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My Nearly Finished French Country Exterior (& Expert Colour Advice for Stone)

By 06/19/2023March 25th, 202426 Comments
If you’re like me and you LOVE COLOUR, it’s important to know that earthy stone simply does not get along with anything but the neutral tones present in the blend.
 
Here is how I made my exterior with earthy stone much fresher and timeless. And tips for a reader with earthy stone on her interior fireplace.

French Country Exterior

The exterior paint job on this house is progressing, you can see blue tape underneath the crown below the balcony where it still needs a second coat of white paint. The trim around the second floor windows still need to be painted. 
 
The stone was violet grey, taupe and green grey and I had no tolerance for grey because of what I do even though a pale grey would have also been appropriate for my miniature French chateau.
 
The new paint colour is technically a pale green grey in my system but as exterior colours get three times as light and bright outside it was the perfect cream colour for this house to pull out the warmth of the stone. 
 
But wow, it’s so beautiful, I love it so much! I feel so fortunate that the ONLY exterior facelift this already pretty house needed was a new paint job.
French Country Exterior Over mortar stone Pale blue doors Perfect cream exterior
 
The new paint colours for my French country style home were highly dictated by the existing earthy stone. However, the colour and style of the old world looking stone worked with it, all it needed was overgrouting. 
 
And I had the downspouts sprayed the new exterior colour. The gutters will stay black because they relate to the roof, the flashing and the pretty railing on the second floor balcony.
 
If I had not bought a house with stone, I would have surely painted it a colour however earthy stone like this does not leave you with colour options.
 
 

How to choose a paint colour that works with stone

This recent question from a reader illustrates this point very well:
Hi Maria and team,
 
Our house was built in 2015/16.  I had help choosing paint colours from a BM consultant but the problem was that our furniture, accessories, etc. were in storage (not easily accessible) so I haven’t really been happy with the wall colours chosen.  We used old photos of our furnishings in other house settings which didn’t work so well.  I’d prefer something fresher. 
 
I’m thinking a clean green or perhaps yellow.  
 
The cultured stone on the fireplace is Echo Ridge Southern Ledgestone by Boral.  The current wall colour is BM CC-520 (Florentine Plaster), the trim is CC-40 (Cloud White).  As the colour carries into the dining and kitchen areas, the cupboards are by Merit and are Cloud White.  Also as you can see in the photos, the great room abuts the entry and hallways.  The wall colour there is CC-518 (Escarpment) and the door is 2132-10 Black (pearl finish).  All of these walls will be updated colour wise.  So….finally to my question, can you suggest a fresh green or yellow that will blend with the dominating fireplace stone, the rug and furnishings?  If you have other suggestions, I would welcome them!  A big fan of your work, Charlotte
 
 
So first, let’s talk about what is working here. Charlotte has done a great job of choosing pretty, fresh furnishings which could absolutely work well with a fresh green wall colour. The leafy green accents are a tip toe in that direction. 
 
And, she has a perfectly versatile white kitchen (below). that would also pair beautifully with yellow or green walls.
 
 
But can we paint the walls a fresh colour here?
 
 
The answer would be an easy yes EXCEPT for the earthy stone fireplace. Just like my new exterior can’t be painted a colour because of the earthy stone, Charlotte’s earthy stone fireplace dictates neutral walls.
 
With the singular exception of the palest, most even toned green grey limestone, any stone blend you install will have a range of neutral undertones in it that needs to be treated as a pattern. Which means that any colour you pair with it needs to exist in the range of colours in that pattern in order not to look completely random and unrelated.
 
So what are her options here? 
 
She could:

1. Replace the stone fireplace with a much more versatile millwork design

To perfectly match the kitchen. I constantly redirect clients that are in love with the “rustic warmth and interest of stone” towards a more versatile millwork design. Give me versatility to decorate any day over a stone fireplace of any kind.
 
timeless white fireplace with blue walls
by Structures Building Company / Photo by Holger Obenaus via Decoist
 
A painted white fireplace to perfectly match the kitchen is the most timeless and versatile choice because it doesn’t introduce any bossy earth toned pattern to decorate around. With a fireplace like this, her walls could be any pretty colour she wants to decorate with.
 
To illustrate my point, here are a couple of simple mock ups of a fresh green wall colour, BM Landscape 430 with earthy stone and with a clean millwork fireplace design:
 
 
This just looks like a mistake (above).
 
 
Fresh green walls look perfect with this simple white fireplace. 
 
However, I get that most people aren’t keen to rip out an expensive stone installation even when it is holding them hostage. So another option is:

2. Overgrout the stone to make it much fresher (just like I did on my exterior)

 
overmortar overgrout stone fireplace
 
With this look, the stone will be much fresher, and she can paint the walls a pale complex cream or greige and carry on with fresh green accents. But the look is still overall neutral and rustic.

3. Paint the stone

So, if she wants more colour, she can also, gasp, paint the stone with chalk paint. This is by far the most economical option.  It eliminates the earth tones of the stone and it would allow her to paint the walls a mellow green, and decorate with more fresh colour overall.

Colour expert advice for a room with stone

However, the stone still has a rustic textured feel. So if it was my living room, I’d be back to option 1. Personally, I would only install stone in a rustic cabin in the woods type setting, even then I would feel constrained by it since I love decorating with colour.
 
I hope this helps Charlotte! I really love the transformation that overgrouting my exterior stone created. And while it meant the stucco needed to stay neutral, the paler fresher look overall allowed me to add a much cleaner accent colour with my pale blue doors.
 
You could paint the walls much paler (test some of the complex creams and greiges in my system) after you overgrout the stone in a pale green grey mortar and continue with green accents in your decorating.
 
Need help finding the perfect paint colour to work with your decor, fireplace and kitchen finishes? Get an Open Layout eDesign consultation here.
 
Want to know the colours you’re updating your exterior with are perfect with your stone or brick? Learn how to choose exterior colour like pro in my Exterior Colour Selection MasterClass here.
 
It was recently updated with a whole new module walking you through whether you can choose a non neutral colour for your exterior.
 
Or get my direct advice tailored to your specific home here.
 
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26 Comments

  • Sunny says:

    A bit obscure…what did you photoshop out of the planter? In the first photo of this post, there are boxwoods and just beneath them it looks like something has been “erased”?

  • Christy says:

    Your exterior looks amazing now!!! I want to see more of it! What is the pretty blue color?

    6
  • Rosanne Patterson says:

    Maria,
    Could she also drywall that entire fireplace, then install a millwork mantle? The area closely surrounding the firebox itself would probably need some special treatment (per code regulations, right?), and she would need to do something with the stone hearth (paint? Overlay with some other, more fresh treatment?). But that would eliminate the stone as a decorating concern without the expense of ripping it out and replacing it. Is this a viable solution?
    Love your blog, and all your color advice!♥️

    4
  • Suzanne says:

    Your house is looking beautiful. I did not realize you were going to over-grout. Such a great solution to bring all your house features together.

    2
  • Yahoo - Linda Trammel says:

    I like the over grouting option #2 best. It would make it look entirely more friendly! Then the walls can be painted with any color (I like white or off white or anything really pale). The fireplace takes dominance still but not in a bossy way.

    2
    • Janelle says:

      I am not certain that overgrouting would work in this instance because the stones are so small and the space between them is quite small. So I am not sure how much of an impact that would have. If they are not in a position to replace it with millwork (option 1), then I would suggest option 3.

      1
  • Kay says:

    I love what you’ve done on the exterior! Overgrouting makes a huge difference. It’s sort of like lime washing red brick to make it more subdued.

  • Bette says:

    I have read your blog for years in order to better understand color. My remembrance is, you’ve always said that sunlight and shadow are not the reasons for colors not working on walls — it’s undertones. But here you contradict yourself:

    >>The new paint colour is technically a pale green grey in my system but as exterior colours get three times as light and bright outside it was the perfect cream colour for this house to pull out the warmth of the stone.

    I’ve pretty much given up trying to analyze color because of caveats like this one. I will use my own intuition (and comparison) as to what color looks best, rather than trying to grasp the concept of undertones.

    4
    • Lorri says:

      A color that would be darker inside of a house, will be much lighter on the exterior. That’s not a question of undertones.

      The exterior color is still the right undertone.

      Maybe I don’t understand what you’re saying? I’m not seeing the contradiction.

      4
    • Annie says:

      I believe when Maria has said that it isn’t the amount of light and shadows, she’s referring to interiors. Outside, paint will always be 2-3 shades lighter. This doesn’t change the concept of undertones.

      2
  • Sueer says:

    Love the new house exterior, well done!!
    Do not love the living room of your client because of the bright white trim. The white kitchen that apparently was the reason for the white in the living room is far away and could be ignored, and the trim repainted with one of the lighter beiges. Closer to earthy muted colors that define the room.

    1
  • Cheryl says:

    Love your exterior! What is the color of the blue doors….BM Santorini Blue? I am going to paint mine within the next two weeks and this color is at the top of the list. Thank you!

  • Charlotte says:

    Maria, what a lovely surprise to see my great room on your blog! I love the suggestion of over-grouting the stone fireplace in a pale green grey. I ‘may’ be able to get my husband on board with that suggestion. He nixed the idea of whitewashing it a long time ago. He loves the fireplace and as it was an ‘upgrade’ to our building contract he’ll never want to cover it with masonry although we do have plans to design and build bookshelves/cabinetry on either side of it. Last year we painted the entry and hallways BM Cloud White which is a definite improvement to that area. As well I’m experimenting with magenta as a new accent colour in the great room by way of cushions on the sofa and I’ve painted a niche in the hallway. Finding upholstery fabric for two replacement bergère chairs in a complex cream, eucalyptus leaf green and magenta pattern is a little difficult. Decorating for me is a slow process and your suggestions Maria, are most welcome and appreciated!

    6
  • Christine Kwasny says:

    Charlotte: I give you permission to remove that old, bossy stone foreplace and make something classic and beautiful. We bent over backwards to work around terrible, dated stone and brick on our fireplace and exterior entry for YEARS until we decided to remove it. It was actually really easy to tear out. So much better to just pull that stuff out and move on!!! I think we perceive stone and brick as part of the structure but in modern construction it is often a veneer that is almost as easy to remove as paneling or siding.

    Maria, I ADORE your new front entry with the classic french blue and stone (and SO MUCH better than the before colors that were so depressing!), but I don’t understand the stairs leading into the flower bed. Rearranging the concrete may be expensive but that flow looks very strange to me. Stairs that lead to nowhere is odd. Like a door with no exit.

    1
    • LeeAnn says:

      I think we all need to listen & hear that Maria’s client is ready to do almost anything, but it is her HUSBAND, who paid for an upgrade to get this present fireplace, who is not in favor of these changes….& husbands rarely see anything wrong with the current situation. Ripping out the fireplace, therefore, is not an option. The husband will not be on board with that. I think the other compromises are better options given the reality of Charlotte’s situation.

      5
    • Charlotte says:

      Thanks for the permission. I wish it was enough but ripping out and replacing the fireplace is not an option. My husband loves the look and also because the mason who did the work came out of retirement to do it for us, he wants to honour the craftsmanship and commitment to seeing it through. (The gentleman could only work on it a few hours a day because of a chronic back issue.) So…the room will get painted a complex cream and I’ll continue with green/magenta accents if possible and I may be able to convince my husband to over grout. Life and decor is often a compromise!

  • Mimi says:

    Maria, love that the unnecessary shutters are gone, a much cleaner look and less distracting to the façade. The cream is a nod to lighter shades which is great to see- a change from the somber darks on exteriors of late. It’s all coming together beautifully!

    As for the client’s fireplace I wouldn’t hesitate to paint out the stone. In fact there is even an all white stack stone on the market, so it would look similar to that when completed. At least it would be a starting point for little fuss. Then if she wanted to remove it for millwork later that would be an option. The real life dilemma’s are always so interesting and relevant- thank-you!

    1
  • Lorri says:

    I live in the mountains where there are TONS of stone fireplaces. We also have a lot of stone fireplaces with white mantels which seem more versatile with color.

    I love the look of that over-grouted fireplace in the last photo. There is so much white/cream that it looks like color would work.

    Maria, the new color on your house is so much prettier!!!!!

    2
  • ML says:

    Your house exterior looks so pretty now. As fabulous as only you could do! Would you share with us what exterior main color you eventually settled on?

    I appreciate you trying to be kind in your answer to your blogger. Having a husband who is adamant about a “muddy” stone surround and a wife who wants “clean” colors for interior design is a formula for nothing looking put together. It always looks like someone literally avoided the “elephant” in the room. There will never be a satisfactory answer to that one. It’s like when one wants to sleep with the window open and the other with the window closed (desire for fresh air vs. being allergic to fresh air).

    At the end of the day your answer of “just do whatever suits you; just tie into the colors of the kitchen and ignore the fireplace” is really the only answer you are left with. In reality that is the hand a good many of us are dealt in real life.

    3
  • Dona says:

    When you proposed the new exterior colors and over grouting, I didn’t “see it” — but now I do! It looks great! Now, you can see the grey green undertones in the stone but before, they looked to have cooler undertones. Is this the result of the over grouting? It all looks so much warmer now.
    Also, at first glance, I thought you painted a thin blue stripe under the molding to match the door color, and I thought “what a charming detail!” 🙂

    2
  • Monica says:

    Maria,

    The exterior of your house is looking great. I can’t wait to see when the new landscape completes it.

    You have made good suggestions how to make the fireplace stone more current. Another option would be to have a mason do a smooth stucco finish on the stone. Or your reader could place a large mirror, or a beautiful painting above the mantle to cover up a large portion of the stone. Adding a basket with firewood and a fern to the hearth would create a fresher look without changing the stone.

    1
  • Julianna Mathers says:

    Maria, check out lime washing stone. It can be quite opaque, and the colors can be tinted from quite white to any neutral. It’s flat, so it looks like chalk paint but it’s much more durable as it is actually absorbed by the stone and doesn’t have to be redone. We just painted a tile wall in our studio that was a rustic look like this, but it had mica which was sparkly. Matched our wall color with an opaque finish. Easy and affordable.

    1
  • Lauri says:

    Also tons of overgrouted fire places in the Texas Hill Country. Now I’m more confident in removing the outdated carved maple fireplace surround in the house that we just bought! I’m going to replace it with something like Option 2 in a color to tie in to the kitchen cabinets that are on the opposite side of the open plan room (also a Maria suggestion). Thanks Maria!!

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