  • Diane says:

    I don’t think white houses are the problem. The US and Canada are covered with classic, traditional white farmhouse style houses. Picture New England inns, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (Norman Rockwell), farmhouses across the Midwest and Prairie Provinces, etc. I think these houses are the embodiment of “home” for many people which is why white houses are used so often in commercials. The problem is the current trend of graphically outlining all door and window openings with black so the houses look cartoon-ish and stark. This look is giving white farmhouses and traditional houses a bad name. But I don’t think we should throw out the baby with the bathwater and condemn all classic, traditional looking white houses. Some houses are meant to be white.

    7
  • Sandy says:

    I agree with Gina. No to black windows. No reason to put such emphasis. Instead the color of the roof or a shade of beige related to the brick or roof would look better.

    1
  • Elizabeth says:

    Black windows give me a prison vibe. Definitely not a fan.

    1
  • Angie says:

    Maria,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing this new trend! There is a mid century ranch in my neighborhood that was just painted black and white. So sad to see these homes popping up everywhere.
    The home in question would benefit from Urbane Bronze painted trim and front door. The landscaping needs to be addressed as well. It took me a minute to find the front entrance. Good landscaping will highlight the entrance and lead your eye to proper focal points. The free floating shrubs are very confusing.

  • No black, it’s really challenging to paint vinyl windows anyhow. Keep them white, then repeat the white in summer plants.
    Remove the oddly placed shrubs. Place pots of yew trees to ‘fill in’ the areas beside the windows, even on the deck.
    It’s find to talk about colorful flowers, but really that only works for 2 months out of the year.
    Keep the railings as is, colorful pots with green year round plants, and add colorful & white (to repeat the white) plants in the summer for the decks.
    If possible, change the lighting to a longer/taller light, the scale is wrong with the small lights.
    Paint the door a glossy green to draw attention to it.
    Winding path undulating, up to the front door with solar lights & small trees dotted along the pathway.

    1
  • Colleen F says:

    Not black.

    The window color doesn’t really bother me, but a beige might be good. Of course the landscaping is not pretty and could use some updating.

    Waiting for your answer.

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for the update to the Exterior Color Masterclass – it was great! There’s a new, $1.5+ million homes neighborhood near me and 90% of the homes are various shades of black and white. Lots of black windows looking like gaping holes in the daytime. Not to mention they are all huge homes on teensy lots. My take on the last house shown above is that the windows should not be painted black and that the landscaping be totally beefed up.

  • Lenu says:

    There was nothing at all wrong with that brick foundation. It gave the impression of a sound footing and solidity and the color was attractive in my opinion and added warmth to the gray and black. Now the paint on the foundation and steps will become a maintenance issue. Most of the time brick should not be painted.

  • Mel says:

    As long as the windows are wood or metal, it is your choice. If the windows are vinyl then absolute not, the windows will warp with the brutal sun and you’ll have to replace those like it happened to us… $21,000 later.

  • Lindsey says:

    I love to see variety in exteriors, so it makes me sad when the ‘current trend’ takes over a neighborhood. I would paint the main block of the house (the area with large windows and no decks) a color lighter than the brick that coordinates and ties/hides the the window vinyl. This would color block the house to a lighter cream in the middle and more of a beige on the sides. The deck rails could be painted a color similar to the brick, same with the door but slightly darker to help it disappear a bit and bring balance to the back. Landscaping could use some work too.

  • sandi says:

    I think Maria that your love of color deeply influences (colors) your opinions. Color stylist is what you are about. I don’t like a lot of the black & white you posted, however I am not opposed to black & white when done well. In fact I find it has a beautiful place in some landscapes—regal, formal or traditional. I do not like a lot of the color stuff that you like—but that is my personal opinion and I don’t think I am the only one. When I first saw the red brick colonial we had bought I hated it—(we bought from overseas) but my DH was able to make French white shutters & flower boxes to accent the white. Now we have one of the nicest homes on our lovely street.

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