Saturday, March 6, 2010

Which house color looks best with foliage?

We're planning to paint our house this summer. Of course, the burning question is: what color?

Three main color considerations are: 1) contrast with our neighbor's houses; 2) sensitivity to our home's age and style (modest 1956 ranch);  3) a color that enhances the brick details and the foliage that we're gradually adding around the house.

Our north neighbors have a soft-teal bungalow with cream trim and brick-red details.

Our neighbors' big house to the east has a pale-gray body color, white trim and navy details.
We have the limitation of existing white vinyl windows, so we know our casing trim will be white.

Enter the Sherwin Williams-Visualizer. This clever software lets you upload a photo of your house, then select any number of areas on the picture to "paint" with a selected SW color. It's simplified Photoshop, but the work of figuring out opacity is done for you, and the result is surprisingly realistic. Screen color is the biggest limitation, but it really helped us get the effect of a range of colors on our house.

How about a dark sage green?

Slightly lighter green?

How about a bright aqua blue? Very mid-century modest.

This is nice, but is trending too close to our north neighbors' color.

This is a greened-up version of the color above, and green foliage looks pretty nice in front of it. It could work.

I think this is the perfect mid-century color: Burma Jade. It's got great contrast to the foliage. But that's a pretty saturated color for the amount of siding we have. Could I get used to it? Could my neighbors?
Light green was extremely popular in the fifties and sixties. Why can I not get past thinking of it as "hospital green"? But foliage looks good in front of it, and I like it with our brick trim.
This chocolatey gray-brown is easy on the eyes, but may not be lively enough to really enhance the foliage in front of it. There may be too much contrast with the white trim. And it's not very mid-century. But I like it.

Here's a color I wouldn't have thought I'd like, but the deep blue-green looks good with the brick. Foliage seems to disappear up next to it, though.

Dark brown. Maybe for a bungalow, but I think it has a sort of cabin look I don't love on our ranch. It would make me want to plant all golden-leaved plants in front of it ... hmmm.

Harvest gold. This is another of those colors I have a hard time with, but I may be coming around: it looks good with the reddish brick. And look at how nice the foliage looks in contrast. A variation with less saturation could work.

And finally, a deep gray-green. I see houses painted like this and I love the effect. But is it mid-century sensitive? And our foliage completely goes away in front of it.

The next step will be to narrow our options. Then we'll get quarts of the paint to try them out on parts of the house in addition to the front facade you see here.

Input is welcome!
If this were your house, in which color direction would you be heading to enhance the garden?


  1. Wow, we are going through exactly the same thing! Our list (almost the same as yours: neighbors colors, house style, foliage compliment, white storm window frames and gutters) has us tending toward a taupey green brown. I am going to check out the Sherwin Williams tool, thank you! As for the Harvest Gold it make me think of the Olympic Mills Commerce Center building down by the river...and the appliances in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. Don't think I could live with it.

  2. Tricky! I rather like the aquas,I'm Glad i 've got a brick house

  3. So much fun to see - I want to try it! I like the greens and the grey browns. I'm a fan of dark colors and high contrast, so I'll admit, when I see midcentury houses, I always picture them black or charcoal grey with a big pot of bamboo that pops against that dark background. But I know not everyone loves black as much as I do. I'm going to check it out and see what it looks like on my house, but I don't have the benefit of that mid-century cool. Good luck with the decision, it's a tough choice.

  4. Harvest gold, all the way

  5. Hi Jane~~ After I saw the "lighter sage green" I was done, meaning I didn't need to see the other colors. In my opinion, this is the best. However the white trim is too dramatic. A more complementary shade would be better.

    This was fun!

  6. deep blue green! just stick some yellow foliage plants in there and you are set.

    also, the sagey-earthtoned colors are trending out, so i think a brighter blue color will give you more years of enjoyment. and a much easier time buying stuff that matches in the next few years.

  7. Okay, my two cents - I think a smoky brown-gray-purple would be very dramatic and period-appropriate, too. It reads from afar as dark - almost black - yet has this gorgeous purple undertone that plays well with virtually everything - especially yellows, white and cream, variegated plants... The classic mid-century plant, Fatsia, would look great against it, with its large, shiny evergreen foliage - but updated with a variegated form like Variegata, Spilt Milk or even Spiders Web, w/ creamy white new growth. Great for a north or east exposure...

  8. My husband likes the sages...He's always better with colour then i am...

  9. What a fun tool/toy. I liked a lot of them, but the white trim seems a little too extreme a contrast with the darks. Like Grace, I was sold on the second, lighter sage version, but (surprisedly) found myself drawn to the "hospital green".
    My guess is that your house will slowly but surely disappear behind increasing plant material.

  10. I love this game..... My favorite was the blue/green. I am in love with the dark blues on houses. I also liked the "hospital green". I think that the color of your house is important and fun. I don't think I would go with a neutral color. You are on the corner and have a beautiful lot. I would take advantage of the lovely colors that surround you... Have fun!

  11. Thank you, everyone, for the thoughtful and helpful perspectives. We haven't made up our minds yet, and probably won't until pretty close to the painting project (after June 30, when I RETIRE!)
    I'll be sure to post about the painting project: I won't be doing a lot of gardening while I'm on a ladder!

  12. I like the "slightly lighter sage green" and the "deep blue-green" options and think that you should pick a color you like without worrying too much about period-correctness. Anything other than boring white will be nice to look at! And you can always swap out the foundation plants for things that harmonize better with whatever color you choose. We went with pale blue-grey with deep rust-red and cream accents, and I kind of wish we had been bolder with the main color. Good luck, what a fun tool!

  13. I said before that I vote for the Burma Jade, but I've changed my mind. Ben said to tell you that my neighbors had a low wall near the sidewalk that they painted turquoise and it clashed terribly with the green lawn, so I'd look twice at anything bluish. My orange house made the green foliage look wonderful, better than the house, but you won't paint yours orange. Besides, yellows tend to fade and after a while it becomes pink. You'll be looking at it from your living, dining, and breakfast room windows, so you might visualize what you want to see from there. I like Krista's comment that, since you have a corner house and a big lot, you can stand out from the neighborhood. I also told Ben that your house is not architecturally spectacular, but your garden is special and will be more so, so a setting, or background, for the garden would be my main consideration. I see that the comments from others are all over the place and probably not helpful, but on another look at your pictures, I like the hospital green, too. But that's from the street. How about photoshopping from your deck and windows?

  14. What a great tool! I prefer the look of the chocolatey gray-brown and the dark sage green. They are neutral, but they would really pop if you painted the door a bright contrasting color like red. Lovely house!

  15. 5th one down is my favorite. Seems like the dark muddy colors are better for the newer houses and seem drab on a happy mid century; especially in the NW (I'm here too). What about white? Can be very classic.

  16. I like the dark sage or lighter sage. It looks nice with the bright white windows, and the foliage.

  17. I didn't know that Sherwin Williams had this exterior feature now. Exciting! Most of the colors you've shown look really nice. Can't wait to see what you pick.

  18. Thanks for the helpful examples! We're looking for colors for our house and I'm going to try that tool now. Did you post your afters anywhere?

  19. I have a similar ranch house in Portland and love the teal color you mocked up that was similar to you neighbors. Any chance you could define that color. Rgb cymk etc... Yours computer skills to evaluate house colors is very impressive. Thanks for any help.

    1. Mark, I used this online app from Sherwin-Williams:
      Maybe you can extract the screen color info from the app. Good luck!


Thank you in advance for jumping through the annoying but necessary word verification hoop to leave your thoughts!