7 Tips For Choosing Your Exterior House Paint Colors

We just had the exteriors of our house painted this summer. While the experience is still fresh in my mind, I thought I should give you these 7 tips. Exterior paint jobs are more expensive than interiors and they feel more “cast in stone,” if you know what I mean. The pressure to get the colors right is intense!

Here’s our “Before.”

cape cod house, sherwin wiliams grecian ivory paint color, #paintcolor, #capecod
paint color palette, exterior paint colors, #paintcolors


That’s the color palette we started with. The main house color was Sherwin Williams Grecian Ivory, with white trim, black shutters and a black door. The porch rockers were a barn red. It was a nice palette, but we were ready for a little more oomph this time around.


Tip #1; When choosing your paint colors, SAMPLE them on the house.


Don’t EVER go by the tiny paint samples in the paint store. They give precious few clues as to how the color will look outdoors, splashed all over a huge surface. Paint BIG swatches and layer on several coats. Look at them at different times of the day. By all means, look at photos of homes in your favorite colors. Just remember that photos on the internet are often doctored up big time.

choosing paint colors, house exterior paint colors, #paintcolors

I sampled the winning color on the porch, knowing that it would look darker in that area. It was scary because it looked pretty dark. The white trim would look poppin’ fresh, though!

how to choose house exterior paint colors, sherwin williams gray paint colors, #sherwinwilliamsgray

The color to the right up there is Dorian Gray. It doesn’t look very warm, but it was the closest color to what I wanted (you’’ll be relieved to know that the half-dead shrub in the photo has been put to rest).

Tip #2: Choose a paint color that’s darker than you think you want.

The outdoors is MUCH lighter than the indoors. Your color will not look as dark as you think it will. You also need to take into consideration the direction that your house faces. A house belonging to a client of mine is painted the exact same color as my house and you would never know it. The only reason I can come up with is that her house faces dead west and my house faces Southwest. My color came out much warmer. Much. Looky here:


compare paint colors, gray paint colors, #graypaintcolors



BOTH of these houses, above, are painted with Sherwin’s Dorian Gray. Look how much warmer mine looks! The painter double checked the paint color - there was no error. I really attribute the difference to the way the light hits the house.

Here’s a pic when the color was first going on.


gray house colors, #paintcolors

Tip #3: if using white on the trim, use a bright, clean white.

We used Sherwin’s Extra White. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It provides a crisp, clean contrast to the main color.


Tip #4: pay attention to the sheen of each color. Don’t let your painter choose this for you (he can advise, of course - our painter was a great collaborator).

This is what we chose for each color:

Body of house = satin

Shutters* = satin

Front door = gloss

Trim = gloss

*I usually would choose a gloss finish for the shutters. I like them sparkly/shiny. In this case, however, I wanted the Tricorn Black shutters to read as black as black could be. A gloss finish adds too much shine. Shine lightens up the way the eye reads the color. A flat finish would have just grabbed onto any dust and dirt (and pollen) in the air. A satin finish was just right!

Here’s the complete new palette for our exterior house paint colors:

exterior house paint color palette, #paintcolors


Tip #5: don’t forget to choose colors for the porch or deck floors and ceilings!

Our exterior porch ceiling was a very pale blue, so we always knew that when we had the chance to do it again, we would go for a stronger blue. Sherwin’s Upward did the trick. It’s not loud, but it’s blue and with the tiniest bit of gray in the undertone. I love a little gray in just about every color!

The floor is actually a stain, tinted with Bracing Blue. It’s a great exterior floor color.

blue paint colors, exterior paint colors, sherwin williams blue paint colors, #bluepaintcolors

Thank you, Sherwin Williams, for always having the prettiest blues!

Tip # 6: have fun with the front door color!

Yasssss! Black door begone! It’s now party time at the front door of Casa DeCocco! I thought of many, many, MANY colors before settling on Husky Orange for our door. The #1 consideration is that a front porch roof really darkens the look of the entrance from the street, so we needed it to be bright to show up.

Walls, shutters, trim, door - see how all the exterior paint colors are working together?

Walls, shutters, trim, door - see how all the exterior paint colors are working together?


Tip #7 Before finalizing your exterior paint color selections, be sure they work together to create the look that you want.

By this I mean if you want a sweet cottage look, like we do, then choose a palette that supports that. If we had wanted a formal look, we wouldn’t have chosen an orange door. If we wanted a modern vibe, we probably wouldn’t have chosen Dorian Gray for the main color.


End table, porch swig cushion and rocking chair cushion colors.

End table, porch swig cushion and rocking chair cushion colors.

These are the cushions for the porch swing and rocking chair, as well as some cute end tables with blue and white accents in the caning I found locally.

Exterior paint colors, front porch paint color, porch floor color, ceiling color


Then I tackled a little stencil project at the front door, just to ensure our porch has a unique touch (as if the screaming orange wasn’t enough). THEN I changed out the door mat (don’t you always find something fun at Target?) and we are DONE!


orange front door, stencil porch floor, paint colors, exterior house colors, #paintcolors

Oh gosh, now that I look at the door, maybe I should clean up the brass kickplate? Now that it’s finally cooler here in North Carolina, I’ll think about it.

It really is our Home Sweet Home.

It really is our Home Sweet Home.

One more thing - a new roof is coming in just a few weeks. I’ll post an update so we can compare the full effect!

With sparkle and texture,

Anne