Paints and materials to make a statement with your exterior design

Just as exterior renovations head into full swing, House Beautiful’s editor in chief answers our questions about paints and materials.

How do I go about choosing a paint color for my home’s exterior?

Carefully! We’ve all had paint paralysis when it comes to choosing a color for a room, but for a once-a-decade decision like a home’s exterior, the choice has even more weight. Georgia Zikas, an interior design based in West Hartford says “timeless” is the operative word. She advises looking at the homes surrounding you for context and always, always sampling. “I never color-select without trying it on site — it can be almost shocking how different a paint chip is when on a big canvas like a home.”

When recently testing colors for project in the Riverside area of Greenwich, she was pleasantly surprised that the color, Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Grey, was a tad bluer then the chip suggested. They went for it and the result was a huge improvement for a formerly buttery yellow house.

And what about a front door color? Can I go bold?

A front door is like an opening statement, so go crazy … within reason. “Changing a door color is like changing your nail polish — you can play and be more daring,” says Zikas. “But it has to be relevant — I wouldn’t do a turquoise door in the Connecticut countryside.” For a 1920s brick colonial in Greenwich, Zikas tapped the palest blue hue of the slate roof as the front door hue — Benjamin Moore Gossamer Blue. For her own home, which she refers to as “a Keebler-size cottage,” Zikas has swapped out the front door color a number of times, from a true black to a moody forest green and now a tomato orange-red, “matched to a pair of flats I love!” she says. “And it’s the best yet.”

Are there front-door colors in particular that are trending?

Lately we’ve been seeing lot of moody blues — and there’s one for every style of house. Architect Doug Wright chose Benjamin Moore North Sea, a deep and clear greenish blue, for the front door of a coastal New England home in a neighborhood where all the doors were white. “It nods to the nearby ocean and gives a warm welcome to visitors, who can easily spot it from the street,” he says.

My home’s exterior needs a revamp, but I worry that something like clapboard will need to be repainted too often. Are there alternatives I should be considering?

In New England, an inland home needs much less upkeep than, say, the paint on a beach house which can require a fresh coat of paint every year. A typical inland Connecticut home should be able to go five to seven years between repainting. But there are other great options to keep in mind! House Beautiful senior market editor and Stamford resident Carisha Swanson says she’ll invest in fiber cement siding from James Hardie for her next home. “It might seem more expensive, but fiber cement costs less than wood and requires next to no maintenance,” says Swanson. She cites its unique feature in the market because it’s the only siding created for specific climates — because a house that withstands 2-degree winters in Buffalo or sweltering summers in Arizona need different considerations. “Plus, it’s water-resistant, impervious to termites and has baked-on color that typically lasts years longer than paint.”

Is there anything creative or surprising to do with exterior paint?

You could paint your back porch a zingy color — or really commit and paint it eight wowza colors, like designer Thomas Jayne did at a New York country home that’s featured in the House Beautiful September issue. Since the garden adjacent to the client’s loggia had a view of a rose garden that would only bloom briefly in summer, Jayne decided to ramp up the visual interest year-round by striping the beadboard in eight complementary shades that echo hues both inside the house and out. “The multiplicity creates motion. A single-color wall would have been static and not nearly as novel. This is much more dynamic,” Jayne says. Not sure if you can go all in with a paint rainbow, or worried your HOA— or the neighbors — might object? Try painting just the ceiling. In the South, it’s a long-standing tradition to use a light blue that mimics the sky. Called haint blue, it supposedly wards off ghosts — and mosquitoes.

Sophie Donelson is editor in chief of House Beautiful magazine.