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Trend Alert: All White and All Black Exteriors

By 04/02/2017May 9th, 202133 Comments

As you know, I’m travelling for a couple weeks, just finished my Austin Specify Colour with Confidence workshop last week and I’m off to Toronto next where my next course starts on Tuesday. It’s really wonderful to meet people who have been following my blog for as long as I’ve been writing it (8 1/2 years). I am honoured and grateful that you read my blog and then attend my courses, thank you so much!

Austin True Colour Experts

Nancy Lane from Houston  & Maria Killam

Nancy sent me this testimonial after the course this past week:

I have to laugh…I wasn’t even home from the airport before I was shouting the praises of Maria Killam’s Specify Color With Confidence class that I attended this week in Austin. I was in the car catching up on emails when I saw one from a fellow member of an interior design group. She asked if anyone knew [“the {color expert} that writes a blog about {paint} undertones…I’m not sure if she’s a designer or an educator”…]. It brought a smile to my face in an instant as I immediately hit reply to answer her question. I had no doubt she was looking for Maria Killam. I’ve followed Maria’s blog for nearly eight years now. I can’t even think of how many times I’ve referred to her advice and blog posts over the years. . . innumerable is probably pretty accurate. 

After spending three days with thirty or so other women taking Maria’s Specify Color with Confidence class I can assure you Maria Killam is a designer AND an educator and brilliant at both. I know every person in the class would agree that Maria is passionate about sharing her system of understanding undertones. During her intense but amazing three day class we completed Maria’s course workbook that included tips and cheatsheets as well as hands on exercises using various colorful fabrics and home finishes. . . after all, every home’s aesthetic is as different as the people who live in them. 

The exercises and coursework plus Maria’s words of wisdom from her twenty plus years of experience in the design world turned the mystery of choosing the perfect paint color into an “a-ha” moment for us all. Her class is for anyone and everyone…homeowners who are tired of painting and repainting, who finally want to figure out how to choose the right color the first time as well as interior designers and decorators (both new and seasoned) who have an eye for design but want a better understanding of color including neutrals and whites and their many undertones. I cannot thank Maria and her team enough for graciously sharing their time, talent, experience, and hearts with our class. I honestly walked away from their three day event in Austin confident that I can choose the right paint color now for any client project using her simple but effective system without stress or agonizing over the thousands of paint colors available in today’s consumer market. Not to mention the twenty plus new friends and colleagues I met in class! 

I now know without a doubt that my investment of money and time away from my family and business to learn Maria’s system was well-spent and will save myself {and fellow True Color Experts} design time and in the end help our clients save money. If that’s not a win-win I don’t know what is.  Nancy Lane, the Decor Detective

Thanks again to Tricia Firmaniuk–my VA out of Edmonton who organizes all my eDesign consulting for our clients–for another guest post this week.

Don’t miss the before and after of her front yard at the end of the post!


You’ve probably noticed, there is a trend towards monochrome exteriors right now. While a healthy majority of clients are looking to freshen and brighten their exteriors with white, there is also a small subset of people going for drama with black.

Taking it to right to the edge, people on both the extreme light and dark sides of this trend are opting to unify all the elements of the house with either all white or all black.


We’ve all seen the all white farmhouse look that is so hot right now (below).

Beautiful Entry! White Exterior with Cedar Shake Roof:

From Fresh Farmhouse

But lately I’ve seen a quite a few of these too.

New Zealand black house:

Via Pinterest

With that gorgeous landscaping, and clean modern architecture, this moody black looks somehow dramatic and understated all at once.

The black on black look works well on austere modern rustic Scandinavian country cottages. It’s something about the gorgeousness of nature interrupted by stark black that creates a sense of drama I think. Not to mention that black looks amazing with green.

Image result for scandinavian black house

From Small House Bliss

Another place where I think all black can work is in really urban settings. Like this below.

luxuryera: “ Black Ocean Firehouse | Source ”:

Via Homme Classique Tumblr

Notice how the black ties in with black elements on the attached neighboring buildings. A dramatic statement in an upscale setting. The ornate details of the building become sculptural interest with the all unifying black.

 All black is a big statement. It will draw attention to itself, whether positive or negative, for sure. This means, it needs to be done well and with intention. It’s certainly not for everyone, and it needs to say, “a designer or architect was here”and to be absolutely confident and make sense with the setting.

On the average detached suburban house, an all black exterior is just going to scream trendy.

I would much prefer a more classic treatment like this (below) because after the novelty of the dramatic black wore off, I know I would crave a change. And novelty and trendy are one and the same. But I would never get tired of my house if it looked like this.

Image result for white heritage house exterior

From Better Homes and Gardens

The monochrome trim and body look tends to look better on houses with very clean and simple features. The trend is really all about a refreshing simplicity. And simplicity is bold and modern, that’s the appeal.

And, while the black on black houses are striking and interesting to look at, it is much easier to work with and more classic in white.

Classic white house with an organic-feeling garden pathway.:

From One King’s Lane

With a simple monochrome exterior colour scheme, the landscaping can be the real star. Too often, people think they need to get all creative with their exterior colours and finishes, and by the time the landscaping goes in, it’s all too much, and the look is far from classic.

Lovely Cream Exterior:

 Another pretty monochrome house in cream From Satisfying Spaces Blog

Classic all white houses create the perfect backdrop for beautiful landscaping.

I live in a neighborhood full of simple little post war bungalows. Architectural detail is limited to nil. Built mid century, the design goal here was affordable housing with modernist simplicity. The appeal of my neighborhood is location.

I see many attempts to create contrast and interest with creative trim colours, and false shutters and little strips of stone or brick. It always looks contrived, and at the end of the day, the best looking ones tend to be the simple all white ones or the ones that have been renovated with nice current broad trim and porches or portico’s for interest and contrast.

Image result for pretty cottage porch

A pretty portico update for a small house from Southern Living

Since we’re not doing a major renovation in the near future, I’m working on painting the my little bungalow all cream for now so it looks fresh and clean. You couldn’t even see the front of my house because of four overgrown spruce trees.  This week we finally had them taken out, I’m so excited! The front yard currently looks like a clear cut though 😉

Here’s the before:

Tricia’s front yard before

and After

Now that our little shack is exposed, it is definitely going to need some help. I guess now we need to take down the Christmas lights which you couldn’t see before haha. My head is already spinning with ideas for the yard.

This is my garden in my backyard last summer (below), it is a bit wild for sure, but I’m really missing it right now. The snow is finally gone, but everything is still dusty and bleak. I can’t wait for the green to emerge in the next few weeks! And then I can tackle the front yard 🙂

Image result for maria killam how to fix your white room

It’s important to consider what you have in terms of architecture when choosing an exterior colour palette. Architectural style and features, contrast and placement are major considerations when choosing the right colour scheme for your exterior. The most common mistake is to find inspiration in a brochure or on Pinterest that is a poor fit with the style of your house.

Most often, simplicity is best, and that is what the monochrome trend is about.

Thanks Tricia for such a great post about black and white exteriors!!

If you would like help with what colours would work best for your house, check out our exterior eDesign consultations here. Or learn how to pick your own colours with my Masterclass for Exterior Colour Selection here.

1834 pins


  • Beth says:

    Taking down *all* trees thrills someone? It makes me incredibly sad – for wildlife, the birds, for small critters who need shelter. Eliminate all nature? It’s barren. I don’t get it. The only time in the many years I’ve followed Maria’s blog…

    Wait a minute. It’s April Food’s Day! Got me.

    • Sarah says:

      I was thrilled to have our trees removed. Not every tree is healthy and well sited. After several windstorms spent praying that a large branch or a whole tree not fall on our little house, it’s a relief to have them gone.

    • Tricia Firmaniuk says:

      Hi Beth, it’s not without that awareness that we had the trees taken out. They were old, diseased and dangerous. One came crashing down in a windstorm. My back garden is full of trees and native plants and I leave all the seed heads up all winter for birds and a heavy layer of leaf mulch for habitat. I’m looking forward to creating a similarly lively landscape in the front now too 🙂

    • Jackie says:

      I lived through a wind storm where 100 foot Douglas fir trees were dropping like flies and will never forget the tree that fell on our neighbor’s house. Trees can be replaced.

  • Bea says:

    We’re about to paint our 100+ year old house all white. It’s a front porch, stucco on the bottom with cedar shakes on the top style farmhouse. Our trim is already in BM White Dove. Is there a “rule” with old houses and whites to make sure that the body doesn’t get too bright white? I’ve seen that happen on older houses and my gut shouts “wrong”!

  • Sarah says:

    Oh! I’m excited to see what you do with your front yard, Tricia.

    We have a small 1940s ranch (pale blue with white trim) and recently had several large trees removed. Our front yard is pretty barren and we’re feeling a bit exposed, but I’m excited to do something beautiful like your back yard.

    Yay spring!

  • carol T says:

    I think a couple of trees on the outer edges could have been left and made it look more homey
    but I’ll reserve judgement til I see what is done with it. I would think the space calls for some
    shrubs for sure. Hope you show us the after pictures when its completed.

  • Kathy says:

    I’m not a fan of the all black look, especially on a historic building. The house with the red door is Italianate, not colonial, from about 1860 and traditionally painted in light stone-like colors. The black is going to fade and will be a nightmare to cover over. Although it is fun to do something different, longevity of the paint surface is an important consideration for any house. If you pick a trendy dark or very saturated color, it isn’t going to last, and that is a problem with an exterior–the more layers of paint you have, the more likely it is going to crack and peel and eventually require total paint removal, which is a real pain. Old masonry and wood houses aren’t made to be painted on a whim every few years and it gets expensive.

    I do like it on moderately sized modern and contemporary structures, and near-black stain or the Japanese technique of Shousigiban of burning and oiled cedar siding can be attractive and long-lasting.

    • Tricia Firmaniuk says:

      Thank you so much Kathy for the correct term for the style of the black heritage house 🙂

  • Diana mclean says:

    Black house – remember what happens with our favorite outfit – the little black dress. It must not have bit of lint on it and then it is perfect. The elements of dirt, sand dust and pollen unblack the black house to dirty gray unless u have yardmen to power wash ur home weekly.

  • June says:

    Good job on the tree removals. A few years ago we took out two huge firs that dropped branches in storms and dwarfed our house. Now we have four Japanese coral trees and a red bud. Lovely and more in scale with our home.
    Your neighbors are probably thrilled with the removal. Our neighbors have enormous cedars, which drop debris on our yard and roof almost year round, causing us lots of yard work. Plus they COST us plenty–for roof and gutter cleaning services. In our jurisdiction we cannot trim overhanging branches without neighbor’s approval. (It’s clear they love their trees so we’ve backed off. And they are lovely people.)
    At our beachplace, we had a 6-foot diameter spruce go down in a storm. By the grace of God, no damage to people or homes, though it did take out a neighbor’s lawn furniture, which we replaced. Nice people–they bought everything on SALE!!!

  • Rae says:

    In New Zealand, the all black exterior is very popular, often with new builds. I think often it gives a modern rustic look, as the cladding tends to be board and batten, or cedar. Also the all charcoal grey look has taken off for those not quite willing to do the black. I love your blog and read it religiously.

  • Joanna says:

    I’m not a fan of the all black house. It seems foreboding. It would look great for one night a year – Halloween. The black downtown building makes it stand out in a sea of beige. Kudos!

    With the removal of those giant trees, your house will shine. I know from your beautifully landscaped backyard, that your front will be a showstopper once it grows into it’s own. Enjoy your light filled home!

  • JoyceBinAtlanta says:

    Nice post about simplifying exteriors through paint. Painters start here this week on our ‘European style’ stucco house. We’re having the early American shutters removed, and the funny eyebrow trim over some windows painted the same color as the house to try to make them less obvious. Removal is an expensive proposition. The house will be a creamy wheat yellow that is the same color as our entire indoor main level. Taking advice from another recent post, I’m having the door painted shiny black (it is shaded) because we have a Chinese black cabinet in the entry, and the oriental rugs seen as one enters the house have black borders. Like you, Tricia, we had to remove 5 very large trees from our front yard last month. Ours were dying pears and Leyland Cypress. As a certified master birder, I worried about the birds and wildlife. I’m so happy you showed us pictures of your back yard. You definitely have a bird and small animal sanctuary back there, and I’m sure you will soon have a lush front yard also. Good luck with your project. Take pictures.

  • Jill says:

    I like white exteriors; I like white interiors! (or white adjacent). I’m really warming to black window frames (not appropriate from all contexts) especially for interiors. I guess time will tell about the black/dark exterior color – I think in most cases it is likely a mistake. I liked that you said ” it needs to be done well and with intention”. I also like that you said “most often, simplicity is best”.

  • Lana says:

    I absolutely agree with your observations about improving upon the plain-old post-war bungalows like yours (and mine). It bugs be when people take a trend like vinyl siding (in the past) or like stacked stone now and slap it on for an ‘update’. It’s a tricky thing to improve something without overstating a trend or an unrelated style. I like the idea of a monochromatic scheme in a pale, neutral. Hmmm… I might just go pick me a colour right now! Pashmina? Sea Salt? What shall it be?!

  • Claudia says:

    Those black houses are really awful, in my view. Other houses on the street will depreciate in value because of them — because, who wants be the neighbour of Count Dracula, ha ha. No good.

  • Andrea says:

    I’m thrilled that you did a post on monochromatic homes as I’ve been thinking about something like this for my own home. I live in Alexandria, VA and haven’t seen the trend here but I was in Charlottesville, VA recently and saw quite a few homes painted in a dark monochromatic way. I saw only one black house – it was very modern and looked fantastic. But then a dark blue on a farmhouse and another in charcoal gray. They were stunning and sophisticated.

    We have a farmhouse style home with partial brick facade and aluminum siding. Built in 1963 the builder used reclaimed brick so although it has an orange undertone the faces are irregular with blue, white and black splashes of old paint. I’m considering repainting the siding and windows in dark blue or charcoal while leaving the brick intact. Do you forsee any issues with that idea?

    It takes a lot of courage to remove large overgrown trees – bravo to you. We spent the last two years removing everything from our half acre lot that was invasive, ugly, or a volunteer growing in the wrong spot. It was quite an effort. What we are creating in the newly cleared area is and will be so much more hospitable as habitat and so much more beautiful…I can’t wait.
    One thing I’ve learned through the process is that nature is very forgiving. I look forward to seeing what you create !

  • Gail M says:

    With the backyard so lovely, I have no doubt that the front will be the same within a year or two. I am also a certified master birder but totally understand the hazards of trees that are too large for yards and unsafe for everyone. What you have done with the backyard makes up for the cutting down in the front. I wish I lived closed to you, I’d be begging for a couple of those trunk remnants as they are perfect birdfeeders.

  • Lenora says:

    The trees made the house look dwarf size. Even trees in the forest eventually die and new life sprouts. I totally agree with taking the trees down. Those trees would make it impossible to grow grass underneath them and they cause a lot of havoc on your roof. Common sense says “take them down” and replace with new landscape.

  • Our house desperately needs to be painted. I have been mulling over all white. I went all white inside and love it. It is a mid-century modern and may just pull the trigger. By the way, we had violent windstorms in Southern California this year. MANY, MANY old trees came crashing down on houses, people, roads and cars. We are having city inspections left and right and the “killer” trees are coming down. Trees have an age and a lifespan. New ones can be planted, life goes on.

  • Sheila says:

    Tricia ~
    Great post. I am excited for you and the changes to the exterior of your house.[I am a tree lover too but trees need to be in proportion to surroundings]
    I especially like this post because it is relatable. Most of us don’t live in McMansions and hiring an architect is not in the budget. Your design solutions (colour and landscaping) will captivate us. Keep us posted and good luck!

  • Elaine says:

    I’m in the market for a nice cream colour exterior – any guesses on the lovely cream colour used on the house with the lady and dogs…

  • Cynthia says:

    So appreciate your comments about the color / architectural style etc .
    However here is a question… what is the “architectural style” of the Lower Mainland BC 1980’s 2 story stucco special?

    • Cynthia says:

      You can never find it in definitions of home styles, not ranch, craftsmen, Victorian, colonial etc.

  • Josie says:

    Black exteriors are inexplicably trendy here in Sydney NSW, and hugely impractical in a place with summer highs over 45C. Nothing like a black brick house with a black metal roof to make you wish you were dead.

    I’m fond of the all white. Planning to do our place in a white-on-white scheme. Just haven’t pulled the trigger on which whites.

    Would love to see your front yard with some more appropriate, healthier small trees. Just promise me not Bradford pear! How great would white-barked birches look in front of a cream cottage? Or yellow twig dogwood?

    I’d love to know your take on foliage colours for landscaping – the blackish purple/burgandy darks, and the lime greens? I have just bought a black-foliaged white-flowered crepe myrtle, and I love it as a foil to a green garden… but I know some people find dark foliage oppressive.

  • Sue says:

    It’s sad to see all them trees go, I’d of personally left a few on the left side, Trees are homely not only to you but for nature too! It’s a shame but wow your back garden truly makes up for it, great post Tricia!

  • Mid America Mom says:

    This post has been on my mind. Our general area of town is a mix of age and style 1860- to about 1940. A few homes have like all gray or green and I just want to yawn with boredom. My kids, not even in high school, comment the same. Well it makes repainting the wood clad homes much easier!

  • Loved your sense of colors Maria, specially the beautiful contrast between exterior and interior of the home, when the window is open.

  • Liza G. says:

    What about garage doors? Should they be the matching white?

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