Exterior color tips

Better Homes and Gardens magazine offers these color tips to consider when selecting paints for house exteriors:

One bold accent color on a traditional home does not always destroy its conservative appeal.

Houses painted in a single hue can appear boring. Using a different shade on its shutters or another accent feature can enliven the look.

Very large houses painted in very dark colors can appear too imposing. And very small houses painted in very light colors can appear too floaty.

Whimsical color schemes usually work best on small cottages.

Mary Ann Lutz had lived in her St. Philip Street house for seven years when she decided it needed a new hue.

She had it painted in a shade of salmon, which looked just fine, unless you were a block away.

“When you got away from it, it was blazing neon orange,” says Lutz, an artist who makes children’s dolls and bears.

“I said ‘Holy Cow!’ Was that a miss?”

Charleston homeowners who choose bold colors are not the norm, Loretta Bryan, decorative products specialist with Sherwin-Williams, says.

“Typical colors here are tans and beiges. Some may go out of the box a little bit. But it takes a lot of courage to be different in this area.”

Those who choose something different often limit that choice to a bolder accent color, she says.

Lutz visited a paint store on a Saturday and saw a collection called “European Colors.” She chose the purple shade within five minutes, even though she never saw a house painted that color while living in Europe.

A passion for purple

She chose the purple on a Saturday. And Monday morning she went to the Board of Architectural Review office, paint chip in hand, seeking permission to paint her house purple.

Lutz visited the BAR while work was being done on the house next to hers, she says.

The BAR staff looked at the photo of the house next door and could see the orangey mistake on hers, she says. They approved the purple immediately, she says.

“Mine is not a historical house,” Lutz says of the home built in 1996. “I really didn’t have to jump through hoops. They just wanted me to change the (salmon) color that was on it.”

Convinced she’d love the purple, Lutz didn’t test her decision by painting a few areas to see how the color would look. She had the entire two-story house painted without stopping.

That was four years ago.

Today, both she and the neighbors are fine with the purple house trimmed in white, Lutz says. The color has made the house a landmark for the College of Charleston students who live across the street. In addition, she often hears tourists outside her house talking about the color as they take pictures of it.

Lutz jokes that the color is in the spirit of First Baptist School, where she teaches art part-time, and purple is a school color.

“I love purple,” she says. “I think it’s a good purple.”

A jewel of a color

Emerald and Charleston greens are not colors everyone would choose to paint their house, but Michelle Caldwell loves it. She painted her house those colors a few months ago. They remind her of ones she saw growing up in Massachusetts.

“It was kind of scary at first because it came out so dark and has the dark trim,” says Caldwell, co-owner of Litaker Jewelers. “I am originally from Manchester-by-the-Sea and a lot of them were that dark brown and darker greens.”

After testing several greens in spaces on her home’s exterior, she decided on emerald. Her mother encouraged her to pair it with Charleston green trim, which at first glance can look black.

“I basically just went ahead and did it,” says Caldwell, who prefers the current colors to the previous gray with a hint of green and white trim. “Everybody who walks by my house says it’s a great choice. I did have one neighbor who criticized me, but I don’t care about him. I don’t want to be just like everybody else. It makes me feel comfortable.

“We don’t have a home owners association,” Caldwell says. “I don’t think it would have gone over well with an HOA.”

It makes the house pop

Jack and Deborah Brooks were planning a move from Folly Beach when they saw their West Ashley home for the first time, he says. The color of the house just sort of popped out at them.

“It had been totally renovated,” she says. The inside looked as good as the outside. And his wife decided on the spot that they would buy it.

The wall color is Chalmers and the trim cobblestone, both from the Historic Colors of Charleston collection, says Jack Brooks, a retired medical systems engineer. The six-inch thick walls and Chalmers combine to give the house a terra cotta look.

“We have been here for six years, and if we did repaint it, we’d probably go back to the same color. I feel very good about the look. We walk a lot and when you come around the corner, it just really kind of just sticks out there.

She really liked it

“I really, really liked it,” Tara Cox says speaking of the intense mustard yellow shade on the house she purchased last summer.

“As I’ve been here longer, I have different feelings,” says the Charleston County Schools psychologist. “I like it, but I don’t love it. I love it from the front, just not the back. I’ve thought about putting some iron work on it.”

She says the black iron work would break the mass of intense yellow and make the rear as attractive as the front.

The previous owners selected the paint, hired the painter and arrived to find he’d finished the job. It was not at all what the wife expected, but they decided to live with it.

It’s a house that contrasts sharply with the white house Cox lived in before. Lately, she’s been thinking that light green or blue would be more calming, but admits she’s most likely to choose an orangey clay color if she does repaint.

Friends have had mixed reactions, she says. Those who are more artsy or risk takers tend to like the color. But others usually don’t.

Cox says she’ll decide whether to repaint it sometime next year.

Taking small chances

Homeowners who are a bit more reserved about using bold color may put some shade of red on their front door, Sherwin-Williams’ Bryan says.

“They go a little dark, deep, with a blackberry or maroon color. And Holy City red, which is red with black undertones, is popular.”

When choosing an exterior color, two important considerations are the roof color and the neighboring houses’ colors.

The Colors of Historic Charleston (collection), sold exclusively by Sherwin-Williams, has a great palette, Bryan says. When local homeowners are searching for colors to complement, they should consider look at those in the collection.

Also consider sun and shade, she says. When a house is in the shade, its true colors probably will show. But if it gets too much sun, they probably won’t show.

“It’s always a good idea to try a sample first,” she says. Paint a small area and look at the color at different times of the day.

Another tool, she says, is to use the company’s color visualizer website. Homeowners can upload pictures of their houses and try different colors on their homes virtually www.sherwin-williams.com.

Yet, the color schemes are starting to change because of gray, Bryan says.

“They are accenting with bolder colors because the grays that are resurfacing as main colors. There are lots of different grays, some with undertones of red and smoky pinks and terra cottas.”

Often a trim in a bolder color can complement the grays, she says.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.