How to Choose the Best Color for Your Home Exterior

Row of houses depicting how to choose the best color for your home's exterior.

We’ve all seen it: the Smurf blue house in the middle of a block of tan or white houses.

If that is not your house, you immediately wonder how they landed on such a bold color, and why.

Did they paint the whole house before they realized how it would look and then it was too late to go back?

Most of us could avoid making that mistake, even if we live in places where local codes don’t dictate our color choices.

However, let’s face it. It is much easier to make a mistake choosing your home exterior color than it is to choose a color scheme that will make your neighbors say, “Wow, that looks amazing! How did you do that?”

Often, homeowners stay on the safe side with a palette of browns and tans, but some may say that’s boring.

It might take the eye of a professional designer to bring out all that your house has to offer and make it shine. However, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Look at What You Can’t Change

The next time you drive home, look closely at the houses on your block.

Consider how many trees are around your house, and how tall they are. How do they interact with your view of your home?

Look at more permanent architectural elements: roofing shingles, sidewalks, driveways, brick or stone features, and more.

Unless you plan to do a whole renovation, or you are re-roofing your house at the same time, your new house color will need to consider these things.

Is your roof tan or brown, or is it gray or charcoal? A brown roof has warm undertones, but a gray one has cool undertones. Your new color palette should be chosen accordingly.

Take a close look at the other houses on your block. Are they safe beige, tan, and brown?

If so, consider how much you want your home to stand out. Remember: it can stand out in a good way or a bad way.

Maybe you would like to keep to a more neutral palette for the sake of your neighbors, or perhaps you want your house to pop. It’s possible to do both!

Such things as trees, or how far back from the road, your house sits will affect the color as well.

If your house is in deep shade, you might want a brighter color to make it stand out in the shadow.

If your house is close to the street, you might not want something as bold and imposing.

Architectural Style Matters

Many types of houses support a wide variety of color choices. However, some styles look better with the colors meant to go with them.

Do you live in a Queen Anne Victorian? How about an American Foursquare, Colonial, Midcentury Modern Ranch or Cape Cod?

Paint companies offer historically accurate paint palettes many architectural styles, and that’s an excellent place to start.

It’s not always bad to think outside the box for a new color. However, it is also a good way to bring down the value of your home if you get it wrong.

Think of a Palette Rather Than a Color

There is a reason I say palette rather than color, and it’s also the reason it’s often worth the investment to hire a designer.

To make your home pop, you need more than just one new color on every surface.

A home’s exterior has many elements to it:

  • Roof
  • Gutters
  • Soffits and fascia
  • Trim
  • Doors
  • Balconies
  • Balustrades
  • Porches
  • Gables
  • Dormers
  • Chimneys
  • Foundation
  • And yes – siding

Often, houses have challenging elements to work around – like a chunky split level or a garage that sticks out.

Basic Design Principles: Best Color for Your Home Exterior

Here are some basic design principles:


Home exteriors often benefit from some sharp contrast in color. Contrast is fashionable right now with the modern influence in design, which is why muted palettes are looking dated.

The contrast could be achieved as easily as having white trim with a grey exterior. However, there is a wrong way to contrast, such as painting your front door, trim, and shutters all the same bright yellow.

Harmonious Whole

A neutral or natural palette can still look contemporary and beautiful. If staying conservative is your thing, look for softer colors and creamier whites to complete this look rather than stark white and black.

Update your tan exterior with a shade between grey and tan, often called “greige.”

Three Parts

Think of your paint job as three separate areas:

  • The field color, which is the primary color;
  • The accent color for gables, doors, and shutters; and
  • The trim color for around windows, doors, fascia, rails, and columns.

The most significant contrast should be between the trim color and one of the other primary colors. If you are opting for a neutral field color and a white trim, it’s okay to go a bit darker for the accent color.

Or let’s say you have a white house or a brick house. Let the trim color frame your home and choose one other color for the front door or shutters.

Bringing it Home

Hopefully, this little guide helped inspire you in your search for the right house color. If you have any questions about new siding, roofing or windows and live in Southeast Michigan, we will be happy to help!

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