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Count the Colour Mistakes - Exterior Paint Sins From My Neighbourhood

Posted by: Heidi Nyline

So far, I received a pretty warm response about my new series Not So Nice in My Neighbourhood. Mind you I haven't heard anything from my neighbours. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

So are you ready for my first neighbourhood house?

Here it is.

If you were expecting a flesh colour garage door, you're going to have to wait for that beauty.

This house actually is the house that sent me over the edge and convinced me to break my silence. I figured it deserved the inaugural spot.

Every time I walk by it drives me nuts. In a lot of ways it is worse than the flesh colour garage door. And no, it's not the colour choice. It's the where the colour is.

It is like the painter just randomly decided where he should use different paint colours.

Count the Mistakes

I won't deny that the trim design of this house creates a bit of a challenge for deciding on proper colour placement but I can count 9 mistakes where the colour was used wrong.

  1. The siding on this house is two different colours. The "field" of your house is the area that dominates the most surface. Generally it is siding, stucco or shingles. Here it is a combination of shingles and siding. It all needs to be the same colour.
  2. There are actually three colours of paint on this house. The garage door and the siding beside the front door are darker than the trim but not enough so that you can clearly distinguish the two colours. On a house of this size and detail, it should be no more than two colours (not including the front door). One for field and one for trim.
  3. The band board across the top is inconsistent. This should be trim colour, including the top of the pillar. But actually...
  4. The whole pillar should be trim colour. It is the only way that you can tie that big front window that has a partial pillar detail on either side. And really...
  5. That pillar detail beside the front window is so wrong. The painter tried to repeat the dark pillar by painting a cut line (and a bad one at that) across the band board. There should be a law against this. The whole area around that window needs to be trim colour.
  6. The knee brace on the gables should be trim colour. My guess is a lazy painter didn't want to spend the time to do it properly.
  7. The garage door is the wrong colour. This is a tricky one because really in a house like this, the garage door should be treated as part of the field due to its dominance. The problem is that a dark garage door will fade faster so most homeowners will opt to paint it the lighter trim colour.
  8. The boards above the garage door are all treated like field. Again, this is tricky because if it isn't handled correctly, it could look like stripes of colour. Not good.
  9. The window on the second floor is trim colour. Technically this is painted right but when you look at a house and see something that isn't aesthetically appealing (like the boxy trim on this window) sometimes the best thing to do is blend it into the field.

Really the solution for this house is to reverse the trim and field colour. The trim should be dark and the field the lighter colour. That would allow the garage door to remain the lighter colour and address the striping issue above it; the pillars could stay dark (probably what the homeowner had originally requested) and the second floor window wouldn't stand out. It would also tie into the stucco along the sides and back of the house.

It goes to show the difference between hiring an experienced professional painter and one of those student paint companies. A good painter not only knows how to paint but they know where colours go. When you paint hundreds of homes every year, you learn things. What is trim and what is field. What should be dark and what should be light. 

Thinking this was a good colour transition is proof this painter didn't know colour placement.

This cut line is proof this painter didn't know how to paint.

I watched the guys repaint this house last Fall so I know that this wasn't a DIY job. That is what irritates me the most. The homeowners deserved much better advice.

Doesn't hiring professionals to do a job mean you should get professional advice?

Even if a homeowner makes a suggestion of where they want to put colour that is wrong, a professional can help explain the right way to use colour to get the best results and look for their home.

About the Colour

I don't dislike this house colour. It could be tweaked a bit to relate more to the stone and roof but this isn't a colour choice to complain about. I love the burnt orange planter the homeowners have in the front entrance (maybe minus the Christmas decorations in it in April). It compliments the maple tree and lava rock in the front yard and works with the roof colour. I would love to see the front door of this house in a beautiful burnt orange or rusty red to pull it all together. It would add that perfect amount of curb appeal to this house and stand out feature to make it shine on a street of houses all so similar.

So there is my first piece of neighbourly advice. Understanding the difference between the field and trim of your house and what to feature and what not to feature is just as important as getting the colour right.

Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the next installment of Not So Nice in My Neighbourhood.

You tell me. Too harsh for my first neighbourhood house thrashing?

Posted by: Kelly @ DTTDidc
Great post, and great explanation of what colours should go where and why. Whenever I'm out walking in the neighbourhood, I'm always critiquing to myself what houses have good & bad curb appeal and why. I do like houses that stand out because their exteriors are different than the other houses, but now I can see how putting the wrong colours in the wrong places can make a house look choppy and unbalanced. And I wish more people would paint their front doors a colour other than white! I agree, a

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by: Marsha
Can you really blame the painter for the whole mess? Maybe, the painter offered them his/her professional advice and the homeowner chose not to take it. They are responsible for the poor workmanship. This is an awesome post.

Hi Marsha,

You are right, it is possible that the homeowner wanted it done that way but honestly a good painter wouldn't do that kind of work. They would explain to the homeowner how the trim should be properly dealt with. I guess I am not a believer that the customer is always right.

Posted by: Chris
I love it. So many times people just don't know what they don't know and trust the painter to make the right choices. This is clearly an example of how a proper color consultation would have resulted in a much more pleasing end result. The problem is, the HO's are probably happy with it because it is painted, when it could be so much more!

You are right Chris. This is the result of not having a clear understanding of the project before painting started. One of the most important parts of a colour consult is addressing colour transitions and colour placement. Those are decisions that need to be made before there is a paint brush in hand.

Posted by: Sue F
OMG that transition is soooo bad. What were they thinking??

Hi Sue,

I would bet that when the homeowners were picking colours they decided they wanted the pillars dark but the painter didn't really pay attention to the transitions until he was already painting. It was a bad choice probably made on the fly.

Posted by: Hannah Dee
Am I also seeing orange mulch? This is a major pet peeve of mine, it looks so unnatural.

Hi Hannah,

Sorry, its red lava rocks. Not exactly natural to our area either.

Posted by: Jean Molesworth Kee
Yes... is a bit of a mess when the eye is drawn in a million different directions. Quite a few rules broken here and I agree with most of your points. many planes of roof I stopped counting. Needs to be calmed down and simplified for sure. My eye goes where it really should NOT-- to that line of contrast around the garage door. A very diplomatic thrashing... keep 'em coming.

Hi Jean,

I blame the painter for this mess. The homeowner needs to be able to rely on the painter to know how to apply colour properly when it comes to trim and field.

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