Choosing Exterior Paint Colors for Our Old House
As I write this, painters are working on our house -- which means we chose colors and we’re well on our way to a completely new look.
Our last post was all about paint color inspiration for our Dutch Colonial house. Since then, we finally settled on our colors: Enamored by C2Paint for the main color and Linen White by Behr for the trim.
So how did we end up with this color scheme? We had a general idea of what we wanted (dark with light trim) but we made quite a few considerations before settling on the general scheme and the final colors.
Age, Style, and Region
One of the first things I did was search for historic colors from the early 1900s, or as close to 1915 as I could get. While I knew I wasn’t going to follow historic guidelines perfectly, I still wanted to know what colors would be timeless and somewhat period-appropriate.
Old House Online has a fantastic series about exterior paint colors for different types of historic homes. For us, this was a great place to start just to get a general sense of the style and direction.
There are also color palettes that are distinct to certain regions. Behr has a helpful feature within their color exploration that categorizes exterior colors by region. Your local paint store will likely be able to tell you what exterior colors are popular in your city or region.
Visualizing our Color Palette
If you don’t have an eye for color, that’s okay! There are tons of tools out there that can help point you in the right direction.
One tool I always use both in my home and professional life is Adobe Color. If you find a color you like, you can use Adobe Color to find it and look at different shades, complementary colors, and more.
Considering the Neighborhood (and the Neighbors)
Now I know what you’re thinking:
This is AMERICA. I can paint my house whatever I want!
Except I don’t want to be that asshole neighbor that paints their house bright pink like we live in Miami (we don’t live in Miami). I also didn’t want to be annoying and paint my house the same colors scheme as another house on the block and feel like a copycat.
So I took a cue from all of my neighbors. Directly around us, we had pale yellow, brick red, pale gray, and slate blue-gray. I saw lots of earth tones and Craftsman-inspired color schemes. I also saw occasional punches of colors, like muted turquoise and soft purple.
After looking around my neighborhood, I felt confident that a dark brown would strike a good balance of fitting in and adding variation. So we went for it!
Climate and LRV
I had a great conversation on Instagram with Lauren (@heirloomsathome) about LRV, or light reflectance value. When applied to exterior paint, LRV is a measurement of how a color reflects light and absorbs heat.
In general: dark paints have a low LRV. They do not reflect light and absorb more heat. A low LRV paint can make your house retain more heat. Light paints have a high LRV. They reflect more light. A high LRV color will keep your house on the cooler side.
Now, I’m in Syracuse, New York. We have cold winters and hot summers, but it’s generally pretty cloudy here. We don’t have air conditioning, but we have shade thanks to some big maples around us (thanks, City of Syracuse!) and when we open the windows we can get a good cross-breeze.
In the end, LRV wasn’t a huge factor for us. But it might be for you! Google it and read up to learn more.
Those are the main things we considered when choosing a house color. Once we settled on brown, we collected paint chips, purchased paint samples and starting narrowing our choices. But more on that next time!