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How many exterior colors should a house have?

How many exterior colors should a house have?

Choosing exterior colors for a house is an important design decision that can dramatically affect the overall look and feel of the home. The number of colors used on the exterior is one of the key factors to consider when painting or staining a house. Using too many colors can make the home feel busy or disjointed, while using too few colors can create a bland or monotonous exterior. Most design experts recommend choosing 2-3 exterior colors for a balanced and cohesive look.

Factors to Consider

Several key factors go into determining the ideal number of exterior colors for a particular home:

Architectural Style

The architectural style of the house should influence the color palette. For example, Craftsman and Victorian style homes often use an array of 3 or more colors for dimension and detailing. While contemporary, ranch, and colonial styles tend to look best with a simpler 2-color scheme.

Color Contrast

Using colors of differing tones and intensities can add visual interest through contrast. Having a lighter main field color contrasted with a darker accent color is a common technique. For example, a pale yellow main body color with a deep green trim.

Emphasizing Details

Multiple colors can be used to accentuate exterior features and details like windows, doors, trim, shutters, and ornamentation. An accent color on these elements helps define and highlight the home’s architecture.

Coordinating With Surroundings

It’s important to consider how the exterior colors will coordinate with the surroundings like the landscape and adjacent buildings. Colors should blend in a visually pleasing way rather than clashing dramatically.

Personal Preference

Homeowners should pick colors that appeal to their personal tastes while keeping the architecture and environment in mind. The colors need to make sense together and suit the style of the house.

Recommended Number of Exterior Colors

Most design professionals recommend selecting 2 or 3 exterior wall and trim colors for a single family home. Here are the benefits of using 2-3 colors:

2 Exterior Colors

Using just 2 exterior colors keeps things clean and simple. A main field color like white, grey, or beige is paired with a contrasting trim color like black, navy, or dark green. This traditional combination is easy to coordinate while still adding visual punch.

3 Exterior Colors

With 3 colors, you get more versatility to highlight exterior features while adding extra visual interest. A light main color can be paired with darker colors on the trim and accent details like shutters or doors. The third color gives another layer of contrast and dimension.

Avoiding Color Overload

Limiting the palette to 2-3 exterior colors prevents the home from appearing too busy or mismatched. Multiple colors can work together seamlessly when they share an underlying color scheme and are applied judiciously. Too many colors compete for attention rather than complementing the home’s style.

Choosing a Color Scheme

When selecting exterior colors, it’s essential to opt for colors that fit within an overarching color scheme for visual harmony. Here are some popular color scheme options:


Using shades of one single color provides a very unified look. For example, beige on the main walls with a darker beige on the trim. Adding texture can keep it from appearing flat.


Analogous schemes use hues that sit next to each other on the color wheel, creating a cohesive look. For instance, yellow, yellow-orange, and orange.


Complementary colors (like blue and orange) placed opposite each other on the color wheel provide striking contrast when paired together.


Triadic schemes use three colors equally spaced around the color wheel for vibrant color combinations, like red, yellow, and blue.

Visualizing Color Combinations

It can be helpful to visualize different color combinations on a house before finalizing the palette. Here are some examples of exterior color schemes applied to a two-story colonial house:

Color Scheme Main Color Trim Color Accent Color
Monochromatic Beige Dark tan Light tan
Complementary Blue Orange White
Analogous Yellow Yellow-orange Orange
Triadic Red Blue Yellow

Seeing color combinations applied to an actual house can help homeowners choose a scheme that complements the architecture. Test out swatches to view colors together in different lighting.

Tips for Exterior Color Selection

Follow these tips when selecting exterior paint and stain colors:

– Consider the architectural style and age of the home. Some colors work better for Victorian vs. contemporary designs.

– Take note of existing exterior materials like roofing, stone, and brick that will remain unchanged. Coordinate colors with permanent elements.

– Use darker shades in small doses on accent areas. Dark colors can be overpowering if overused.

– Know the difference between tone and hue when comparing color chips. Tone refers to lightness/darkness while hue is the pigment color.

– Examine colors at different times of day to see how sunlight affects the shades.

– Pick timeless classic colors over bold trendy colors for long-lasting appeal.

– View color combinations on the actual house before finalizing. Paint sample boards to test colors.

Hiring a Professional

For some homeowners, coming up with an appropriate exterior color scheme can be overwhelming. Hiring a professional designer can take the guesswork out of the process. A designer can:

– Suggest colors tailored to your home’s style and environment.

– Know which hues will stand up to weather and wear.

– Have an expert sense of combining colors in ways that maximize curb appeal.

– Help select shades that will increase resale value.

While hiring a professional involves an additional expense, their expertise can lead to an exterior color scheme you’ll love for years. Some painters also provide color consultations as part of their services.


Limiting a house to 2 or 3 thoughtfully coordinated exterior colors is the ideal approach for most homes. The color palette should enhance the home’s architecture, coordinate with the surroundings, and appeal to personal taste. Both neutral and bold schemes can work beautifully depending on the house style and application.Seeing color combinations visualized on the house is hugely helpful before painting or staining. Hiring a professional can take the guesswork out of choosing exterior colors. With some planning and smart color selection, homeowners can achieve a cohesive exterior color scheme they’ll enjoy for years to come.