Image via Zillow (Love this image, no fence, just beauty)
Whenever I research a post I’m writing to see what other people are saying, I always cringe when I see declarations like this, from articles giving colour advice to the consumer:
“When it comes to picking out the right paint and stain for your fence, it all depends on what you want!”
or this statement which is no better:
“To help you decide which colors complement each other, try looking at a color wheel to see which colors look more balanced.”
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll already have guessed that this kind of advice is useless at best and helps no one. This is also the reason why I spend approximately 5 minutes on colour theory in my Specify Colour with Confidence courses.
Because having a thorough understanding of the colour wheel does not give you the proper tools and knowledge to choose colours for hard finishes, fabrics or paint for your house or your clients home.
I have NEVER and I mean NEVER consulted a primary colour wheel to choose a paint colour or countertop or fill-in-the-blank-here. My colour wheel shows you where the neutrals fall inside the conventional colour wheel, along with guidelines for coordinating them which is way more useful.
Okay, there are many factors to consider when choosing a fence colour and this post cannot possibly cover all of them, however, here are some do’s and don’ts to consider:
DO your homework BEFORE you stain or paint your fence
Did you know?
A transparent stain (without any colour) will last maybe two years.
A semi-transparent stain lasts 2-3 years.
And then when you don’t maintain that and your fence gets discoloured, you might get a solid stain which lasts 5 years if it’s an alkyd (oil based) and 3 years if it’s a latex.
Then, when that is also not long enough, you’ll eventually paint (this is the same for stained beams on the exterior of your house too, by the way).
My Mom went out and unknowingly (and with obvious bad advice from the paint store) ended up with a ‘solid stain’ to paint her brand new deck for the first time. Within two years it has chipped badly and looks terrible. Had she simply stained her deck with a semi-transparent stain, it would have faded instead of chipping (obviously the wear on a deck where people are walking is much higher than it would be on a fence).
Now she is considering installing PVC decking because you can’t go back to transparent stain if you have used a solid stain unless you strip the entire deck. And because you can’t change the colour of PVC, it’s really important to get the colour right the first time.
A lot of people choose to leave their fence ‘unstained’ for this reason. Because if you don’t maintain the stain, it starts to fade (which is fine) but then the bare wood weathers to a green grey (below) and then you’ll have orange bits in other places–which is not so attractive.
Related post: 7 Exterior Lessons from Cape Cod Architecture
My backyard fence with espalier apple trees growing along the fence (It would get really hard to maintain this every two years).
My garden gate
DO consider coordinating with the light trim colour on your exterior
My white garden gate and vinyl decorative fencing, also matches the white trim on our house (below).
You can see the backyard fence I was just showing you behind the gate (above).
Maria’s house with white trim.
DON’T just paint your fence the current, trendy neutral if it does not relate to your exterior
This house has a pretty contemporary fence on one side, stained brown probably because of the tuscan brown trend as it actually does not relate to their white house with the black roof, at all.
However, the outdoor furniture does relate, and the orange gravel kinda relates to the different fence on the other side of their backyard (below):
Images from Zillow
Here again (below), the fence is weathered and appears to be unstained. I do like how it relates to the hardwood inside the house.
DO choose a colour that relates to the house
If you are going to paint or stain your fence (and not leave it to weather like I did) then this seems obvious.
This cream house looks great with the coordinating cream fence.
DON’T just stain your fence orange if it in no way works with your house!
I see this a lot. It’s meant to look like “natural” cedar, but does it ever really? Most often you just end up with a strong orange fence that doesn’t relate to anything.
DO invest in a landscaping plan!
And just because I’m totally biased, I recommend my Garden Designer MaryAnne White, she lives in New York and we did it all long distance 5 years ago. Don’t get cheap on the design, it’s the most inexpensive piece of any garden, it’s all the materials and labour that add up fast!
So, if your fence already looks like this (above), you can still make it beautiful with garden beds in front of it:
Or this beautiful combination with hostas if you have a shady backyard.
Here, you can see that the deck has weathered to a green grey and the fence has been freshly stained (below). Probably leaving it the weathered grey would have been better since it in no way relates to the blue and white house.
Again, don’t forget about landscaping. A lot of people spend way too much money on stone and other unnecessary design elements to make their exterior look more ‘interesting’.
Landscaping is what gives the exterior of your home a look and a feel. Kind of like when you add lamps and accessories inside your home, that’s when it really feels like home and a place where you want to hang out!
images via Zillow
DO go for an elegant solution like continuing your fence with the same surface material as your exterior.
You can see the fence on the bottom right of this photo, it’s gorgeous because matches the house.
DO consider planting a green hedge, this way you don’t have to maintain a fence!
I just had two fence posts replaced along the side of my backyard and it cost $850 for the materials and labour.
However, opposite my house in the backyard, I have 16 foot cedar hedges (below).
I love the green wall and the way it creates privacy so much, frankly, if this backyard had simply been a row of 8 ft fencing where I’m looking at two of my neighbours houses, I don’t think I would have bought it.
My backyard hedge | Garden design by MaryAnne White
I know every climate can’t withstand cedar hedges but where you can, you can buy them up to 10 ft installed!
Love the combination of painted brick and trellis hedging (below).
DON’T just paint your fence black cause it’s trendy
I do love how it looks against green however! Kelly green, black and white looks amazing!
I do love this combination (below). Hopefully it’s in a yard attached to a contemporary looking house that repeats the black and wood. Don’t do this if you have a traditional house with white trim.
I’m noticing a lot of orange stained wood (not in backyard fences necessarily) in interior design lately, wood tones are warming up, remember you heard it here first!
Over to you my lovelies, please tell me, what colour is your fence?
And then, share about the maintenance, and whether you agree with me on just leaving it a lovely, neutral, easy-to-maintain, weathered grey, haha.
If you need help choosing a colour for your fence, check out our eDesign services here.