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APRIL
1
Wednesday

What color is your house now? Also, are there houses in you neighborhood with colors you like?

Much as I really like a house with a darker body and lighter trim, the colors of my own house reverse this. Because changing colors that drastically is both time-consuming and expensive, I've limited my color choices to stay within this combination. I determined that I liked the body color, but completely hated the trim. It's what could charitably be described as light raspberry. So I began keeping my eye out for colors on houses we were painting. I found my trim color on a stucco Arts and Crafts house in St Paul. My own home is a Queen Anne with wooden siding, but the stucco and clapboard..

Much as I really like a house with a darker body and lighter trim, the colors of my own house reverse this. Because changing colors that drastically is both time-consuming and expensive, I've limited my color choices to stay within this combination. I determined that I liked the body color, but completely hated the trim. It's what could charitably be described as light raspberry. So I began keeping my eye out for colors on houses we were painting.

 

I found my trim color on a stucco Arts and Crafts house in St Paul. My own home is a Queen Anne with wooden siding, but the stucco and clapboard on the other house have roughly the same color tones. It's a deep brown with overtones of purple and red, and tends to change in the light. I love it. I haven't quite worked out what color I'm going to use on the gables, but that's another point: not all decisions have to be made together.

 

Some decisions are easy. I worked with a woman who knew right away the color of her shutters, and the rest of the color choices were made around that. This is somewhat unusual, because usually people know their body and trim colors first, and then agonize over the accent colors. I once repainted a sample bracket no less than six different times, until the homeowner found the accent color she was happy with. You may think I'm straining to make jokes at her expense, but I'm not. Keep looking until you find your color. Better to paint the one bracket six times than all the brackets twice.

 

Back to my original point: drive around your neighborhood and look at all the color choices your neighbors have made. Neighborhoods have characters just as surely as individual homes do. While you are welcome to scoff at the Joneses, the homes in your neighborhood are most likely built in the same era, lived in by people demographically similar to you, and possibly even built by the same builders. Houses in Powderhorn tend toward dramatic colors and riotous urban gardens. The sweet little prairie school house we painted a color the homeowner referred to as “Push-up orange”, after the frozen treat, worked beautifully in that neighborhood. The scale of the house is small, so brighter colors pop without becoming overwhelming, and the neighboring houses were mix of varying colors and styles. It's one of my favorite color choices.

 

If you find a house you like, get out of your car, walk up to the house, and ring the doorbell. You may feel stupid and weird, but ask the homeowners what colors they used. I have done this in the service of color selection for clients, and people are almost always friendly, flattered, and happy to drag you down in to the basement to look at their paint cans. If you can't stand the thought of talking to strangers, at the very least walk up to the house with a fan-deck and try to find the color in that deck that most closely matches the colors on the house.

 

Do not do this from a distance. I can't emphasize this enough. One of the reasons it is so hard to choose exterior colors is that there is something about the intensity of sunlight, living things and open skies that makes colors misleading. Exterior colors are almost always darker, more intense, or more complicated than they look at first glance. I was incredibly surprised when I matched the body color of my house to a sample chip, and then brought that color inside. I would have said, with credible certainty, that the color was a light cream. Not so, not even close. It's a deep cream, with overtones of umber and apricot.

 

As another thought experiment, bring inside a collection of leaves from outside. Try to get a variety, from spring greens to dark leaves. Consider how variable and unreal they look inside your home. This is the summer landscape your house will be seen against, the context for your colors. Go look at your roof, your sidewalk, and the houses next door. I talked in my last post about how environment should affect your choices; this is an extension of that. Your environment is also made up of people making their own, personal color choices, and your house is situated in a community. This is why choosing colors is so terrifying, and so darn fun.