Black: Sophisticated, Modern, House Color?

January 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Just like the LBD (little black dress), black houses are popping up all over and with predictably dramatic effect. The trend seems to be particularly hot in Southern California although I’ve seen it in Massachusetts too. Why black? Well, why not.

-Black as a house color fits into any neighborhood and certainly stands out from the myriad white, yellow, and beige houses already out there.

-Black looks terrific in the winter if you have snow in your area. We all know how dirty white houses can look even after a fresh snowfall.

-Black can make a small, insignificant ranch look modern and even spacious. Add a pop of bright color to the door and you have a stand-out in the neighborhood instead of a ho-hum been-done-before.

-Black, like white, makes any color look good. Imagine the opportunities for vibrant landscape color along the foundation of a black house.

-Black is a color to consider if you plan to paint your red brick rambler. If you’re tired of the tract house vibe, why not make a major statement.

When does  black on the house NOT work? When it starts to fade unevenly and make the house look like charred remains of a terrible event.

If you decide to paint your house black, you must prepare to keep the paint fresh, the lawn mowed, the weeds pulled, the clutter corralled, and the driveway plowed because your house will create quite a sensation on the block. Nobody will drive by without noticing. And that’s kind of fun.

Bored with beige yet? Consider black.


Brick House Trim Colors

December 26, 2012 § 337 Comments


Creamy white trim with black shutters (and door) give brick houses like these on historic Nantucket Island in Massachusetts a classic traditional look that is timeless.  But for a more contemporary look, use the brick itself for your trim color inspiration. Choose a color that you see in the brick or the grout– tan or taupe or another earthen color. If you select a color from the brick, it will blend with the brick and provide less contrast than the white. The overall effect will be soothing and contemporary but it will call less attention to the architectural details. The Boston building below is hardly contemporary, but the color scheme is taken from the brick and grout and is one example of using coordinating trim colors instead of contrasting trim.


Painting Your House Red

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Painting Your House Red

This houzz piece on how and when to paint your house red (see link above photo) is perfect for anyone considering a major move to the passion color. The only point I might add is that it’s fine to paint “out buildings” a different color, particularly if the siding is different. Here in New England, we see that all the time. And with red, a little bit goes a long way.

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!


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!

Long-Distance Decorating! From the US to Iraq and Back!

February 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

It’s not every day I receive a phone call from Iraq to work on a house in Atlanta but last April I did. The guy on the other end of the line had started renovating a house for his mother and was making all the decisions long-distance. Imagine that! Working with a builder on a house renovation is a challenge when you’re on-site —  but from thousands of miles away? And for his mother? I was intrigued.

After the builder chose an unapproved yellow for the new addition (see Before Photo on right), my “soldier friend” (as I call him) was not pleased and asked me to come up with a new color scheme for the exterior.  And we did not stop there. By way of blog posts, emails, photos, and occasional phone calls, we  moved on to porch, shutters, and even the garden shed. Then we moved inside to make paint color decisions, choose light fixtures, and decide how to update the kitchen and bathroom.  He sent me photos of options he found online and I gave my advice.

From Iraq to Boston to Iraq and on to Atlanta. The power of the internet is making long-distance decorating possible.

P.S. His mom loves what we’ve done so far! And she loves her son! Success!

When Roof Selection Becomes a Headache

October 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

roofselectionWhoa! Does anybody else get a headache from this dizzying roof and brick combo? Although selected for the brochure of one of the major roof manufacturers, I find this photo to represent all too many not-so-great roof decisions. The brick in this home is very busy since it has a lot of color variation. Adding the color variation from the architectural  shingles takes the house (and it’s big!) way over the top. An alternative might have been a more traditional roof with less color variation that would complement the brick and not clash with it. And that alternative would have been cheaper too!

If you have a brick home with a lot of color variation and you’re trying to decide on a roof, consider the whole look before making your selection. Avoid going with a trendy roof style just because the neighbors are doing it. Consider your house style and the effect that the new roof will have on it. If you need help, click on the If I Can Help You page and we’ll work on it together.

My Old House is Just Not Me

August 20, 2008 § 25 Comments

Many of you have a modern aesthetic. You like clean lines, unfussy details, neutral colors, and minimal furnishings. You probably should have moved to a downtown loft space, but you are now part of suburbia. You write in that you’ve decorated the inside of your new home to reflect your taste, but the outside is a disaster.

If you are stuck in an exterior from another era when brick facades were popular and split levels were all the rage, or if some weird architectural detail haunts your house, the easiest and cheapest solution is to paint. For example, if you now own a split level with one-half brick and the other half siding, it’s okay to paint the house all one neutral color to modernize the appearance from the street and actually make the house look bigger since it’s no longer broken up visually.

NOTE: If you own a home that is either listed on your town’s historic register or is in an area of period homes, then do not alter the exterior except to maintain its historic value. Chances are that if you live on the main street in your town and have purchased an older home, the town’s historic commission has already contacted you — they will tell you exactly what you can and more importantly cannot do to your home. Before you renovate the exterior, be careful of “upgrading” to cheaper materials, styleless features, and “modernizations” that will come back to haunt you when you try to sell.

Changing a color palette, however, may be a relatively safe way to modernize without destroying the home’s history. If you live in a colonial but have modern tendencies, you can reflect your modern taste in your house color palette. Choosing three or even four colors off the same paint chip for your siding and trims or painting your house and trim all one color reserving a vibrant shocker for the front door can give even a “boring” (to some) old colonial a modern personality.

Consider Your Home’s Roof Color: A Major Design Statement

May 31, 2007 § 385 Comments

Not too long ago, roof color was black — or a shade of black. Today, coordinating roof and house colors or choosing a new roof can be quite a project. So many choices and expensive ones at that. It is important to make a wise decision to avoid a long-term design disaster.

If you’re due for a new roof, congratulations! You now have a chance to select your roof color from the myriad choices that are available. Here are a few guidelines and considerations:

Traditional Shingle Roofs

  • Gray or blue house.  Stay with a traditional roof color like dark gray or black. That way your roof will blend with your house and make the whole structure seem bigger. Any other roof color will stand out too much and make the house look chopped up.
  • Cream, tan, or light brown house. Consider the many brown roof options, some of them with a mixture of browns that really make the house look updated and terrific. A brown roof will blend with the cream or tan and make the house look bigger. Black and gray roofs just look ordinary. A brown roof looks like you actually planned out your entire color scheme.
  • White house.  Dark gray and black are traditional, but they work. Blue is also a terrific option. Red or green metal on a white farmhouse give a traditional country look. Bottom line on a white house: you have lots of options.
  • Red, green, or yellow house.  You can go either way, a brown or a gray/black roof. I prefer a brown roof for red and green house colors and a black roof for a yellow house.

Of course, the same suggestions apply if you are stuck with your roof color and are looking for a paint color for the house.

  • Black/gray roof.  The ideal house colors are gray, blue, white, and yellow.
  • Brown roof. The ideal house colors are cream, tan, brown, red, green.
  • Green roof and other colors. You can either use the roof as an accent color to the house or try to blend it by using a lighter tint of the roof color on the house itself.

Nontraditional Roofs

What about metal roofs? They’re all over Colorado, Upstate New York, and other areas of the world where snow on the roof is a major factor in the winter. Metal roofs come in a rainbow of colors, from red to green to brown to purple. If you have a metal roof, you are making a design statement (whether you mean to or not, of course) and you can treat it as an accent color, kind of like picking a front-door color. However, if you do not want to call attention to your metal roof, choose a natural roof color like dark charcoal, bronze, black, or brown instead of a color like blue.

What about terracotta roofs? These are traditionally seen on Mediterranean style homes and are a definite design feature. Keep the house color neutral to highlight the beautiful roof and the other architectural elements that are undoubtedly present.

Other nontraditional roof materials. Just like a thatched roof on an English cottage, a nontraditional roof is a design feature of the home. Hopefully, you want it that way. Choose a house color that makes the roof look like you planned it as a feature.

Regardless of what kind of roof you have, make sure you consider it when making house color decisions.

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