Advices

A Gallery of Houses, A Paint Bucket of Tips

A Gallery of Houses, A Paint Bucket of Tips

01of 17

Colors for a Second Empire House

House Paint Color Workshop: New Colors for a Second Empire House Second Empire Style House. Photo courtesy the homeowner

Readers get help choosing exterior paint colors for their homes

The houses in these photos need a new coat of paint - but, what color? In this workshop we discuss these homes and suggest new exterior paint colors. Follow the links for house color charts, house color tools, house color ideas, and resources to help you choose exterior paint colors for your own home.

This Second Empire home has a brand new roof, and now the owner wants a new color palette for the trim and siding. What colors would you pick?

From Randy LaCoille:

"My wife and I purchased this Second Empire style home in 1991 and have completed all necessary renovations to the interior and are now working on the final renovations to the exterior. Sadly, we had to replace the slate on the mansard roof and budget would not allow for new slate. We have installed black architectural shingles which really do look better than I had thought.
"Our major problem is trying to figure out the new paint colors. We both like the period shades of green or gold for the body color but can't decide on trim color. Should the trim color be a darker or lighter color than the body? Someone please help!"

Readers' Suggestions:

Trim color: The house color is beautiful. I think you show flow with a darker trim because it brings detail to the style, character, and design of the home. This will bring people's eyes to the detail and character of the home. -Guest Sandra

Colors for a 2nd Empire Home: If you like green for the body, go tan for the trim with 2 accents. If you like tan for the body, choose rusty red for the trim with dark brown for accents. -Guest Daun

From Palliser, Architect of the Era: Paint clapboards light olive drab. Paint corner boards etc. Indian Red. Pick out all chamfers beveled edges and cut work in black. Paint window sashes Venetian red. Paint the Veranda ceilings ultramarine blue with rafters Indian Red. -Guest S. Brodie

Depends on what you want to achieve: A dark color trim will make it more subdued, while a lighter color will stand out more and be a more bold statement. Personally, I like the house the way it looks in the picture. You have a beautiful home! -Guest Amber

Choose Dark Trim: I believe that I am acquainted with your beautiful home. If it the one that I am thinking of, you sit above Grove Street in a town in The Quiet Corner. I have passed your home several times while walking my dog. I am also working on a Second Empire Victorian in Central Village and have decided on a light body color (medium drab), a dark trim (Rookwood Green) and Indian Red and Old Gold accents. The shutters will be the traditional shutter green. Going with the dark trim rather than the light trim is a very dramatic combination, but is also correct for the period. I finally just went with my own scheme, keeping with the period colors and combinations. -Guest Brent

Gold, Maroon, and Green: I think a gold base color, with a maroon trim color and a third color, maybe a dark green, on the screen frames would be just beautiful! Be sure and send us a picture when it's done! -Guest Cate

Gray and Maroon: I think that a gray base color would look nice with maroon or dark red shutters and windows. -Guest Paige

Get Rid of the White: Hi. No matter what color you choose, get rid of the white window sash. A cream color like the trim is good, a dark (essex green - Benj Moore) or dark red would be best. The white stops your eyes from looking further - you lose that sense of depth. Good luck, Ken. oldhouseguy.com -Guest Ken

A Reader's Cautionary Tale:

My house is a Cape Cottage, but my color choice was inspired by a picture of a Maine fisherman's house. When we hired the painter he was supposed to paint samples first, but instead he brought us a Benjamin Moore picture of a Victorian house with the exact colors and then just started painting! What a DISASTER!!! We went with all oil - stain on the siding and paint on the trim. The house in the photo was under the canopy of trees, but ours is in full sun so the colors look completely different. The siding color is B.M. "Garden Path" but it actually looks just like the shade lighter "Antique Jade." The siding color looks great - a perfect backdrop to the Azalea and Rhododendron bushes in front of the house. My house is a combination of Board-and-Batten under the sloping roof (first floor), 10" reveal cedar shakes everywhere else, and 5" reveal cedar at the peaks (addition seen above sloping roof and dog house dormer). Trim details: The siding is "B.M.'s "Garden Path" and the trim is a dark burgundy and dark green. The burgundy was originally B.M.'s "Bordeaux" but it looked like circus clown purple on the house, so we had a custom color matched to our dark burgundy screen door. All the trim around the windows and doors and the fascia (just below roof) is burgundy. The corner boards, portico posts and portico trim below the fascia is dark green. The painter used "High Park" (based on the picture) for the dark green, but it is way too light, so I will be re-painting it in "Backwoods" which in full sun should look like "Cambridge Green." Also all the doors, including the garage doors are dark green. So the burgundy is used as a "frame" color that separates the siding from other elements (doors, windows, roof) and the dark green is for any trim between the siding (corners, ledger board), large masses (garage), and accents (mailbox, window boxes). The portico ceiling is sky blue. Hope this helps! -Guest natschultz

02of 17

Happy Colors for a Bungalow

House Paint Color Workshop: Happy Colors for an Historic Bungalow Brightly painted bungalow. Photo Courtesty the Homeowner

Are historic colors always drab? What colors would you paint this Bungalow?

"Mr. T." sends us this house paint puzzler:

"My house is a Bungalow, built approximately in the 1950s. After I painted my house, I found out it was located in an Historic District. I chose a yellow because we wanted a bright happy look that kids would favor, seeing that we ran a family child care. Well the kids loved it, and so did the parents, which was the general idea to attract child care clientele. My surrounding neighbors liked it also, but some passersby who didn't even live on the same street complained to the City. The City says, in keeping with the Historic District Standards, I must change the colors to a more subdued nature.

"How can I keep the lively image and still conform to the dull dark drab, subdued colors? What are some good happy choices for external paints?"

Readers' Suggestions:

Just small changes: I would keep the yellow, but maybe change the trim to a warm medium brown, soft copper, or olive green. Paint the porch columns in cream and you'd be quite in keeping with bungalow color schemes of the 1910s and '20s. See the book Bungalow Colors by Robert Schweitzer and grab the Sherwin Williams Arts and Crafts color samples, both interior and exterior, before you go chat with the historic folk: you'll be ready to support your choices! -Guest jeannet

Caribbean Classic: Living on the Caribbean island of Curacao, I'm used to a lot of bright and happy colors on both historic and modern buildings. For your bungalow I would choose a shady green and dark purple trim. A second option would be a light purple building with white trim, probably better in line with historic guidelines… -Guest marjory

More Earthy: Just to let you know, I'm an architectural historian and a Master's student in Historic Preservation. I can understand the complaint by the local historical board, because I agree that the colors are inappropriate for your house. They really fight against the house instead of enhancing it. I think there's nothing wrong with the color yellow on a bungalow per se. The problem is the bright color of yellow, and an even greater problem is the choice of black. Black is a cold color that never would have been used on a house like that. Plus, the black next to the yellow makes the yellow look more garish than it really is. My suggestion is to use a warmer, softer yellow, with a bit more beige in it, and then use a warm brown (like the color of leather) as your accent color. Your house would look lovely. -Guest Valerie

Patriotic Colors: How about a more patriotic color scheme… but one that almost features rich primary colors? I'm thinking that if you paint every surface that is now yellow, a rich federal blue… then the surfaces that are now a dark green (?), a vanilla… then paint that front door a "Hey, look at me!" red… your city officials may feel less threatened. You might even paint the porch the same vanilla, but paint the steps and a wide stripe from the steps to the door, the red color you use on the door… sort of a red carpet that invites folks in. -Guest Pam

Pale Yellow: How about a paler (much paler) yellow. I am sure it would pass muster (or mustard, haha) with the historic district. I live in an historic district, and I hate to say it, but if you had gotten a building (painting, or whatever) permit beforehand, you would have been directed first to the historic/architectural review board, who would have cheerfully given you guidance and saved you trouble. Those who reported you have an interest in making sure that guidelines are enforced in all parts of the district, not just their own streets. Any renegade paint jobs or renovations alter the character of the district and make it harder to enforce guidelines in the future. I am on the local review board and assure you that if you consult your review board or historic commission, they would be more than glad to give you guidance. They are a tremendous resource for the homeowner, not an adversary. -Guest Bobby

Keep yellow, tone it down: I agree with going more earthy. Softer yellow, with soft brown trim would be perfect. -Guest guest

Happy, but conforming to heritage: As some here have mentioned, the softer yellow variant would look great, and yes, I also agree with giving the historic/architectural review board a call. I bet you will be very happy with color options they can show you too. Ron. ( ;-} > -Moonpagan

Do the Research:

  • Bungalow Colors (book) by Robert Schweitzer
  • American Bungalow Style (book) by Professor Robert Winter
  • historichousecolors.com by Robert Schweitzer

A Reader's Lament About Historic Districts:

Why do we HAVE to conform? Two (conflicting) thoughts come to mind here. No. 1 - when looking at the picture of this lovely little home, I see a horrific apartment building in the background - doesn't look too "historically correct" to me! Secondly, I agree that conformity needs to be 'policed' if you will, in neighborhoods - if for nothing else, to be pleasing to the eye of the general public, not to mention property values. My home has a large front window in the living room which looks across the street to a dumpy little house in disrepair - painted the gaudiest shade of blue I have ever seen!! When I bought this house in 1972, we had a lovely little neighborhood, but this one house has fallen into the hands, numerous times, of persons less and less caring, it seems. Sadly, one home not conforming to the neighborhood can reduce property values for all the neighboring homes! I do NOT mean to imply this one does, however. -Guest Jeanharpist

03of 17

Colors for a Colonial House

House Paint Color Workshop: Colors for a Colonial House Traditional White Colonial House. Photo courtesy the homeowner

Does a Colonial house have to be white? What colors would you pick for this Colonial home? See more Black and White Houses.

From Patrick Sinclair:

"I have been told this house in Georgian Colonial. I want to get it painted other than white and want to know my options/colors to stay within historical context. I have done some research and found it looks like a mix of Georgian Revival, Colonial, and Federal. Although I don't know which one fits best. Any insight on colors and styles would be appreciated."

Readers' Respond:

Historical precedent: Colonial Revivals are not colonials. They are early 20th century adaptions. They are usually in pastels with white trim. You can also use a dark color with a trim in a slightly darker or lighter. The main goal is to avoid high contrast schemes, as these houses were a rebellion from the high contrast polychrome schemes of the Victorian era -Guest steven R

Try authentic colonial colors: One of the most amazing Georgian colonial homes I've visited is Hunter House in Newport, RI. It has a "cafe au lait" exterior with no shutters and a green door. Very modern looking but still authentic. You can also get a book called "Williamsburg Reproductions" (1989, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) on Amazon.com that shows the colors used for interior and exterior painting of colonial homes. Lots of pictures - and they're anything but white! -Bennyhannah

Pick the Colors You Want: I believe this is a relatively new home? It is quite nice looking with some nice colonial details. I especially like the pedimented front door treatment and the semi-circular brick porch. I believe it might better fit the Federal colonial or perhaps Adam colonial style. In any case there is no reason to retain the white color. I am told that white only became available during the latter part of the 19th century when the Victorian style became popular. The older colonial colors often contained an ocher tint. My in-law's 1700s vintage center chimney colonial was a deep yellow with white trim on the windows and black shutters. TOH had a colonial revival house they worked on 6-7 years ago called Kirkside in MA. They did very scientific paint research on that house and came up with the yellow & creamy white; as described; and a dark green (park bench) color for the shutters. Go with what you like however. Good Luck. -Guest Don

Builder's Colonial: Don and Steven are right - the best stylistic description of this attractive home is "builder's colonial". Both "Colonial" and "Colonial Revival" refer to specific time periods of home design. If you were to use say, Colonial Williamsburg as a model, you'd find white to be entirely appropriate. But as Steven said, in the Colonial Revival period, more color was common. -Guest RLTarch

Bright eye-catching colonial: Pale yellow with white trim, columns, shutters, etc. will really add color and brighten it up, catch the eye for more curb appeal, and adhere to historical authenticity. -Muti1

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04of 17

Paint This Victorian

House Paint Color Workshop: A Folk Victorian House What colors would you pick for this rambling Folk Victorian house?. Photo courtesy the homeowner

What colors would you pick for this rambling Folk Victorian house?

From Robert:

"We're doing a restoration and addition to our 1890s Folk Victorian Farmhouse. We need to choose exterior paint colors very soon. We're leaning toward a basic white, but there's lots of trim that we'd like to highlight. The window trim will have to be white, because we're using some Marvin Replacement Sashes with a white cladding on the exterior. We're planning on adding shutters at some point soon.
"Some details: Exterior is wood clapboard, with scalloped shingles on the bays and gable ends. There is a fleur de lis facia under the rooflines, and some decorative porch brackets."

Readers' Suggestions:

Butter Yellow: I would paint it a buttery yellow with white trim. The yellow would make the white windows and trim look very nice. Maybe some green as well with shutters or such. -aslfdioj

Fabric-Based Colors: In picking Victorian house colors for our own house, I chose fabric that I love with several colors and used this to paint our Victorian… it worked out great!!! -Guest Tsal

Deep and Bold Colors: Roberto, this is a Victorian. So you need to use deeper and bolder tones. Most houses from that period were painted with burgundies, bordeaux, and cognacs. And although Folk Victorian houses are orderly and symmetrical houses with an old fashioned flair, they represent an aura of incredible architectural outburst where intricate masonry made wood ornaments possible, resulting in the passionate nature of their expression. I do like the idea of the Marvin Replacement Sashes with a white cladding on the exterior, but I would pick a white with peach hues in it. As for the shutters, there are good catalogs featuring good choices. As for their color, I would go with crimson and match with gable ornaments, corbels, and elaborate porch railings. Black or brown roof is a must. Not an easy decision, but one you should make eventually. You may want to check for holes in your roof, too - not unusual for Victorian houses. L. Franck -Guest Liam Franck

Victorian Colors: Green roof - architectural shingles. Gray house - medium to slate. Cranberry trim. -Guest martha

Cream and Blue: I am not an expert on either Victorian houses nor designing in general, just an enthusiast. I think a creamy yellow (butter is what I call it) for the siding would highlight the white cladding beautifully, especially if you use white on your window & roof trim. I would also suggest a couple of accent colors for the porch, shutters, etc., but use two in the same color family. I think a blue coupled with a lighter blue would look fantastic with the cream and white color scheme. Good luck! -Guest "K"

Watch Out For White Window Sashes: In choosing colors for your home a great book by Roger Moss is Victorian Exterior Decoration. If you paint your home WHITE, then the white window sashes will be acceptable. If you choose period earth tones - DO NOT use white on your window sashes. The white will create sort of block when viewing your home. Darker sashes will create a sense of depth and character. Just because your windows are vinyl or aluminum doesn't mean they can't be painted. There is nothing worse than seeing a house painted in earth tones and the only white on the house is the window sashes. Please reconsider. For more information refer to Victorian Homes Magazine. There is a house color section and I believe the last issue or so mentions about white sashes. Good luck. -Guest OldHouseGuy

Consider Off-White: I would add the comment that old fashioned 'white' paints were not nearly as bright as modern whites, and they will have yellowed faster too. So an alternative to a dark colour is to use a cream or other off-white. -Guest Simon TL

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05of 17

Accent Colors for a Traditional Farmhouse

House Paint Color Workshop: Accent Colors for a Traditional Farmhouse The owner would like to add color accents to this traditional farmhouse. Photo courtesy of the homeowner

The owner would like to add color accents to this traditional farmhouse. What colors do you suggest?

Lance sends us this paint color challenge:

"Built in late 1949. Painted white stucco exterior. Dull red brick lines bottom of each window sill. I believe it is Colonial, but am not sure.
"I do not want to paint entire house. I was thinking about adding shutter details. What do you recommend? Also want to change color of shutters, and add accent colors. What do you recommend?
"How about the porch? I also want to detail it."

Readers' Suggestions:

Highlight the Reds: Shutters: Enlarge and make functioning (actually moving/ swinging) ones that match the size of the window. Ignore anything that keeps the shutter from opening all the way… it only makes them more charming and real. Very cozy look. --- Colors: Use the red to your advantage by highlighting the inside of the arches, porch ceiling, front door, and perhaps the alcove-like ledges where the windows and doors are recessed into the wall (remember, you don't have to use that same value of red… play with the different shades until you find one that's not so bold and contrasting; you could cause a brain aneurysm of a passerby by using such dark red everywhere). But the natural brick is a cool thing. Don't paint it, but if it already is, then your possibilities are endless. -- Great House!-Guest J. Meyers

Choose Soft Colors: Very nice house. 1949 is late for the style, but it looks like a foursquare with gable roof. There were lots of variations. I would go with natural soft colors like light tan, very soft yellows, creams etc. for the body and browns, reds and woodtones for trim and shutters. -- I used Duron "yellow buff" on interior "stucco" plaster in my house. It is a warm, creamy white that is almost yellow. It really enhances the texture. I considered using it on my stucco exterior, but feared being too repetitive. -- J. Myers is right: shutters should operate, or look like they could. Sometimes storm windows interfere with complete closure of real shutters, but no one would know the difference. The classic shutter color is dark green, which might be nice in your case. -- Have fun. If you make a mistake, paint is reversible.-Guest Bobby

Depends on your location: Hi. The red brick is a minor player according to this picture, so I wouldn't worry about clashes with colors. If you were my client, I would suggest painting the exterior porch walls a deep color (those under the arches). I would then paint the front door the same deep color for a balanced tie in. Finally, I would then paint the shutters a lighter coordinate than the door & porch walls. Applying the deeper colors below grounds the house, & the lighter shade above draws the gaze upwards. For a traditional look, a navy bottom and slate blue shutters would be nice (or, slate blue lower and a lighter shade off the same paint chip card would be great too). For a less traditional look, paint the exterior porch walls a deep grey, and the door/shutters the same shade - whether blue or purple-blue or red… Due to the scale/massive amount of white paint present on the house, deeper colors are needed to balance things out. Good luck!-Guest Lisa

06of 17

A Pink Victorian?

House Paint Color Workshop: A Pink Victorian House Should the owners paint their Victorian "pink"?. Photo © Forum Member "savannahlady"

The owners are restoring porches and picking paint colors for this 1902 home. What colors would you pick?

Husband wants to paint the body pink - Not too pink, but a sandy pink with brownish cream tones. Wife wonders about the gables, trim, and other details. Can this marriage be saved?

Readers' Suggestions:

Do it! What a lovely house! The color scheme as it is is very nice. I do agree that the house offers rather straight lines or pointy triangular shapes and little curvy features for a Victorian, and is more masculine in essence. A touch of pink would definitely do it! I like the idea of a deeper tan though. Although a bit of red accents could make it look pink. Any of them work. Hope this helps!-Guest Titi de la Patinesca

Don't Do It!! I think pink would be horrid on this house. the color scheme that it has already is nice. I would paint the body a slightly richer shade of tan, and play up the red in a few more accents. I think this house is more masculine and would look silly in pink.-Guest B

It could be gorgeous: I've seen historical homes use colors like what you are suggesting. Trim colors have been a maroon-brown (more red than brown, but with a brown base), white and deep green either used in combo with either other (use the 3 colors for an intense, intricate look) or just the maroon & white for a softer, yet sophisticated look. If you were my design client, I'd feel confident recommending the maroonish color combo - see Benjamin Moore's HC-61 through HC-66 paint chips for color ideas. Another idea is Benj. Moores AC-13 through AC-18 chips. There's a pinky beige color shown with blue greys, blue greens and a couple browns that would be another interesting (but not as typical) color combo. Good luck!-Guest Lisa

Think Pink: I like the idea of a pink Victorian. We are painting our house and I just asked that exact question. No response yet but I'm sure they will get to me. I think it would look very nice with a muted pink body and cream trim. I've looked at quite a few and they are beautiful. Be brave and do it. I'm going to.-aslfdioj

Try a contrasting match: Too much peach/pink- needs a contrast. Try painting the porch ceiling sky blue to really make the rest stand out and not suffocate the eyes with too much pink tones. Similar to a New Orleans pink with muted green, sky blue ceiling is not only historically accurate but will help bring out the rest of the porch details to the eye.-Muti1

Accents: Trim could be dark rose and deep brownish charcoal.-Guest Pegi

New Orleans Color: There is a lovely coral-pink that is frequently used in older New Orleans homes, with accents often in creams and muted greens. I suggest using the Google street view and strolling down the historic areas to get some ideas!-Guest Julie

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07of 17

Painted Cedar Siding

House Paint Color Workshop: House With Painted Cedar Siding House with painted cedar siding. Photo © Forum Member "kittiwakecoast"

This ranch style house used to be sided in natural cedar, but the previous owners painted the wood and the foundation a dull white. What colors would you pick?

The owners of this ranch style house are looking for color ideas for the siding, trim, and door. The roof will be re-shingled, so they'll need color ideas for that, too.

Readers' Suggestions:

Lots of choices! Wow, great house! With so many choices for a home like this, the only thing you need to remember is paint the deepest color on the bottom (if you were going 2 tone) so that it 'grounds' the house. Benjamin Moore has a wonderful Audubon Russet color (HC-51) that could be used as a base against accents colors in green or smoky blues. Another great choice would be BM's 2144-30 Rosemary Sprig. This is a mellow green with a yellow base and can be used with black accents or even reddish-brown/burnt orangy accents. Whichever way you go, it will look awesome.-lisaapb

Siding color: I bought a house 25 years ago that had redwood siding, both horizontal and vertical. Unfortunately, over the years it had been stained with an opaque stain in a russet brown shade, so the only thing I could maintain it with was the same type of opaque stain. It does look pretty good, but I will always regret that the original wood was completely obscured this way. The stain I used was Olympic Overcoat flat latex in Russet. This is a good quality paint and will last a long time. Of course, this will not work over a previous oil-based paint! If that is your case, you must use some sort of oil-based finish to avoid incompatibility.-madlilviking