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Emily in Rochester

Hello Christine,

We are really struggling with exterior color choices for our home.  The biggest challenge is our windows are tan.  So a traditional cape cod with dark gray siding, white trim, and black shutters just doesn’t work (as the previous owners I think tried…but now the home just looks confused).  We are leaning towards a gray with more beige undertones for the siding.  Also we plan to paint the trim and facing to match the window color (or maybe a shade lighter and more creamy white).  But we would love your advice.  I really liked your previous post to Megan from Nebraska (, but I don’t know if those same colors will work with our tan window color—and we don’t want to paint the windows or replace them for a while.  
If you have a moment to think about accent colors, we also need to decide about shutter colors (or just removing them since we only have a couple), and the front door.  We definitely don’t like the two-tone door and black that makes the door recede instead of being welcoming.
Emily from Rochester NY
Hi Emily,
Yes, the colors in the post you mentioned would work just great.  Let me mention a few things that will enhance the look.  The proportion of your field color to your trim color is a little weak.  Exaggerate your trim size a bit and you will be much better off. 
1.  The size of the frieze board.  See this board running parallel with your roof line?  It's a little small. 

Compare your home to this one:

Larger trim/frieze board makes your color pop. 


2.  I like the idea of the shutters, because it is giving the field color to trim color a much needed boost.  However, what I don't like is the view from the front of the home with just one shutter showing, and it being so bold, it stands out (not in a good way) without having repetition.  I would increase the size of the window, remove the shutters and also add an additional horizontal frieze board over the garage area. 

If that's more of a project than you want to take on, I would use a more subtle shutter color- like in the photo below:


On second thought- I would do both.  Increase that small window size, AND use a subtle shutter color.

3.  I would also increase the size of the trim throughout on all of the windows.


4.  Notice how in the photo below the bay area is entirely painted in the trim color.  It really should be all trim, with no horizontal siding in this area.  That is also how yours should be.  Yours might be like that- the picture is not clear enough forme to be able to tell. 

5.  I would also change the roof over the bay window to a copper roof. 


6.  I agree with you on the front door.  It does look like the black hole.  A bright red would be great. 


Only paint the door in red, the side lights and trim in the off white trim color.  While I was cutting and pasting, I went ahead and replaced your garage door.  ;-)  If the garage door is pretty- like the one below- have it be in the trim color- as long as you keep your current one- have it be in the field color.  Contrast draws attention.  If you don't want attention drawn to something, have low contrast.  If you have something lovely, increase the contrast.


Good luck with your painting!





Curb Appeal for Christine


Dear Christine, this is Christine from Royal Oak, MI. My husband and I are in the process of redoing our ranch-style home and purchasing new windows, new garage door, entry doors (side and front) and possibly a new roof. This is a big deal for us financially, but we are taking the plunge and going for it! We need your help! We cannot decide what we should do with the siding due to our small ranch-style home already having half brick and half siding. I am soooo unhappy with the blah look and the blah curb appeal that my home has to offer.


I'm ready for a CUTE COTTAGE look that catches the eye. Possibly cedar shake, cultured stone, some added wood trim??? I am open to ANYTHING! We have a detached garage that is fully sided (no brick), but the front of the house is the main challenge (half siding/half brick).


We thought possibly cultured stone or cedar shake in the main front, and siding for the side and garage, but I need it to all come together and flow. I want CUTE! We already have/and are again getting the crossbar windows that look cottage cute, but the color of the siding, the front "pop" idea and the flow is the issue. Please give me your honest opinion. Please know that I realize it looks awful right now, this is where I'm praying you will give me ideas and insight. I just found a way to send you pix :)
Please see the other 2 emails following this one which will include add'l views of my home. We will be forever thankful if you would be willing to take on our challenge.


Hi Christine,


How exciting to be making big changes to your home!  I would focus on three things to create a more charming cottage feel.

  1. Larger windows.
  2. Stronger entrance.
  3. Architectural detail.

  This window is all wrong: I know that sometimes I give advice when only seeing the exterior, and it might be completely impossible if I could see the inside.  For example, I would say this window is too small, too short, too awkward.  Maybe it is over an important kitchen counter and can't be any larger, but I would do my best to make it larger.


I know it gets expensive to add a covered porch, but your current roof line is so lacking in character- it's hard to make the house look truly cute and charming without changing it.  I would make your front steps about 5x wider than they are now, and add a little porch off to the left with a pediment over the entry, sidelights adding bulk to the door, and increase the window size on the far right.


I did a little cut and paste to make some changes for you. 


I hope my choppy cut and paste gives your the feel I'm hoping it does. 





Giao's Exterior

Hi Christine,
I'm really enjoy reading your Blog and hope you can give me some advice on paint colors to warm up my house. I have been looking for exterior colors for almost two months and bought over dozen paint samples, but nothing seem to work. Either the color is too beige, too dark, too light, too taupe, or too grey. I want the colors to compliment the brown roof and dark cherry red brick. I like to keep the trim white to match with vinyl windows. I also like to use Sherwin Williams paints.
Here is the picture of my house. Thank you so much for your help!

Best regards,


Hi Giao,


With your red brick, I'd go one of two ways.  Green or dark.


First- green.  Red and green are complimentary colors.  They make each other look better and truer.    

The second direction I'd consider is using a darker color.  Your brick is also dark, which is what might be making some colors look too light and disconnected.  You mentioned that some colors you considered were "too dark".  Perhaps that is just a matter of not being "used to" the darker look. 

With a house like yours, with the garage the focal point, I would consider getting fantastic garage doors. 


As your garage is now, I would not paint it two-tone, like it is currently, keep it all one color- the field color of the house. 


Rachel's Before and After

I have slowly been changing my home to follow your advice as money and time allows. I recently followed your advice in this post ( and painted my interior doors Benjamin Moore Dragon's Breath (left the wimpy moldings white). I've attached a new after photo of the doors from the same little corner of my living room you addressed in "The Offputting Offset" a few years ago so you could see the impact your advice has made. The moldings are new since the before picture, sadly wimpy was all I could afford--but better than the nonexistent moldings I started with!
The Christine-ifying the windows is on my summer project list--lining the curtains & adding a bamboo blind layer. Next year I plan to repaint the walls lighter & replace the recliner with a nice desk/chair/lamp.
Thank you for saving my home from my lack of design sense!


Thanks for writing in Rachel!  And thank you for setting those pictures staight! 


Megan from Nebraska

I have been looking for exterior paint colors for almost 4 months and bought so many samples and am so lost. Our painter doesn’t give much advice, and we have switched to different painters and they aren’t any help either. I am not great with style and coordination of colors. We live in Nebraska and we have lived in our current home about 2 years. I hate the current color!!
I’m not a fan of the siding or trim either but we are unable to change that financially right now. We are looking for a tan/grey--not too grey but not too tan. I like more grey than tan. Our painter doesn’t think white trim is a good idea as it would be too choppy.
Our current trim board is so thick and pinkish. We are replacing the windows which will be white. That weird design above the window is no longer there.  We will be replacing the front door, site light, and storm door (to be white) and garage door.  I need recommendations for paint color, trim color, and front door color. We have a small amount of red brick on our home, and a grey colored roof. Here is a picture of our home. We have tried posting on houzz and different forums for months but no one gives any ideas.
A few colors for exterior I like:  Benjamin Moore Briarwood
Sherwin Williams fawn brindle and Sherwin Williams Intellectual grey
The only trim color that I have been able to come up with is maybe revere pewter with briarwood? What do you think? please help!!

Hi Megan,
I think what is making your decision so hard is your painter's super bad advice.  White is exactly the color you should paint your trim.  With white windows, the decision is a "no-brainer".   In fact, if you don't, the white windows will stand out in a bad way.  The larger the window trim, the more rich the feel.  Another way to say that is that less expensive homes have smaller trim, nicer, more expensive homes have larger trim.  Sometimes it is a matter of older, more charming homes having the larger trim.  Either way, larger trim is undoubtedly the better look.  When you have white windows and you use white trim, it creates a "larger" trim feel.  Your painting contractor was exactly wrong.  Having white windows and NOT having white trim, gives you a whimpy, more choppy feel.   Contractors are not designers and while they have "seen a lot of jobs", and there might be some out there with good taste, I have seen many more that from a design standpoint don't know a thing, and spew very bad advice with such authority, that it's a damn shame. 
Use white trim.  Try to match your windows.  Pure White from Sherwin Williams is where I'd start.  Get a sample, and see how it looks with your windows.  We want them to blend together, and not look like two different colors. 
Your Benjamin Moore Briarwood was a great idea- It would look something like this:
Sherwin Williams Fawn Bridle will look something like this:
Sherwin Williams Intellectual Grey will look something like this: 
Here is another Intellectual Grey, which looks way more gray to me, re-inforcing the need for sample quarts. 
All of these are perfectly good selections.  If you want a stronger gray- consider Sherwin Williams Software.  It's a really nice color, and will look great with your brick, and a nice white trim.  ;-)