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Exterior Colour

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior

By 04/25/2016March 11th, 202044 Comments

I specify lots of exterior colours during the spring and summer each year, but because most of it is done online, I rarely get an after picture. When I do get one, the sun is slanting on the house, which kind of wrecks the shot, or there’s no grass in the yard. . . and I really should just be there to take the picture. Here I will share tips to transform your exterior.

If you do have a good after picture to send me, I would be EVER SO GRATEFUL!!

In the meantime, I thought I would focus this post on assessing exteriors that are not awesome and need a lot of help, or that need just a little tweak to make them so much better.

These are a few that I snapped recently while driving around. They might help you look at your house with a fresh eye and figure out how to fix the colours that bother you.

Too Many Trim Colours

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

Don’t get too creative with your trim colours. In this house (above) the yellow trim colour (more muted than this one which is slightly too clean) should be the only one.

Trim is Too Dark

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

Here again, the trim on this house (above) should be either light or dark (this is too many) but in this case I would chose the existing white to paint out the rest of the black windows on this house.

Many of us are looking to freshen up the exterior, so if your trim feels too dark, choosing a lighter colour might be all that’s necessary.

Windows or Trim Too Stark

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

With an earthy, taupe exterior (above), the windows appear too bright. If you can’t paint your windows because they are vinyl, but they jump out at you visually like this house (above), then your exterior colour needs to be less earthy and more fresh. A colour like SW 7045 Intellectual Gray would work better with the green roof as well.

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

Two buildings with a similar style. One with trim that should have been cream (left, above) and the other with trim that should have been white, charcoal or black (right, above).

Clashing Undertones

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

What should the siding colour be? Well, it can’t be grey if that’s what you’re wondering because there are too many colours on this house already.

Making the yellow less clean and more muted will simply clash with the dark pink beige roof and make it look just as dirty as it looks right now. I would paint the siding cream. Unfortunately, if the roof stays on this house along with the orange brick, it will never look right. A new siding colour will not make the pink beige roof go away.

If you have inherited a house with clashing fixed elements, sometimes paint can’t give you enough magic to fix it.

Don’t Choose Grey Because it’s Safe—Choose it Because it’s Right

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

See the mid-tone grey on this building? If you were driving around looking for a grey to paint your house, you would eliminate this grey because it looks dirty and bad on an apartment building with not a lot of interesting architectural detail.

Notice that the extra painted borders on this building just look dirty. Because there is not enough contrast. That’s why trim is white or cream, NOT a lighter shade of the exterior colour.

This is where a colour is necessary. A neutral on a sad house or apartment is not SAFE at all, it’s just MEH.

Context is Everything

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

Clark and Co. Homes

A very similar grey (this one is BM Amherst Grey) is just lovely on this house with lots of pretty white trim. If you saw this house while looking for a colour, you might snap it up!

Choose Colour For a House Without Trim or Architectural Interest

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

This blue house, believe it or not, stuck out on this street because the rest of the houses were so neutral. In this case, I would have chosen a more muted blue, but either way, colour brings a house without any trim or any architectural interest to life.

Addressing the Clean/Dirty Problem with Colours

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

The forest green on this house (above) feels dated. A lighter, fresher green on this exterior would have been perfect, along with white trim.

Consider Your Neighbours’ Colours When Choosing Yours!

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

Do consider the colour of your neighbours’ house when choosing yours. The first thing I do when I arrive to specify colour for a house with neighbours this close is walk up and match their colours. They are suddenly part of your colour scheme if you want to up your curb appeal!

Consider a Colour for Your Trim—NOT Just Grey or Black

10 Tips To Transform Your Exterior + My Spring Sale is Here | Maria Killam

This building does not have great architectural detail, so it just needs a more interesting accent colour (like eggplant) for the railings that is not grey, brown, or black.

When I was a new colour consultant, I would look at a bleak-looking building (above) and wish that I could see all the possible colours it could be, in my head, in an instant.

Well, now that is what happens with everything I look at! I’m choosing colours every day when I drive by buildings just like the yellow/green apartment building (above) with bad pink railings and a pink beige accent strip running along the siding to define each floor.

Want to learn how to do what I do? Wish you could pick exterior colours for your own home (or your clients’ homes) with confidence? My training webinar is 60 minutes and you’ll be able to watch it over and over again as long as you need it. As you know, just like all my other work, you won’t find this kind of training anywhere else.

BONUS: You’ll get my list of go-to exterior colours divided by undertones just like the list in my eBook.

Once you buy it, you’ll have it for life, along with my list of go-to colours.

Get the eBooks here, and the Exterior Colour Training here.

If you would like help creating a beautiful and classic exterior, we have exterior consultation packages available here.

After all, if you get your exterior colours wrong, you can’t hide your house from your neighbours!

Related posts:

The Best Exterior Colours with Brick NOT Cloud White

Navy Blue Exterior: Before & After

Should I Paint my House Charcoal?

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  • Bridget says:

    Thank you for discounting your books/training! However, when I enter the promo code for the exterior training, it isn’t working. Please advise. Thank you!

  • Jo Galbraith says:

    Very helpful and timely post! Thank you for sharing these examples. As a True Colour Expert I still learn so much from your posts.

  • Sue Lecas says:

    Great Examples!

  • KA says:

    Maria, or other experts, what is the under time of the brick on the house with the standing seam roof (pic 5)? And what is the undertone of the stone used on the pretty gray house (pic 7)? I really like the look of the house with “too dark” windows (pic 2); it seems very modern to me. I think this helps me see what is wrong with our house: our brown tile roof must have a pink undertone which clashes with the Old Chicago brick. I think it’s a problem that paint can’t fix.

    • Maria Killam says:

      The brick on that house is basically orange which is why it makes the pink beige roof look dirty.

      The undertone of the stone in picture 7 is primarily a green grey which is why it works with the green grey colour on the house.

      Great question!

  • Julie Deal says:

    I’m having the same issue as above as well. The promo code is not working for me.

    • Julie Deal says:

      Oops! It was pilot error. The s in spring was automatically capitalized which I didn’t catch. Promo code worked perfectly once I typed in all lowercase letters.
      Thank you for responding to my e-mail so quickly.

  • Whitney says:

    Thank you, love this post. Also it was very exciting to see the promo, immediately tried it and it didn’t work.

    • Maria Killam says:

      It is working, to get it to work, refresh the page, clear your cache or try a new browser!
      Sorry you’re having trouble!

  • Kay says:

    Isn’t painting or whitewashing brick a possibility? The exterior of our very plain house was transformed when we whitewashed the brick steps–a whole flight of them–leading to the front door. They related to nothing else and were the focal point of the house. Now they blend in with the white trim on yellow siding. If done lightly, whitewash over red brick gives a very attractive pink cast that would tie in with the standing seam roof. Then it’s just a matter of picking the right color for the trim.

  • mrsben says:

    Excellent illustrations Maria as what not to do but I have to admit I like the home in pic #2 with the darker trim. That said; in respect to your All-inclusive Consultation does it also include other buildings on the property? i.e.: A 30′ x 40′ Hobby Garage that is a combination of stucco and siding whereas the house with an attached garage consists of stucco and brick which the latter I am seriously contemplating converting to a stone at least on the front, to tie in the existing stone walkwayS, gardening bed wallS etc.. Thank you. -Brenda-

  • KA says:

    This is a different KA. This was a great training to take. I made mom watch it with me before we redid her roof and painted the exterior this past autumn. As a result, neighbors have said it looks fantastic, and one who is an artist gave particular kudos, saying it looks beautiful. The main thing was tweaking the green trim from on that had too much blue to one that was comparatively more green. It goes better with the landscaping which my parents weren’t going to rip out.

    In other words, take advantage of this training at a discount. It’s totally worth the money.

  • Lucy HAINES says:

    Maria, Great post as always!

  • Hi Maria,

    Good points. I’d like to add my #1 pet peeve: painting the downspouts a color that contrasts wildly with the brick or siding (just because you are continuing the trim color). I hate those white or dark brown stripes down a house, especially on a 2- or 3-story property. But maybe I’m just weird. Well, OK, I know I am. ; )

  • yogacat says:

    To those having problems with the promo code: The email says “spring2016” but the web site says “Spring2016”. The promo code is case sensitive. Lower case “spring2016” is works. I have verify that the case sensitivity on Apple’s Safari, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Opera browsers.

    Maria, you might want to correct the text on the web page.

    After the purchase, I’m not sure how one accesses the training. The pdf file displayed at the end of the order was a thank-you sheet. Nothing has arrived in my email yet.

    • yogacat says:

      Drat. I just needed to be patient! Access to the course and materials arrived via email along with the invoice.

  • Jennifer Hawkins says:

    We have a Tuscan olive green (the house body) with tan trim and window trim, with chocolate brown shutters, a window box, trim accents, and front door. The shingles lend themselves to go more brown than grayish brown. We are looking to move and don’t want to repaint the entire house a fresher, lighter gray. Do you offer any assistance if provided exterior photos for color options? I’ve been a Realtor for 20 years, but I’m having a hard time figuring what to do to make it lighter and the easiest to sell! Thanks in advance in any helpful answers!

  • Debra says:

    Hi Maria!

    I just had to write to talk about this.
    We have seasonal neighbors next door.
    The wife is a “interior designer” by profession.
    I found out recently that she picked out the exterior colors for one of our other neighbors.
    I’m sending a few pics today, you just have to see this to believe it.
    Not sure if I should take with the morning sun or afternoon. If I take this afternoon I’ll be shooting into the light.
    I’ll play around with it today and send your way.
    Cant wait to hear what you say.


  • Great post Maria,

    The very green house with the lime green trim is just down the block from where I used to live. We used to drive by and wonder why oh why these homeowners didn’t call someone like you!!

    Thanks so much for all the great information in here!

  • Lina says:

    Seeking opinion, we want to paint the house a toupee gray color with white trim and my husband and I have been going back and forth about what to do with our front porch ‘ s red/blotchy brick wall.

    1)Paint the brick wall the same color of the house

    2)Paint the brick in one shade lighter than house

    3)Go over it with smaller clapboard siding in same color of the house

    4)Go over it with smaller clapboard siding in one shade lighter to contrast the other horizontal siding.

    5)Costly option, refacing with new gray blue modern stone

    • Julie says:

      Caution on painting brick: brick likes to breathe. Use an appropriate product; you will have problems over time if you seal the brick by using the wrong paint. It’s just a question of when.
      That said…
      Nothing wrong with 1).
      Porches tend to be shaded, so 2) might not have the effect you want. But try it out. A couple quarts of test paint (house color and potential porch color) and some posterboard will inform you well. You probably need to go 3-4 shades lighter to see a marked (and intentional-looking) difference.
      Options 3) and 4)… I’d sooner take the brick off and install siding to match the house. 1) through 4) will usually read as an adaptation rather than an intentional original. That being the case, I’d sooner spend less money than more.
      5) You’ve been reading Maria’s blog, so you know that you have to select the paint to go with the stone, not the other way around 😉 (ie, you can’t paint now and save up for the stone; the stuff in stock in a year or two isn’t guaranteed to match). A couple concerns. First: gray blue stone with taupe gray paint means different undertones on essentially neutral colors. Big caution flag here. Take a look at Maria’s posts on picking exterior trim colors and you’ll find some good discussion on dealing with brick; same rules apply to stone. The pictures will help you think it through. Second: are the existing details/locations good? If you’re stuck with a single layer of brick and you see the edge of the brick at the corner of the house (like the house I grew up in)… switching the material won’t change that. If you decide to invest in stone, I’d encourage you to make sure the placement of the edges looks good. (So this all depends how much you are looking to invest.) Then some other considerations: how much is the enjoyment of bluestone worth to you? And, is that kind of switch in keeping with the neighborhood (if you’re thinking of selling anytime soon). If you don’t already have plant pots and other setting-the-scene items for the porch, the extra money might be better invested there. Paint away and let the brick be a backdrop instead of the main feature!

  • Lina says:

    Thanks, definitely things to think about.

  • Lina says:

    Any opinions on alternatives to painting brick…like lime washing?

    • Julie says:

      True lime washing will also wash away with time; you have to be ok with that reality. Without seeing the house it’s hard to say how it would look; sounds like it would be an improvement, though.
      Keim and a couple of other companies make more permanent breathable coatings for masonry – look for mineral silicate paints.

  • AK says:

    The White is Complicated ebook – are the colors in the book and the bonus book all SW paint references? I was really hoping for BM.
    Thank you!

    • Maria Killam says:

      The White is Complicated eBook lists both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams.
      Hope that helps,

  • Joanne says:

    To AK – the white is complicated book is outstanding (as is everything Maria does). If you haven’t already, but the boards.

    Now- I almost fell off my chair when I saw house#5 and the comment about “inheriting” a house. I will be inheriting a house with that exact mismatched vinyl and funky brick (and an awful green roof). Why keep the house, you ask? Great location.

    Fortunately – the house is solid brick in the front and the three sides are creamy yellow vinyl. I thought about painting the brick (it would look cute and cottage) but it would not sell in our market. Too much upkeep. Because you don’t see the mismatch head-on, I am hoping I can ignore it. I love the look of black against creamy yellow (and the vinyl windows and sills are white) so I would use that for windows and roof. Maybe boring, but too much going on with that darn brick.

  • Janice Jacobs says:

    I have a pic of my craftsman brick house to send you, to get your advice on curb appeal. Can you tell me where I can send it, so you can take a look? Wondering about front entry and door color 🙂

  • Cathy says:

    I am about to paint my exterior and really like the gray house with green/blue door. The color is listed as Amherst, but I believe the actual color is SW Dovetail and door SW waterscape. My roof is black and shutters can be painted black. Dovetail matches my Trex. Am hoping it will not be too dark and maybe I should go one shade lighter.

  • Anna says:

    Interesting point made about the gray apartment. While gray is a very practical color, it is true that it does not work for every single building.

  • Anna says:

    Great point made about the gray apartment. While gray is a very practical color, it is true that it does not work for every single building.

  • Brittaney says:

    Just bought my first home and I love the country look it has. It’s a light yellow with blue door and shutters. I don’t hate the colors but was wondering what other colors might look good. I’m just having a hard time visualizing it.


    I too thought that a solution to the orange brick house might be to paint the brick. We painted our salmon colored bricks about 20 years ago, and haven’t had to touch it since. Our neighbors said we were crazy, but quickly complimented us afterwards. Love your blog Maria.

  • Lisa says:

    Just re-read this and am wondering, how does light quality factor into colour selection? I live in a place which has intense sunlight so I imagine we’d have different popular colours to somewhere cloudy.

  • Carole Q says:

    Love all your posts but this one was especially helpful since I need to repaint trim this year. Our siding is Ranchwood and I believe the trim was BM 0C22. We have lots of natural gray stone on the house. Our Euroline windows are kind of a putty colour. Any suggestions for trim or should I just go with the same?

  • Robin says:

    If I sent you a picture of my exterior would you help with colours?

  • Holly says:

    Thanks! There are so many helpful exterior lessons here. I see countless ranch homes with orange brick and Clashing Undertone roofs. What roof color Is best for this orange brick house pictured?

  • Emily says:

    Hello Maria! Big fan! The Kendall Charcoal house with the Wythe blue front door is actually a house that I designed and built with my husband. I found out you had featured in on your blog just today when I came across your pin of it on my pinterest feed. I would love it if you would change the source to 🙂

    Thank you, love your blog and insta!

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