How to choose an exterior colour scheme for your home: expert tips and advice.

House colour guide

If choosing an exterior colour scheme fills you with dread… you’re not alone!

There’s no doubt, painting your entire house can feel like a daunting proposition. Whether it’s time, money, or the massive change to home’s appearance, it’s a big task – and one you don’t want to do twice.

Luckily though.

With a few expert tips, you can choose an exterior colour scheme with ease and confidence. Whether it’s bright whites, receding greys or vibrant tones, there’s a perfect colour scheme for every home and every homeowner.

So, how to find it? Let’s talk about colour.

How To Chose An Exterior House Colour Scheme: the basics.

Before you start picking out paints and buying samples, spend time “visualising” the end result. By this, we don’t just mean imagining ideal colour combos (although this is a good starting point) – but using “online visualisers” to get the basics down.

Colour visualisers.

Many paint brands, for instance Dulux or the US company Sherwin Williams offer digital colour visualisers. This lets you browse popular colours, combinations and bold designs with zero commitment. Simply upload an exterior photo of your home, and you can see how different colours look on your walls.

Whilst there’s no substitute for “real life” samples, it’s a great way to get ideas and inspiration. You’ll quickly get a feel for what you like and don’t like. Then, once you know whether you prefer light or dark shades, classic country colours or strong modern blacks and greys… it’s time to narrow down your options.

Do I need planning permission?

For most people, you won’t need planning permission to paint the outside of your home. The planning portal website states you don’t need permission for “repairs, maintenance or minor improvements, such as painting your house.”

Listed buildings are different though, where you’ll need listed buildings consent for any significant works – inside or outside. Equally, if you live in a Conservation Area or a designated AONB, you might also need planning permission to change the exterior paints or cladding of your home.

But what if you’re aiming for rebel reds or punk pinks? Do the same rules apply?

Well, you might remember headlines about the bitter feuds a candy red and white-striped house in Kensington caused back in 2015. The owner fought a protracted court battle to keep their stripes, after several complaints from neighbours. Whilst they eventually won (and didn’t have to repaint the building), we’re guessing you might want to avoid the same.

Which leads us to our first tip, considering your surrounding area…

1. Find your neighbourhood style.

Although you don’t have to be strictly constrained by immediate neighbours, it’s always a good idea to think how your colour scheme will fit with your surrounding environment.

Whilst exuberant pastel colours might be perfect for an upbeat urban terrace, will they have the same effect in a country cul-de-sac? If you live in a historic neighbourhood, would dominant dark black be the right choice?

This isn’t just about keeping cordial relationships with neighbours (although this always helps!). It also ensures your home keeps its value and curb appeal if you ever come to sell.

2. Be a colour copycat.

If you’re driving around your local area, are there any stylish homes that could serve as colour scheme inspiration? 

Whilst you don’t have to copy every detail exactly, you might like the way two tones sit together. Equally, you might discover what you want to avoid. Looking at nearby houses is the best way of understanding the effect of colour on homes most like your own. 

On the “copying” theme, it’s also worth thinking about your own interior colours. As a rule of thumb, mirroring or complementing tones you’ve chosen inside is a good place to start.

3. The rule of three.

If you fancy going bold, but don’t want to paint your entire house canary yellow or forest green… let’s talk feature colours. 

Now, this isn’t right for every home, but a pop of fresh colour (for instance on your door, window frames or single wall) can be a fantastic way to be braver and bolder. The good thing about just painting smaller areas is it’s easier to change too.

Most successful exterior schemes have three main elements – a dominant shade and two accent colours (with one that’s often brighter or richer than the others). If you’re in doubt about which tones to pair, take a look at colour wheels to help. 

There are monochromatic hues (i.e. various shades of the same colour), analogous hues (those next to each other on the wheel) as well as popping complementary tones (essentially, just opposites) that all work well together.

A word of caution though… don’t forget to include your roof or any exposed masonry (colours you won’t be able to change) when planning your scheme.

4.  Start sampling.

Whilst online visualizers are useful, they’re no substitute for seeing real colour in the light of day. So sample, sample, sample!

All too often, homeowners choose colours based on tiny samples. When assessing exterior paint schemes, try to work with as large an area as possible.

You could paint a large piece of cardboard and view this against various walls around your house. Light and shade make a vast difference to colour, so look at colours on each side of your home, at different times of day. This will give you the most rounded impression of your chosen scheme.

5. Trends vs Timeless?

Is there a risk of repainting in ten years if you go for the latest trending colours? 

For instance, dark blacks, charcoal and vibrant greens are massively popular right now… but make sure you personally love them too. You want colours you can happily live with for the next 10 or 20 years. Could this mean more classic, timeless shades?

If you’ve just finished a renovation (and are looking to sell in the next few years), it pays to keep things neutral. There are a few colour schemes, for instance chocolate browns, citrus greens and super bright yellows that can actively put buyers off.

6. Let your home guide you.

Last but not least… remember every single home (and homeowner) is unique. What works for someone down the street might not work for you! So study your own home carefully…

When choosing an exterior colour scheme, consider your home’s age and appearance. Are there certain aspects of your home (for instance a modern extension), or beautiful architectural details you want to stand out? If so, these might be perfect candidates for complementary darker or lighter shades.

If a large part of your home is constructed from pale Cotswold stone (for instance), this will inform the colours you choose to go alongside it. With a large home, could dark tones make it look slightly ominous? On the other hand, would pure whites stand out too much?

Generally speaking, if you own an older country home surrounded by natural landscapes, soft greens, pastels and neutrals are wonderful choices. For urban terraces and modern architecture, stronger colours and accents can have real impact. It’s ultimately up to you, your home and what you love…

Final thoughts.

By following these tips, you’ll find an exterior colour scheme perfect for your home. Whether you’ve just finished a renovation or are simply refreshing your existing space, colour really is the finishing touch. Good luck, and happy decorating.