Q. I was always under the impression that houses should be painted a muted color - white, off white, light blue, etc. Now we have several neighbors who have painted their houses very bright colors. Is this a new trend and considered acceptable?
A. Houses have always reflected, in their color, the culture of their owners and geographic location.
In the Mediterranean, homes are known for their bright, sunny colors. Williamsburg, Virginia is known for its creative use of colors for each and every house ever since its inception.
My recommendation is to look at the entire house as a whole, being aware of all the materials that make up the structure, and use colors that unify all the components. This process is so much more important than choosing your favorite colors.
Let me give you some examples. My daughter lives in the rolling hills and narrow roads of Maryland. It is a beautiful country, however, there is a downside. The new homes that are springing up everywhere have owners who have chosen only red brick facades with white or beige vinyl siding existing on the other three sides to keep costs down. The houses lack charm.
The nonexistence of large trees and shrubbery make the appearance of the houses seem very harsh. The solution to this is to not use brick at all and put the money into more detail to the facade or use a brick softer in color with siding that is similar in tone to reduce the contrast. Now, one sees the house as whole, not just brick and three plain sides.
Another example of inappropriate use of color on the exterior of a house is the one my husband and I purchased several years ago. It was a long, one-story house with a large sloped roof set in a wooded environment. The window frames were painted white and the house was painted a blue-gray color. Looking through the trees, all one could focus on was the white of the window frames.
I chose a new color for the entire house that would minimize the importance of the roof and allow the house to blend in with its surrounding environment. I came to the new color by comparing color swatches to the bark of nearby trees. Now the house is in harmony with nature and the landscaping, not the house, is the main feature.
A tip when choosing colors for your home is to take a photograph of it from the street. Next, overlay the photograph with tracing paper and use colored pencils to create different color schemes until you are satisfied with the total result of the house's appearance.
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