Choosing Paint Colors for House Trim and Doors

November 29, 2012 § 448 Comments


The front door is the focal point of your house and it can make a big splash. (Even though Great Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly changed his 10 Downing Street door color from conservative black to Labour Party red as seen in this photo from the Daily Mail, evidently it was all an April Fool’s joke — see the full story at

Doubtful that changing your own front door color will create as much of a stir in the neighborhood, but you’ll want to give it considerable thought anyway.

But first, what about the trim color?

House trim color: If you have a small house and you want it to look bigger, consider painting the edge trim the same color as the house or just a shade lighter. This will blend the corners of the house in with the body and draw your eye to color — hopefully, the front door. If you want to show off the trim in a more contemporary way, consider painting the edge trim two shades darker than the house color. To accent your trim in a traditional way, choose contrast by using either white or cream. If you have a stone house, the grout color is a great trim color.

The message here is to avoid too many different hues (different colors) when painting the house, trim, doors and shutters. Unless you have an architectural masterpiece, I would avoid choosing trim colors that are unrelated to the house color (for example, painting a gray house with navy blue trim, red shutters and red garage doors). Not only will you draw attention to all the different colors themselves and away from the front door (regardless of what color IT is), but you will have visual chaos!

Exception: If you have an old Victorian home, you may want to accent all the different architectural elements with paint in many different colors.

Trim around windows: To keep the windows looking as large as possible, paint the trim around the windows the same as the window frames, either white or cream or whatever color the window frames are. Matching the trim to the actual windows will make them look bigger than if you break up the color by painting a dark trim around a white window or a white trim around a dark window.

Garage door color: Unless you want to broadcast to your neighbors that you have a three-car garage, you probably don’t want to highlight your garage doors. Standard garage doors should usually be painted either the color of the house or a couple of shades darker to “anchor” them. Plus, by painting the garage doors the house color or a little darker, your house will look bigger and less chopped up. The focus is reserved for the front door. Note: yes, metal garage doors can be painted even if they’re white when installed. Just clean the doors very well and use a good primer.

Exceptions: Garage doors associated with brick homes are often painted either the trim color, the grout color, or the shutter color — black or dark green, for example. No need to try and match a paint color to the brick. The other exception is the new carriage-style garage doors, designed to be the focal point on the front of a home. If you have fancy garage doors, it’s okay to show them off! Even keeping them white or the trim color is okay.

Shutter color: For a traditional look, match your shutters to the roof color. If you have a dark gray or black roof, black shutters look terrific. It’s like adding a touch of black to a living room to dress it up a bit. Matching the shutters to the roof makes it look like you planned your roof color as part of the overall house palette. Dark brown shutters with a brown roof color give a similar, traditional look as black shutters with a gray/black roof. And brown is supposedly the new black. But for a classic home, black will never go out of style.

If you have lots of really small windows or don’t want dark shutters, consider choosing a color that blends with the house color. Here’s one strategy: choose your house color in the medium range. Then go lighter for the trim and a shade or two darker for the shutters (or remove the shutters altogether). And choose a completely different hue for the front door. This contemporary look focuses attention on the front door. There are no distracting colors anywhere else on the house.

Front door color: It’s time to create your focal point, the front door. This is the area you want guests to find when they pull in the driveway. Color is the way to do it although a shiny black door with a brass kickplate, brass door handle, and big colorful wreath is a classic. If you don’t want black, consider a rich dark red in a semi-gloss finish. Dark red (not cherry) seems to work with almost all house colors.

Here are a few other ideas:

  • Light green house. Traditional: Dark purple door (especially nice if you have lilacs and other purple flowers in your landscape) and white door trim. For a modern look: Rusty red.
  • Dark green house. Traditional: Rusty red door or natural wood and cream door trim. Modern: Turquoise.
  • Light blue house. Traditional: Dark red door or navy blue door with white door trim. Modern: Dark olive green.
  • Dark blue house. Traditional: Maroon door (play up the nautical look) with cream door trim. Modern: Lime green.
  • Red house (or brick). Traditional: Black door with brass accents  (classic) and white door trim. Modern: Grass green.
  • Brick house. Traditional: Mahogany door with light grout color door trim. Modern: Dark purple.
  • Pink house. In the North, a charcoal or black door. In the South, anything punchy. White door trim.
  • Gray house. Traditional: Navy blue or red door with white door trim. Modern: Bright lemon yellow.
  • Brown or tan house. Traditional: Dark green door with white door trim. Modern: Robin’s Egg Blue.
  • Yellow house. Black door, black shutters, white door trim (a classic look). Modern: Dark red.
  • White house. Traditional: Black, red or other dark rich color. Modern (or in warmer climates): Any bright, cheerful color that works with your landscape plantings. White trim everywhere.

One woman I read about paints her front door for every season. It might be cranberry red during the winter, purple in the spring, raspberry during the summer, and rust during the fall. Every year it’s different.

Don’t forget the roof: Consider the roof color when you’re making your house color choices and if you’re getting a new roof, choose something that coordinates with your house color. There are many choices in roof colors these days particularly in the brown family– many more choices than just slate gray or black. Don’t pass up the opportunity to finish the job with a well-coordinated roof.

Which Came First? The house color or the foundation plantings?

October 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

Image My guess? Neither. Take a close look at the roof, and the house color palette is revealed. The deep purples and greens of that slate roof present a palette the homeowners can use for their house: rich grape for the siding color tempered by a neutral cream trim and lime green for the accent color to highlight the Victorian embellishments.

But the homeowners did not stop there. To enhance the palette and spread the accent color out onto the landscape, they planted a gorgeous lime green Hydrangea coupled with other lime green plants, shrubs, and ground-cover species. Peeking out from under all that greenery is a purple flowering ground color pulling the whole look together.

Not to be matchy-matchy or anything, but this house rocks. There’s just enough contrast to keep our interest and show off the house detail without introducing new colors that might make the house too busy. Afterall, the house itself has so much detail that you wouldn’t want it to get lost in a rainbow of foundation plantings and annuals.

Choosing Shutters and Trim for Historic Homes

November 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Historic brick homes like this one, built in 1810, have an exterior look to maintain. Many are under the control of town boards that determine what changes can be made to the house. But even if you own an old home or are considering buying one that is not in an historic district, don’t even think about replacing the wood shutters with easy-maintenance vinyl or the wooden front door with fiberglass. 

Exterior “upgrades” that only consider the time management issues of the homeowner are not upgrades at all. Instead, embrace your older home and its history. Preserve the look by choosing a paint trim color that is not too new-looking. A gray, beige, or grayed-white will give an aged look to the trim that is appropriate for the age of the house. Charcoal instead of black will give the shutters and door a faded-black look that freshens up the paint job without destroying the look of the house. Use wrought iron or brass for your metal instead of nickel (too contemporary). And use native plants for your landscaping instead of the current, most trendy flowering shrubs.

Buck the urge to over-improve with new man-made materials. Let’s preserve as much history as we can!


Choosing a New Roof Color

October 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Sometimes a house looks a little too hot for the neighborhood. And for this orange brick house in a neighborhood of other orange brick houses, the matching orange roof took the house over the top (literally!).

The cool grays and whites in the trimwork could not balance the warmth of this overall orange color scheme. To give the eye a cool compress, we chose a gray roof that picks up the many gray tones in the brick trim around the windows and doors and contrasts nicely with the orange brick. The roof is Georgetown Gray by Certainteed. Now the palette of warm and cool colors distributed evenly makes the house look balanced and pulled together.

If you are choosing a new roof, remember that the roof color is as much a part of your home’s color scheme as the siding and trim colors. Even more so because you will not be changing the roof anytime soon. It is okay to choose a roof color from the same hue family as the siding color (a brown roof with a tan house, for example). But remember to create contrast somewhere, either with the trim color or the pop of color on the front door. If you have a brick house, choose a neutral color that is in your brick or choose a dark neutral that will allow your brick to take center stage. When in doubt, seek the help of a professional in your area or write to me. I’ll help you. A second set of eyes is critical before you make that big investment.

Driving up to your house should make you say, “Ahhhh, good to be home.”

Bold, Beautiful and Blue Roof

October 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some houses whisper. Some houses shout. This house sings opera! What makes this house so melodic is perfectly obvious to everybody who drives by. It has the most incredible roof and door color: a rich sapphire blue like you’ve never seen before except maybe in the Mediterranean. We’re certainly not accustomed to seeing that color on a traditional burgundy brick colonial, usually relegated to browns and charcoals (not that there’s anything wrong with browns and charcoals — I love them too).

This house tosses conventional color schemes out the window yet manages to look both whimsical and classy at the same time. It peeks out from behind big shade trees making it even more alluring to passersby. Like a secret garden around the corner, the act of discovery is part of the thrill.  

The door color alone would be quite a find, but the fact that the roof is the same rich blue makes this house an opera star I want to discover again and again. Big applause!!

Can I Paint My 1960s Ranch?

June 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

The answer is yes! With the growing popularity of the spray-painting technique for painting houses (not just lawn furniture anymore), it is becoming easier to paint over rough, textured surfaces like brick and get a good result in a reasonable amount of time.

Check out for some great before-and-after brick house projects. In one show,  “Curb Appeal: The Block,” the designer John Gidding takes a paint sprayer to an old ’60s ranch and brings it into the new millenium.

Check with your paint store first, of course. And you might want to hire a professional painter to avoid over-spraying into your neighbor’s driveway (not a good thing…). But if you have a brick house with a) zig-zag-patterned brick; b) really obnoxious brick colors; or c) just tired, run-down plain old red brick, then get inspired! Paint will give your house a fresh new look!

Brick Historic House: Trim, Shutters, and Roof Made Easy

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

For those of you with historic brick homes, you cannot beat crisp white trim and charcoal black for your shutter color and roof. Forget about updating your shutters and installing a new multi-colored, dimensional roof. Basic black and white may seem blah, but honestly, good taste and traditional styling are never boring.

Express your own creativity in your landscaping. Keep the plantings symmetrical around the front door  to coordinate with the symmetry of your formal house design, but add color and variety of shapes and sizes. Another tip: if you do not want to match all the window treatments on the inside of the house (even though it does look spectacular on a house like this), then at least have matching white lining on the curtains, white sheers, or plantation shutters. Mixing things up with a rainbow of window colors just ruins the formal look.

Living in a historic home is not for everybody. There’s a certain expectation — I’ll talk about informal living in another post… but for now, viva la tradition!

Brick Tudor Siding, Trim, and Roof Color

July 27, 2010 § 6 Comments

Brick is one of those design elements that people either love or hate. Well over half of the questions that come to me have to do with brick: How do we work with the brick? How do we pick a siding that goes with the brick? What about roof color and brick? Can I paint my brick? How can I possibly live with this brick?

Here is a photo of an early-last-century, Tudor-style home with the signature brick gabled entry and chimney. The brick is monochromatic (not a lot of contrast between individual bricks), and it is a very pleasant dark muted red color.

The new homeowners chose an olive green siding color which complements the brick and makes it stand out as a feature on the house. (That works great if you like the brick! I’ll address what to do if you hate your brick in another post.) The muted olive siding color balances the muted red of the brick so that the house elements are in harmony (a fancy way of saying “They just work!”). Even though the windows themselves are white, the homeowner chose cream for the trim color. Cream is much softer than white and is preferable to white on older homes or with earthy palettes. And see? You can use cream trim with white windows and not ruin the house.

As for the roof, obviously this is a new roof and the homeowners took advantage of the myriad choices available to them. The muted brown tones pick up on some of the browns in the brick and again pull a very visible element of this house — the roof — successfully into the palette.

Traditional wrought iron sconces and mailbox as well as period hardware on a solid wood door provide the perfect jewelry topped off by a real, not plastic, concrete urn on the front steps for summer flowers.

These homeowners took an old home and modernized it in a tasteful way that pays homage to the home’s original Tudor styling. The result is both fresh and historic. Perfect house synergy.

Blond Brick Siding Color and Trim

April 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Blond brick and light-colored stone seem to pose challenges when it comes to picking coordinating paint colors for siding and trim. This house does it right. The taupe siding color comes right out of the aging blond brick, giving the house an updated look. Taupe allows the brick to show off its depth of color, including other shades of browns and peaches, without adding  another hue to the mix. You cannot go wrong with neutrals, especially when you’re dealing with stone and brick.

White trim offers a crisp contrast between the siding and brick and ties in the white windows, also original to the house.  The homeowners took what used to be a tired ordinary blond brick and made it look fresh and contemporary.

Brick House Trim, Door, and Roof Colors: What works

October 2, 2009 § 16 Comments

brickhouse_1The color scheme on this brick house started with, alas, the bricks (one of our bloggers sent this in). From the variegation in the pile of burgundy bricks, the homeowners picked a medium charcoal roof color (it’s in there), a burgundy front door color (it’s definitely in there), a bright white for trim to optimize the contrast against the brick and accentuate the beautiful architectural features, a coordinating specimen tree for the entryway (very nice touch), brass metal for the front door (it picks up the grout color and adds depth) and wrought iron for the lights (the dressy jewelry of the house).

If you have a brick house and are stumped by what colors to use for the trim, roof, front door, and any other siding around the house, start with your brick color(s). If you pull the color scheme out of the bricks, the whole house will come together.

A note of caution: Since many brick styles have a variety of colors in them, you may start with quite a large palette of colors. In that case, I suggest sticking only to that palette. But if your brick is monochromatic (for example, all the bricks are exactly the same one color), then you can introduce one or two other coordinating colors into your palette and avoid looking too busy. Click on the If I Can Help You page if you need help and we’ll work together.

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