Monday, July 28, 2008

What is the Ideal Way to Choose Exterior Paint Colors?

Every day I see it happen - people wander in looking for paint colors, but they don't really know how to go about doing this. Soon their eyes glaze over after looking at the chip racks, they grab a bunch of chips or brochures and leave. Ack.

Unless you have a very clear idea of what color you are looking for, it can be a very stressful exercise to search for the perfect exterior paint color. The outside of your house is so darn visible to the rest of the world, so the pressure to not make a mistake rises. Plus, it's not like you are picking up a gallon or two to redo a room, but likely fifteen or twenty gallons are needed to complete the job. So the cost adds up.

Here's what I do:
When it gets near the time for me to repaint the house, I start touring neighborhoods of similarly built homes. This way I can see what other people have done, and take inspiration for my own abode (or avoid the mistakes that someone else has already made!).

You can even bring a fan deck with you, so you can make color notes of different color schemes you see along the way. Or snap a few pix.

Next, go to the store armed with a few color concepts that you'd like to try. At this point, you probably don't have anything set in stone, so think about being open to new color combinations and ideas that the staff might suggest.

When I am looking at exterior colors, I ALWAYS bring the chips outdoors to look at. Find an area out of the direct sunlight, though. The direct sun is not ideal for looking at paint colors - it lessens the contrast of colors and strains the eye. Yes, I know that the house will be in direct light for much of the time, but when looking at colors, go for indirect light.

Look at your colors in combination with each other. If you are choosing a body color, trim and accent, you'll want to view them as a grouping. Color is all about relationships, and individual colors can be very influenced by the way they are used together.

Here's another tip: Choose the body of the house to be deeper that you might think you want. Color is reflecting out into the atmosphere (as opposed to an interior space where the color reflects upon itself), and lessens in intensity outside by about 2 full shades. So, go a bit deeper. Otherwise, it'll look wishy-washy once its painted.

Once you have pulled together a scheme or two, its time to test the color at home. Those small chips you see in the store? Won't work. You need real-scale samples of the color to see what is going to happen.

Many paint companies offer sampling programs, often times I even suggest investing is a few quarts. You'll want to paint the color on more than one side of the house, and view it in many different lighting conditions. How does the color look in the morning compared to the evening? The sunny side of the house versus the shady side? What does the postman think (mine was very ready with an opinion!)

What about the paint itself? You get what you pay for. There really is a difference in high quality paints compared to their lesser brethren. The best paints include high quality resins and raw materials that means a better paint film is left on your siding. Plus the color retention is better, too. So it will look better and last a whole bunch longer than the cheap stuff, and the price difference isn't that much compared to what you are getting in return. At our store, we sell mostly the good stuff, so naturally I suggest this. But some of my favorite customers are those who have had experience with inexpensive paints first - because once they try a quality product they NEVER go back!

Good paint won't spit on you either. It actually spreads easily. And stays on the house, not on you. Paints without fillers means the film weathers better. Who can complain about that?

Flat or Eggshell sheen?

It depends. I love the look of flat painted houses, and I love the durability of eggshell-sheen homes. If you live nearby a busy road, go for eggshell, by all means. That's what I did, and it was so easy to hose off. But if you have a home that's all about drama, then flat might be your choice.

When it comes to trim I like a Satin or Semi-Gloss sheen. I LOVE front doors in GLOSSY sheens. It adds that extra touch. Varying the sheen levels also creates some visual interest, even in a monochromatic scheme.

At our store, we have a color board that we have created to help get the conversation started. It shows a number of different color combinations ranging from the tasty taupes to the racy greens. We have Color Consultants who make house calls - and that is the best. It helps us to see your home, its surrounding and understand the lighting conditions. Then we work with you to create your ideal color scheme right then and there. All told, it takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half for the consultation and then you are well on your way. Helps take the stress out of the process.

Color is very important, and we understand the need to make the best choice possible. I love arriving home and being greeting by my house - and the combinations of colors can do a lot to create that 'curb appeal' or even camouflage 'character' issues. Not an issue to be taking lightly is it?