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5 tips to choosing your home’s external colour scheme

Want 5 tips to get it right when choosing the external colour scheme for your home?

Choosing paint colours for your home’s external colour scheme can feel like a big commitment. Getting your home painted professionally can be an expensive undertaking, and physically it can require scaffolding, ladders and a lot of time and mess!

So, ideally, you want to get it right the first time you do it. I’ve chosen external colour schemes for more houses than I’d like to recall (!) and here’s my top 5 tips for doing it well the first time.

Tip number 1: What does your taste, and the building form, tell you?

This is a fancy way of saying that the house itself will tell you what type of colours to choose, and where they need to go. You’ll also have your own style preferences, and colours and aesthetics you’re naturally drawn to.

So firstly, think about how the house has been designed and shaped. For example:

  • Do you want your home to look grounded? Choose a darker colour for the base of the home, so it feels solid and grounded.
  • Are there any parts of the home you want to stand out more? Paint them in a contrast colour to the main house colour, to help them be more prominent.
  • Are there parts of the building that feel a bit bitsy-piecey or piecemeal? Choose one colour for those elements – they’ll seem bigger, and less cluttered, through their association with each other.

Then think about whether you want the house to have a particular aesthetic.

It may be that you want the home to have a Hamptons feel. Or a coastal style. Or to seem edgy and contemporary. Each of these styles will have a particular colour association.

Often you can paint a home (regardless of its architectural style) in a particular colour scheme to help it have a strong aesthetic more to your personal taste. This is often why you will see old Queenslander cottages painted in dark colours. Blacks and dark greys are often more associated with edgy, modern buildings. When you use them on a traditional Queenslander, you help it have a more contemporary feel.

InsideOut_cottage-exterior-daylesfordDaylesford Cottage from Inside Out [Image Source]

Tip number 2: Choose where you change colours

Although it’s still possible, it seems rare these days that homeowners choose one colour for their entire house exterior.

Think of your home in base, middle and top …

The proportions of a home – both single and double storey – can often be read as ‘base’, ‘middle’ and ‘top’. A very straightforward way to think about external colour schemes is to arrange them this way.

For example, by accentuating the ‘top’ – or ‘roof’ of your home – in a strong contrast colour, you can give your home a top that is visible. This can cap the top of your home.

If possible, don’t change colours on an external corner …

A home is a three-dimensional object, and the forms or shapes in it are too. In my opinion, when you change colours on an external corner – that is where a corner pushes out (rather than recedes in) – you break down this idea of the three-dimensional shapes and forms that make up your home, into two-dimensional planes and surfaces.

This may sound like architectural gobbledygook! Forms … Shapes … Planes … Surfaces … However, I know the way I approach designing homes is that I create volumes – that have edges and shape. Not a plan that walls are tilted up on as surfaces. So when thinking about the home in three-dimensional volumes and shapes, I think also about the colour in three-dimensions – as a continuous wrapper to that volume.

It’s also difficult for any painter to finish an external corner on a house exterior in a neat way – often because they’re painting over render or lightweight cladding that won’t have a perfectly straight edge.

UndercoverArchitect-Anderson-existing

This is the exterior of the Anderson’s home from Undercover Architect’s Project Diary. The Andersons worked with Interior Designer, TD Creative Agency, to select their exterior and interior colour schemes. Clare Anderson loved this dark inky navy colour and has used it both inside and outside. It’s applied to the face of the garage, and then upstairs to the master bedroom, which projects out over the entry to the home. The dark navy changes to the lighter beige on an external corner at the side of the garage.

UndercoverArchitect-Anderson-whitetop

An alternative could be to use the dark navy across the base of the home, continuing it on the lower floor around to the entry door, to ground the ‘base’ of the home. A darker garage door colour could have been used to make the garage door and walls appear as one object. Then the master bedroom could have been painted in a white or off-white, to highlight the ‘middle’ of the home, and accentuate this area over the entry – drawing focus away from the garaging and to the front door and entry. Fascias are again dark, to ‘cap’ the home. (This is a photo of the home edited in Photoshop).

Tip number 3: Trends change, so if choosing a feature colour, apply it where you can access it easily

If you have a love of bright colours, or stand out feature colours that you want to bring into your exterior, don’t go overboard.

Painting the outside of your home is a big undertaking. When getting it done professionally, it can be costly too. With current paint technology meaning you can get 10 years from a good quality exterior paint finish, that’s a long time to commit to that bright teal, or vivid fuscia you absolutely fell in love with.

Use a feature colour – by all means. Just locate it somewhere where it’s contained, and easy to repaint if and when you get sick of it (or sell the home to someone else).

For example, front doors are a great way to bring colour pops into your home. Low walls in landscaping are another. You don’t have to hire a professional, or get up a ladder to paint them. Get sick of it, and a well-spent weekend can totally change the look of your home.

UndercoverArchitect-coloured-front-doors The rainbowed sky is your limit when choosing a colour for your front door [Image Source: Pinterest]

Tip number 4: Create that flow

Many homeowners tell me that they want a feeling of flow in their homes – and of calm and relaxation.

One sure-fire way to do this, is in the colours you choose for your home’s exterior AND interior.

Choosing a similar colour palette for both the exterior and interior will help your home feel connected to the outdoors. It will help create that seamless flow between inside and outside, and create a sense of calm and continuity that begins the moment someone arrives at your front door.

If your external colours are too strong to use internally, consider using half or quarter strength versions. They’ll then be from a similar palette, which will work well too.

undercover-architect-blog-3

This colour scheme uses Dulux’s Bushland Grey on the weatherboards, and highlights the stucco art deco feature of the home in Dulux’s Grey Pebble. We used a half-strength of the Grey Pebble internally in the original part of the home to tie the exterior to the interior. Design by Undercover Architect – more about this home here.

Tip number 5: Don’t forget other materials can be in your palette

Often we forget that there’s the opportunity to use natural materials and their colours, as part of the palette for our home’s exterior.

This doesn’t have to be in the way our home is built. Remember your landscaping as well. A natural tile to the front door, or a low landscape wall in a great brick colour, or even a natural timber fence.

Alternatively, you may choose a metal cladding for part of your home, or a select area of timber paneling, or a feature panel of brickwork or concrete.

All of these provide opportunity to enrich a simple exterior colour palette.

Mirvac-Lot112_wl12-n

This home at Waterline uses small aluminium sections to cover the joints in the lightweight fibre cement cladding (the dark grey) to create a pattern on the exterior. There’s also naturally finished hardwood used in fencing. You can see more on this project here.

Helpful Resources

Design Seeds

If you don’t know this site, bookmark it now – and follow on Instagram. One of my total faves. Jessica creates stunning colour palettes, inspired by photographs of just about anything. The range of colours she has put together will surprise you, and there is literally something for every style and taste. You can search by colour, or just swoon over the photos you love, and the colour palettes that come from them.

UndercoverArchitect-DesignSeedsSee more here.

Dulux

Dulux have a great colour gallery you can view online to see how colour combos will work to create that look or style you’re chasing.

UndercoverArchitect-Dulux

See more of Dulux’s Colour Gallery here.

Resene

Resene has an incredible range of colours, and a wealth of real life examples of their colour schemes on their site. They have great environmental credibility for a lot of their products too.

UndercoverArchitect-Resene

See Resene Exterior Colour schemes here.

Brickworks Building Products and Austral Bricks

Brickworks Building Products have offices / showrooms all around Australia, and are your go-to destination if you’re thinking about using brick, concrete blockwork, concrete or roof tiles in your home. Austral Bricks, one of the businesses they represent, has a great feature online in their Style Boards – which show you how to put together natural materials in your exterior colour scheme.

UndercoverArchitect-AustralBricks-styleboards
See Austral Brickworks Style Boards here

What about you? Have you found any helpful resources for inspiration for your external colour schemes? Please share in the comments below!


Other blogs you may find useful …

This one will help you with communicating your wants and desires for your home.

This one gives you my top 5 ingredients for stress-free renovating and building.

Do women make better architects? You be the judge.

Want to get in touch with Undercover Architect?

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Comments(19)

  • Jody
    June 28, 2016, 12:13 pm  Reply

    Do dark external house colours make the internal temperature warmer? I’m finding conflicting information, from what I understand that dark colours absorb heat rather than reflect it however it comes down to the heat transferring which is apparently minimal.

    We have a high set weatherboard house in Brisbane and keen to paint it a dark shade of grey.

    • Amelia
      June 28, 2016, 3:00 pm

      Hi Jody,
      Thanks for your comment – great question.
      Dark colours to absorb heat more, but if you’re managing the temperature levels internally with insulation, good wall construction, orientation and ventilation, my experience is that the darker colours don’t have much of an impact. Where they do, however, is in the performance of the paint. Because dark colours absorb more heat, I find they will show wear sooner than a light colour. So, I wouldn’t recommend them on anything that is exposed to full sun. The image I’ve shown of the dark Queenslander has well shaded verandahs. I know Corinthian, the door manufacturer, won’t warrant their external doors if they’re painted in a dark colour, and don’t have a set amount of coverage over them to shade them from full sunlight.
      I hope that helps you!
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Jody
    June 28, 2016, 6:00 pm  Reply

    Thanks for your prompt reply, that’s really helpful. As our house is on a corner block and very exposed, I think we will use the dark on the trims and go with a light colour for the boards.

  • Nicola
    February 7, 2017, 9:19 pm  Reply

    This article is really helpful! I have a 2 storey rendered brick home (traditional style). I’d love to update the pallette (currently beige with black window frames). Grey colour schemes are really popular now and look amazing. I’m wondering what you think the *next* colour trend for a more “traditional” looking rendered home might be?

    • Amelia
      February 8, 2017, 12:39 pm

      Hi Nicola,
      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you found the article helpful. As for your question, I’d recommend checking out the paint manufacturers themselves. They’re great at tracking colour trends overseas and bringing that information locally to their colour palettes. Pantone also release a colour of the year each year – and this year, it’s “Greenery”. I’m also wary of painting the outside of our homes ‘on trend’ given that the paint jobs are expensive and can last a decade or more. So, choosing timeless colour combinations is always a good way to go.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Natalie
    February 7, 2017, 9:22 pm  Reply

    Thanks for this, Amelia. We are looking at colours too. I’d love a dark grey bug out full western sun exposure seems too harsh for longevity.

    • Amelia
      February 8, 2017, 12:41 pm

      Hi Natalie,
      Check out Shaun Lockyer’s work. You’ll see he uses a lot of dark colours on Brisbane homes, and finds (when the surface is prepped properly and good quality products are used), it can still perform.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Maryanne ballard
    February 17, 2017, 6:10 pm  Reply

    Hi
    I am having so much trouble with colours I have a brick home and going to re spray the roof dark grey I am currently painting the doors black and a window awning black the windows are western cedar which I’m leaving alone I don’t know what colour to do the facia board or the balustrade on the patio could you please give me advice on theses colour schemes or recommend other colours

    • Amelia
      February 17, 2017, 6:24 pm

      Hi Maryanne,
      Firstly, I would recommend not painting the roof in a dark colour. It will make for a very warm home. I would suggest doing the roof in a paler tone (such as Colorbond’s Shale Grey or similar) and then doing the fascias in the dark grey to ‘trim’ the house. You can always take a photo of your home to a Dulux paint centre or other paint supplier and get help from their in-store staff to choose colours. But definitely not a dark roof.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • HEATHER
    March 29, 2017, 7:26 pm  Reply

    Please can you guide me on colours for our Queenslander. The roof is a fading Colourbond Ironstone. The garage door is Jasper. The house has 2 tones – the front is a Wattyl “Slate” mix (greige), & has a feature Ironstone wall on the verandah; the rear is all Ironstone. Trims are Slate. Can you perhaps recommend a grey-green (sage) palette, or a complementing scheme that’ll blend with the roof?

    • Amelia
      March 30, 2017, 11:31 am

      Hi Heather,
      It’s difficult for me to make recommendations as how a colour looks and sits with other colours is so dependent on the home, location, orientation and light levels. I really recommend using the resources outlined in this blog to find the best colour scheme for you. Dulux in particular has paint colours that match Colorbond’s colours (and use the same names) and have some sample colour schemes that team up with those colours. Your local Dulux trade centre can always help, or check out their website online.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Julz
    April 5, 2017, 3:49 pm  Reply

    My designer has suggested using brick for the exterior of my new home. Can you recommend any impartial sites, articles or similar that can help me make an informed choice for colours, textures and costs?

    • Amelia
      April 11, 2017, 1:22 pm

      Hi Julz,
      Brickworks represents lots of businesses in the brick and paver industry, and it’s a great resource for seeing a variety in one place. They also have design studios you can visit, and see the materials in person (and take home samples). You can also speak to one of their Design Consultants to get advice.
      Otherwise, I’d suggest Lunchbox Architect for lots of examples of brick architecturally designed homes in their “Brick Collections” album, to see the different colours.
      As for costs – the best way is to speak to the supplier.
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Matt
    May 9, 2017, 8:04 am  Reply

    Is there any golden rule on choosing a new external house color when you have a silver / white roof? Our house is rendered block with corrugate roof. I have an idea of light grey and some dark grey on the pillars in the entrance. The front of the house also has some pillars built on to it at the sides to give it some shape and i was thinking of doing them too.
    Your thoughts?

    • Amelia
      May 9, 2017, 4:56 pm

      Hi Matt,
      A silver / white roof is a great colour roof for most colour schemes – so really no golden rule. Ideally you want colours working from the same base, or from complimentary colours (remember the colour wheel you learnt at school?) Head to your local Bunnings, or Dulux store, and check out how they’ve teamed those roof colours with other colour schemes. You’ll probably see dark grey houses, houses in more earthy (but still cool) tones. Even white and pale houses. A light grey would work well – perhaps you can tie the dark grey up onto the fascias as well, so the pillars don’t feel bitsy in the darker colour. Best wishes with it!
      – Amelia, UA

  • Sandra Hexner
    June 28, 2017, 2:47 am  Reply

    We just moved and need to improve the curb appeal. We will be painting our home a bit more modern like the Anderson home, where there will be grays, navy, and cool colors. We want to contrast that with a brick driveway and hopefully we can find a bricklayer soon, so we can choose the right color to go with everything. Thanks for the tips and leading me in the right direction.

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