Exterior Paints, Accent Colors
Draw attention to the front of the home and accent those elements that make a beautiful statement. Things like decorative support brackets, scrollwork on cornice boards, flower boxes, shutters, interesting trim along the roof-line or detailing around doors.
By Stacey Enesey Klemenc
“You’ve got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
Elim-my-nate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-between.”
— A verse from the 1944 Johnny Mercer song,
“Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive”
A carefully chosen exterior color scheme — with its accents placed as proficiently as a well-crafted French
manuscript — can make a plain-Jane house quite appealing and an architecturally endowed one a real knockout.
“The rule of thumb is to call attention to a home’s interesting details and obviate the things that aren’t attractive, like gutters and downspouts,” says Linda Trent, director of color marketing and design for The Sherwin-Williams Co. in Cleveland, Ohio.
Attention-grabbing garage doors are Barbara Richardson’s pet peeves. The director of color marketing for ICI Dulux Paints, also in Cleveland, says the most hideous garage door she’s ever seen had a pair of martini glasses painted on it. “Maybe it has something to do with people loving their cars and wanting to highlight that area,” Richardson says, “but unless you have a beautiful, unusual garage door don’t draw attention to it.”
Both women agree that the front entrance tops the list of what should be accented. “The entrance-way is the most important aspect of a home. It makes a statement about the people living there and a welcoming statement to guests who visit,” Trent says.
“You should draw attention to the front of the home and accent those elements that make a beautiful statement,” concurs Richardson. “Things like decorative support brackets, scrollwork on cornice boards, flower boxes, shutters, interesting trim along the roof-line or detailing around doors.”
Just like any good thing, however, you can overdo accent colors. According to Mary Lawlor, color design studio manager for Kelly Moore Paints in San Carlos, Calif., overuse “can cheapen a property and add a chopped-up look.”
“Pick out areas that you want to bring attention to the most,” advises Richardson. “You can have a beautiful burgundy or blue for the door and maybe the shutters — and that’s it. Don’t use it for the window trim and everywhere. You need places where there’s visual relief, areas where the eye can relax.”
If you’re standing at street level, you don’t want your eyes to dart this way and that because every nook and cranny is accented. In many cases, as that old advertising jingle goes, “A little dab’ll do ya.”
“You need to establish a dominant focal point where the eye is drawn to — namely the entrance,” Trent maintains. Remember to be prudent with what you accent: “If you repeat that color elsewhere, it needs to be downplayed.”
Instead of using a vivid color for an interesting detail, you could take a different route.
Some of today’s homeowners are choosing a monochromatic scheme, painting the body and trim the same color. It creates a very contemporary look, colorists agree, and Trent says she’s recommended it on more than one occasion, with only the door accented. “It’s an unusual approach but pretty subtle. Yet, it can be really attractive. Basically, you rely on shadows and the home’s dimensional aspects to create contrast.”
Whereas people tend to be fairly conservative with the body color, Trent adds, many are moving toward two accent colors. “No one wants to have the house that no one likes,” she says. “By staying neutral on the body, you can liven up the look with more than one accent color.” Lighter colors will highlight details that project from the surface, while darker shades are best used to accent recesses.
Homes with a deep-tinted body and an off-white accent can create a “wonderful dramatic look,” says Lawlor. “You don’t see it much in mass construction because the cost is huge if you need multiple coats. But it can be very effective for individuals who want to set themselves apart.”