Choosing the right exterior color scheme for your home is as much an art as it is a science. The home's architecture, surrounding houses, landscaping and exposure to sunlight and shadow all influence color choices. Perhaps that's why we see so many white houses. White is a safe, if somewhat uninspired, choice.
We asked "The Color Doctor" John Crosby Freeman, a nationally recognized architectural consultant and color expert, to write a prescription for four Richmond homes in need of a color makeover. Freeman, who helped create Sherwin-Williams' Preservation Palette, has written â€¨thousands of color prescriptions for homeowners.
Here are the doctor's orders, using Sherwin-Williams paint colors:
Late- â€¨Victorian home
- Freeman specifies â€¨a soft and pretty monochromatic color scheme for this neoclassical, late-Victorian home in Bon Air. He uses colors from the 1887 range of Master Painter Colors, which can be found in the existing Sherwin-Williams color selectors. (Master Painters was a professional trade organization of painters and decorators from which today's Painting and Decorating Contractors of America developed.)
- Remove the accent shutters. If the old shutters survive, install them on the original hinges, â€¨visible in the photo.
- Accent colors for the original shutters could be SW 6438 Dill for the louvers and panels with SW 6440 Courtyard â€¨(a dark shade of Dill) for the entry door and the framing of the shutters.
- Paint the siding (except dormers) â€¨SW 6142 Macadamia.
- Paint the porch/veranda â€¨SW 6140 Moderate White
- Paint all of the dormers, the â€¨ceilings of the roofline cornices â€¨(soffits), the vertical boards of â€¨the side gables, the window â€¨casings, the side lights of the entry door, and the porch/veranda floor (including its fascia boards) â€¨SW 6158 Sawdust.
- Paint the remainder of the roofline cornices, the framing of the side gables, the corner boards (including their brackets and â€¨adjacent downspouts), and â€¨the framing of the entry door â€¨SW 6160 Best Bronze.
- Paint the ceiling of â€¨the porch/veranda â€¨SW 6757 Tame Teal.
South Side Brick Ranch
- Freeman suggests using earth tones that harmonize with the red-brick ranches so typical in many established Richmond neighborhoods.
- Paint the siding of the gable an elegant weathered brown: SW 6102 Portabella. (One of today's most popular colors.)
- Paint the roofline trim, gutters and downspout, porch columns, entry door casing, window â€¨casings, window box, and ladder trellis â€¨SW 6069 French Roast.
- For fun, paint the entry door SW 6342 Spicy Hue.
- Eliminate the accent shutters, especially those flanking the picture window, because their vertical accents interrupt the horizontal energy of the architecture.
- Install a full-width flower box under the sill of the picture window and plant it with â€¨cascading material.
- Install a handsome but simple ladder trellis with three vertical rails. Make its width at least 1-1/2 times the width of the windows flanking it. Plant two varieties of clematis: Henri for spring and â€¨Penticulata for autumn.
- People who live in small houses can indulge in brighter, richer colors. Here's Freeman's eye-catching color prescription for this charming cottage â€¨near Carytown.
- Save the money and keep the porch green.
- As an homage to Richmond's Mediterranean heritage, paint the body of the house â€¨SW 7706 Creole Cottage, a grayed tint â€¨of red that is not too aggressive in its pink-ness. (A safe body color would be â€¨SW 6113 Interactive Cream.)
- The best family of colors for trimming most tints of red is warm gray. Freeman is fond of the grays found on S/W Strip 1, featuring â€¨Master Painter Colors SW 6003 Proper Gray and SW 6004 Mink.
- Paint the top rows of siding and the â€¨roofline trim Master Painter SW 6013 â€¨Bitter Chocolate. This will also be â€¨the front door color.
- Paint the brackets (except the recesses), the cornice ceiling (soffits), the veranda floor (including its fascia boards), the stairs and â€¨entry door casing Master Painter â€¨SW 6004 Mink.
- Paint the windows and the recesses of the brackets Master Painter SW 6003 Proper Gray.
- If the veranda ceiling is painted, take some of the veranda color and mix it into white paint to make a true tint.
This classic bungalow has a full-width front veranda tucked under an extension of the front roof. A ground-hugging horizontal look is the essence of a classic bungalow, Freeman says, and the color scheme should emphasize this. He suggests:
- Paint the siding (except dormers and veranda ceiling) SW 6673 Banana Cream.
- Remove "ear muff" accent shutters.
- Paint the veranda railings in two colors: dark rails SW SW6433 Inverness (which is the same color as the veranda pillars) and a â€¨lighter tint for the balusters, SWSW6430 Great Green.
- Paint the gutters and downspout the â€¨major trim color, SW 6433.
- Paint the veranda floor the same â€¨color as the window and door â€¨casings, SW 6067 Mocha.
- Paint the veranda fascia boards â€¨the same color as the entry door, â€¨SW 6069 French Roast.
- Paint the gable peak, which might have decorative shingles under the vinyl siding, the same color as the veranda floor. (The dormer colors are intended to reduce the perceived scale of the large dormer and relax it somewhat into the black roof.)
- Surviving beam extensions â€¨are accented with the door color (French Roast â€¨SW 6069) as well as any â€¨surviving brackets supporting the side gables.
Consultations with the Color â€¨Doctor are available through â€¨oldhouseauthority.com. During a consultation Freeman will discuss your color preferences and areas â€¨of concern before analyzing photos of your house and writing his color prescription. He's also available to neighborhood associations for on-site group color consultations.