Real Estate

A Fresh Look

Selecting your home's exterior paint color

Choosing a paint color for your home's exterior can be daunting. But following these easy steps you can give your home more curb appeal, protect it from the elements and increase its resale value.

Getting started

Before visiting your paint store, consider the following:

• Do you really need to paint, or could you just pressure wash? If you've painted your home within the last 5 years, you may still have a few years left on your existing paint job. If the paint flakes off during washing, it's time to repaint!

• If you don't like your existing color scheme, consider repainting the trim, rather than repainting the entire house. Brown trim on a beige house was popular 15 years ago, but if you repaint the trim in white you'll have a more updated look.

• If your home looks boring, leave the body of the house the same and just repaint the front door, add shutters and paint them in the same color as the door.

• Will you do it yourself or hire a professional? You can save money by painting yourself, but most do-it-yourselfers don't realize what a big job it is. Power washing, spackling, sanding and taping, priming and applying several coats of paint can gobble up many weekends. If you are an experienced painter, go for it. If not, protect your investment and lengthen the time between paint jobs by hiring a professional. Interview at least three licensed contractors referred by trusted friends.

• Are you planning to sell your home in the next three years? If so, paint to attract future buyers. Realtors agree that neutral colors sell homes. Paint the body of your home light beige, taupe or light gray and paint the trim in white. Add a little zip by painting the front door in black or red.

Selecting a color

Once you've decided to paint, narrow your color choices.

• Tour your neighborhood, looking for homes with color combinations which appeal to you. Take your camera and a notepad, noting the addresses of homes with attractive combinations. Take photos so you can mull over the possibilities later.

• Cut out pages from home design magazines, or dog-ear pages from design books.

• Rely on color combinations displayed in paint company samplers. Paint manufacturers know what works -- you can't make a mistake by following one of their recommended combinations.

The final selection

Select two or three acceptable color schemes, based on your research. Armed with your photos, visit your local paint store. Do your best to match your photos to the chips on display.

Purchase a quart of each color (yes, really) and return home to begin experimenting.

Apply at a least a two by three foot area of paint to one of your walls, next to a strip of trim. Make sure that the area is not chipping or chalky, and that it is clean and dry, before doing this. Then apply the trim color. Give both areas two coats and let it dry. Repeat in a different area with each possible scheme.

Before making your final decision

• Look at the painted areas in morning, full sun and evening light.

• If your home has brick or stone trim, apply test paint near those areas.

• If your driveway or walkway has strong color, stand across the street and assess the overall effect.

• Notice whether the roof color blends with your choices.

• Consider the color scheme of your landscaping. If your blooming plants are in cool colors, your home will look better painted in a cool scheme.

• Remember to keep your neighbors in mind. Pink with green trim may be appealing to you but may cause a gag reflex in your neighbors.

• Don't make a color choice under pressure. You will be living with your paint job for a long time, so take the time to feel confident with your decision.

Kit Davey is a Redwood City-based interior designer who redecorates using what you already have. She can be reached at 650-367-7370, and


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