Here’s What Color to Paint Your House, According to Its Architectural Style

published Dec 18, 2021
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During the early days of the pandemic, in the absence of bar hopping and returning things at the mall, I became especially interested in houses. On walks with my dog and drives to the grocery store, I began habitually taking stock of the distinctive mix of window treatments, timbering, brickwork, and roofing details separating one architectural style from the next.

House watching is something of an inexhaustible hobby. There are dozens of residential styles of architecture, according to the National Association of Realtors, and each one represents a specific point in history. While there’s certainly personal preference and popular trends to consider, it doesn’t hurt to take architectural style into account when embarking on any kind of renovation, including a routine paint job. 

I checked in with Andi Morse, founder of Morse Design, and Paige NeJame, owner of CertaPro Painters of the South Shore and Boston, to find out the exterior paint colors they recommend for modern, traditional, and transitional homes.

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Modern architecture prioritizes function over form. It encompasses a few familiar architectural styles, such as Craftsman, Ranch, and contemporary homes. Morse says you can go one of two ways with a modern-style home. “Keeping it light is best for resale, but a dark modern home is a gorgeous and striking look,” she says. Think dark grey or black, such as Benjamin Moore’s Graphite, Gravel Grey, Iron Mountain, and Iron Ore.

Morse adds that for a modern home, it’s sometimes best to keep landscaping to a minimum, as it can distract from the clean lines and sleek aesthetic typical of the style. “You want your home to stand out and be bold,” she says.

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Traditional homes draw influence from historic styles, such as Colonials, Cape Cods, Georgians, Victorians, and saltbox houses. Generally speaking, Morse recommends a classic color palette for this style family. “I think classic white with black shutters is a win for curb appeal as well as resale. It doesn’t matter if it’s painted brick or siding, it always looks beautiful and never appears dated,” she says.

The most common house style NeJame deals with are Colonials. “Traditionally, the trims of Colonial homes were painted white or cream,” she says. “To increase curb appeal, think about painting the trim and body the same color. Painting window sashes and grids dark colors, such as black, bottle green, and burgundy is another subtle touch that can amp up curb appeal.”

Meanwhile, for homes with shingles, clapboard, or other wooden siding, NeJame suggests “Nantucket Grey,” which is a weathered grey that can be achieved using a bleaching stain. “Traditionally the cedar shingles on Capes were left to naturally weather and grey, but leaving shingles to weather on their own, without protection, shortens their life,” she says. “Today, we can achieve that same weathered look on your shingles using products that also help protect them and prolong their life.” 

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Transitional-style homes incorporate aspects of both traditional and modern styles. The transitional style lends itself well to a variety of color palettes.

“I think keeping it light with a neutral color, such as Benjamin Moore’s White Dove or Sherwin-Williams’ Agreeable Grey, contrasted by black windows and doors is a gorgeous look for curb appeal and resale,” says Morse. She adds that if you choose to go light, consider light shutters, trims, and sashes as well. “You can also go one shade lighter or darker than the main color so everything blends well,” she says.

Conversely, you could opt for a bolder look with a dark exterior paint, such as Benjamin Moore’s Essex Green. “In this case, keep the windows and doors dark too,” she says. “Dark green exterior looks great with black windows and doors. If you go in this direction I think it’s best if you have plenty of trees and landscaping in the front yard so it blends more with the surroundings. The curb appeal will be fabulous.”

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: These Are the Best Colors to Paint Your House Based on Its Architectural Style