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Exterior Colour

The One Thing You MUST Do Before Choosing Exterior Colours

By 03/26/2015July 1st, 202134 Comments

It’s exterior season! Even though your house might still have snow all around it and you can’t call the painter quite yet, I know you’re thinking about colours. Don’t miss this important step BEFORE you choose exterior colour.


My tulips are already blooming!

I am starting to receive Ask Maria questions for exteriors, and I get it. You want to spruce up your home’s curb appeal, maybe introduce a new siding or trim, or perhaps you’re considering a bright and bold front door colour for spring. Maybe you have no idea how to coordinate with your brick or stonework. You’re here because you know I can look at your house and know exactly what you should do to make it look its best, but let’s clear something up first: I need to let y’all know that I will not be posting Ask Maria exterior questions.

Let me tell you a story.

There’s a popular business fable about a machinery expert who was called out to fix a problem in a factory. Production in this huge factory had ground to a halt because of some mystery breakdown, and machinist after machinist had tried and failed to solve the problem.

Put yourself in the shoes of that factory owner. How frustrating must it have been to know something was wrong, but not be able to solve it? How hopeless must it have felt to pay “experts” for their solutions, only to be disappointed? How much was the right answer worth at that point — not just in service fees, but in lost revenue, reputation, and peace of mind, too?

When the factory owner had had enough of being disappointed (and being charged for that disappointment), he finally called in the true expert. The one with the most experience. The one who should’ve been called first.

The true expert walked in, instantly found the broken machine, tapped on it, and brought it back to life.


When the bill came, the fable says, the factory owner may have been shocked at the $10,000 charge. He asked for a breakdown, to which the expert replied, “$1 for the tap itself, and $9,999 for knowing where to tap.”

Fast forward through the Industrial Revolution to today, when homeowners are the ones feeling frustrated and hopeless about mystery colour problems in and around their homes. Too often, exterior colour choices are made by developers, builders, neighbourhood planners, or others whose expertise is not colour selection. No wonder you’re frustrated with your house: it’s the (colour) blind leading the (colour) blind!

Some homeowners are looking to fix old mistakes with a complete exterior facelift, from new siding and trim to a new front door colour and brick or stone. Others want only one of those options, or only a few of them. Most homeowners, though, have no idea what they want or what their homes need. Are you one of them? Do you know which solutions you need? Do you even know what the problem is that you’re trying to solve? Probably not; you just know something is off.

I can look at any house and know almost instantly what’s wrong with it (if anything), how to fix it, and which colours will work. I’ve done it a thousand times, and I’d love to do it a thousand more for all of you.

I’ve received so many questions about exteriors so far this season that I’ve come up with a way to help everyone who’s had enough of being disappointed:

Exterior Colour Solutions
Custom tailored to your home, personally delivered by yours truly

Here’s how it works: take some photos of your house and front door during the day (not when the sun is rising or setting), and send them to me. Choose the package you need from the link above, and within seven days, you’ll receive your custom colour solution in your inbox.

Done. (And it won’t cost you anywhere near $10,000.)


Front Door Solution


Did you know my green front door is the ONLY painted door on my street? This is a tragedy.

frontdoorgreenThis was my front door when we took possession.
See the befores and afters of our yard transformation here.

Now you, too, can have a colourful front door! This adds instant curb appeal, but ONLY IF you choose the right colour. The right colour not only increases the interest in your home, but also just makes YOU happy when you arrive home every day.

Click here to take all the guesswork out of finding the right colour for your front door.

Siding Solution

Siding colours are a major decision for any homeowner. This is often the defining colour of your home, meaning it’s what you will tell new people to look for when they’re visiting for the first time. “Look for the ugly orange house!” doesn’t really sound very inviting, does it?

Whatever colour you choose needs to work holistically with every other exterior colour on your home, and has to take into account your neighbourhood as well. If you happen to live in a multi-family dwelling, well, you can just go ahead and double the headache of trying to find coordinating and complementary colours that make you happy and still fit in with the surroundings.

Here’s one reader’s dilemma:

“Our house has a yellow-ish roof, yellowish pointing/grout between the brick work, white PVC window frames and bricks that are pinky-yellow!  To make matters worse, we are a duplex, and our adjoining neighbours have gone for white paint, a honey oak door, and grey paving stones.
Is there any colour we can choose besides yellow for the front?

Look closely at the photo below, everyone. Who can see exactly what’s wrong, and who knows exactly what to do about it? If you have no idea, then you, too, need the Siding Solution

Here was my response:

“Here’s the problem with your house. While yellow in general is a good colour for that peachy/orange brick, it’s too clean with both the brick and your roof, your roof looks dirty in comparison. It’s greeny/gold while your brick is more orange, which makes using any colour besides a muddier yellow or cream bad because it’s just introducing a third colour that relates to nothing.

The ONLY option for your house here is cream because the white of your neighbour’s side is way too stark with the earthier brick and roof. I would also paint out the black underlining the bay windows.”


Tell the truth: did you see any of those problems before I pointed them out? Or did you just know something was wrong?

Trim & Accent Colour Solution

Accent colours are your home’s exclamation points: they draw attention, they invoke interest and excitement, and they set your home apart from the crowd. The problem is that too many people put their exclamation ! points in the ! wrong places !

One reader had to deal with exactly that problem:

“I am wondering what I could do to improve the look of the house we just bought. I like the white trim and am thinking that white or lighter coloured garage doors would go a long way to update the look. I’m attaching a picture. I know there is snow on the roof but it’s a dark grey roof.”

Here was my response:

“Garage doors should rarely relate to the roof (which I’m guessing is what’s happening here); rather, they should coordinate with the colour of the house and in most cases, be painted the same colour as your siding, especially if they are at the front of the house where they are the most noticeable. You don’t want your garage doors to be the first thing you see.

Here, we are dealing with brick, so I would paint them white to relate to the white gables and trim. Then I would paint the shutters black to relate to the black in the bricks and the roof instead of the current, unrelated green. The shutters can’t be white to relate to the white trim because that would feel too ‘cottage’, and then the shutters above the garage would not have contrast with the existing white siding.”

You know your home needs attention paid to its trim and accent colours. Let me help you do it right.

Exterior Colour Solution Bundles

If you don’t know what you need, or if you’re about to embark on a total exterior colour course correction, contact me immediately. Bundled pricing is available for all three of the above options, and an all-inclusive offer for new builds and big renovations is available here.

Don’t do anything without FIRST getting a consultation from a True Colour Expert; we both know by now how costly (and frustrating) mistakes are when we fail to bring in the true expert first. I’ll help you figure out exactly what to do, and I will do it quickly so you can get on with your home’s transformation.

It’s easy.

Exterior colour advice from a True Colour Expert™.


Go here to see all the options.

Which part of your exterior needs a makeover ASAP?

Learn how to Choose Exterior Colours here.

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  • Mary-Illinois says:

    It’s hard enough coming up with the correct colors on the inside of my home. I’m glad I live in a townhouse & don’t have to deal with outside colors. But I do wish I could paint my white front door. The Hoa doesn’t allow it.
    Party poopers!

  • Brilliant idea Maria, I’m sure you will help so many people!

  • Marlowe Hues says:

    Great post!! I just love reading all your posts Maria! I’m a convert! Haha!

    I do have a small question though. With your bright green front door (which I love!), I know you recommend basically keeping dirty colours together and clean, more saturated colours together. However, it appears to my screen that the siding of your house is more of a muted pinky beige compared to the cleaner brighter green. Do you see any issue with that, given your advice on clean versus dirty (or is it not in enough quantity for it to be relevant)?

    I’m working on a huge commercial project at the moment and even though it’s just an accent colour, the client would like to add a punch of vibrant colour to a altogether more muted exterior scheme. My gut instinct says ‘no’. Cheers, T

    • megeranski says:

      What I have learned:

      Vibrant colors can be ‘dirty’.
      Don’t tell anyone, though. lol

      Before I found Maria, one designer said, ‘find your favorite color and add mud.’ It was good advice, and now that I understand Maria’s framework, I know WHY it works.

      A vibrant color, to do what you are looking to do, does not need much ‘mud’, or be much ‘dirty’. But if the other colors are ‘dirty’, it will need some to one degree or the other.

      It will need to have relating undertones, as other colors do.

      This news sort of rocked my world at first, (Maria does that often), but after reading about it, everywhere I went I was exclaiming, “Holy cow — just look at that dirty vibrant color!” HAHAAHhaHAhahahaaaa I make myself laugh.

      There was a recent post with a cottage, that had vibrant colors everywhere. If you did not know to look for the ‘dirt’ or the undertones, one would have thought it was just very simple colors. The reason it was so amazing was the ‘dirt’ in each color. It was truly lovely.

      Have fun with your project!

  • Lucy HAINES says:

    What a great post as usual! Especially now that we are coming out of the drab winter season and awakening into the colorful spring/summer season. Everyone needs a lift and “fixing” the color of the exterior of your home is a perfect place to start. Your home should make you “happy” inside and out!

  • Deborah says:

    My front door is the color of its wood with clear sealer over it, because of the “Don’t paint that — that’s good wood” mantra. I’ll paint almost anything, so I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to see that the Door. Must. Be. Painted.

    • Judy Jensen says:

      Mine is a custom oak door and I am in deep angst to paint it a french blue! I need therapy!!!

      • megeranski says:

        My mantra is, “If it’s wood; Paint it.”

        It is extraordinarily rare to find wood so lovely that it commands to be left as it.

        Whomever started the ‘don’t paint wood’ movement, well, let’s just say, … well, cannot think of a diplomatic way to say anything so will edit and leave alone.

        Flaming Mahogany — should not be painted
        Burled Maple — should not be painted
        Fine marquetry — should not be painted
        Something made from the Black Walnut that was in your yard from childhood — should not be painted
        Your Redwood deck — should not be painted.

        Everything else, please, please, please — paint that poor thing.

  • Love this!!!! I had heard that story about the machinist and have used it before. So very true. As I heard a trainer say recently, “People are not paying you for your time, they are paying you for your expertise.” Time for an Atlanta area price increase 🙂

  • Jo Galbraith says:

    Great post with wonderful examples Maria! So jealous of your starting to bloom garden. We are still in a winter wonderland on the East Coast!

  • Gary says:

    Your advice is always top notch, years of experience.
    I see in your front door pics you have removed the screen door, reason?

    • Maria Killam says:

      No I haven’t removed it, it’s just open in the photo. I like that it’s glass and gives us an extra window all year long when we want to open the door.

  • Cherie says:

    What a great idea Maria! I don’t think there’s anything else out there that makes it so easy for a homeowner to improve their exterior, and I imagine you’re going to be bussyyyy.

  • VintageBeachgirl says:

    Love the analogy of the fable as well as the way you’ve put the exterior packages together! What a clever way to deal with people’s exterior color solutions. I’m sure not everyone wants or needs new house colors but most of us like to change door or trim colors occasionally.
    This post came just in the nick of time…. One of my daughters is struggling with choosing appropriate house colors right now.
    I’m forwarding this to her so that she can explain the issues to you. I have every confidence that you will come up with just the right color scheme for her! Great post Maria, thanks!!

  • Candice Hill says:

    This is fantastic, Maria! 🙂

  • Adele says:

    That anecdote is one between Charles Steinmetz, Genius of Schenectady, and Henry Ford. I knew that because I did a report on Steinmetz in my seventh grade social studies class in 1972! Just a few weeks ago I was thinking about Steinmetz and so googled him and found this article: The anecdote is just below the photograph of Mr. Steinmetz. I was amazed to discover how much I accurately remembered about the man and his work.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I’m surprised your neighbors aren’t following your example & painting their front doors. It’s such an easy thing to do & adds such impact.
    But if they are like my neighbors, they put no thought into fixing up or decorating their homes. It’s just a place to plop their ass.

  • mrsben says:

    How clever of you to offer such packages! That said Maria, I am wondering if: a) Does the Total All-Inclusive package include another structure or is that an additional fee? i.e: We have a 30′ x 40′ separate garage located in the backyard which is partially visible from the street (including an attached double garage). b) Is there a reason why said consultation is only done by phone?
    Secondly; to answer your question ‘To tell the truth etc…..”; I knew there was something wrong but I honestly thought it was because of the white window frames reason why you are the colour expert and I am not …. ☺. -Brenda-

  • Judy says:

    Do you consult on 1) whether to put shutters on a house or leave off and 2) if yes on shutters, what color should they be to compliment the exterior body color. What is the price for this type of consultation? Thanks!

  • BillP says:

    It’s a good concept but I think that $75 is a bit pricey for front door color advice. That’s twice the price of a high quality quart of paint!

    • Bert says:

      Ahh, but if you get the colour wrong, and have to do it over, (and sometimes, more than once), you can see how that can add up, too. In the long run, it is worth it to get it right the first time.

  • Ange Mills says:

    Color choices are so hard, especially for a house. When I found a color from those little sample cards I thought it was a color that I would love. So we started painting the garden shed to see if I’d like it for the house….hated it, it looked like baby poop. My husband said he’d repaint but only one more time. So decide to go through neighborhoods until I found a house color that I loved. When I found a house I liked I asked the homeowners if they would share the paint color. Surprisingly people are very helpful, even when you knock on a strangers door. Love the color, but unfortunately I didn’t realize that the color would be different on our stucco than what was on the other house with T-111 siding. 8 years ago I would have dearly paid for a paint consultation, would have been worth every penny and it would have saved me much frustration.

  • Martha says:

    I am happy to say that I knew before reading why it was wrong that the yellow was too clean of a color! I have learned what to look for from reading your blog. Thank you.

  • Segreto Secrets says:

    I love the question and answer series of your post – so fun seeing you in action! Well done!
    xo. Leslie
    Segreto Finishes

  • I think choosing paint colors for front doors is the most fun!

  • Ellen Rush says:

    Hi Maria, you have done such a great job with your explanations/examples as well as the bundle pricing – getting it all right is not easy on your own – call the expert for sure!
    This post is a great example of posting less often but really making them count.

  • Bert says:

    Thanks so much for your invaluable help! Great post as usual and highly beneficial to me. I will be back in touch this summer when i will be choosing a front door colour.
    Thanks so much.

  • Betsy OShea says:

    Per your advise for the second house: you recommended white for the garage when you constantly say that WHITE is too clean for earthy brick. Wouldn’t an off white or cream be better? Then of course they would have to paint the trim and porch railings cream too. But white isn’t right with brick

    • Maria Killam says:

      But if the house already has this much white siding, all you can do is work with it. Sometimes you have to ignore the rules to get something to look as good as it can.

  • alannah says:

    We have a new build in the woods, I hired an interior decorator to help me with the stone etc. She advised some stucco on the front and not all stone. In my opinion a good designer/decorator doesn’t cost — they pay . They pay you by all the mistakes you don’t make, if I would of put only stone on the front it wouldn’t give the bang that adding some stucco does. Like a good accountant they don’t cost — they pay. It is the same principle here, a good decorator pays for themselves in the long run. I was glad I hired the interior decorator, she saved me a lot and I got a great looking house, the stone with stucco in the woods, looks quiet and inviting. Maria is worth it!

  • megeranski says:

    Your packaging is simply BRILLIANT. I am tickled and impressed by the concept. **applause**

    Only thing to add is, best to choose colors (imho) in the winter — that stark white can change the exterior, to a startling degree. Every winter, I look at houses and chortle, “Bet they wished they’d not picked THAT color in the warm summer months!”

    Same with gardening design — Start with Winter and work backwards. If it looks great then, it will look stunning the rest of the year.

  • Ann says:

    Maria, builders in our new neighborhood are using the same color for front doors and shutters. Is this a “no,no?” Usually one window is picked for the accent shutters In a new craftsman style home. Do you have an opinion on this?

  • tara dillard says:

    Been doing color for exteriors for decades, for free.

    Also, patio/deck design, free.

    And, pot styles/placement, free.

    In addition, furniture style/placement, free.

    Including, front door color choice, free.

    Tossed in, types of exterior hardware, free.

    Cherry on top, style of exterior light fixtures, on dimmers of course, free.

    3 decades of designing landscapes, did all of the above, FREE, for clients to go outside & WANT to put in their landscape.

    In addition, I design the views into windows, from the garden, FREE.

    Love your post. I can stop designing landscapes, and just do the other stuff. Not free, of course.

    Times change, so do I. Have known for ‘too long’ I need to raise my fees. Before the year is over, fees will changed. Thank you for the kick in the …… !

    Garden & Be Well,


    (in contract to buy a 115 year old house with 4.5 acres, pond, open, wooded, rural, next door to a dairy farm….wish me luck. )

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