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How to choose exterior paint colours for your mid-century inspired home

June 16, 2020

I'm Caireen, Owner and Principal Designer at Shift Modern Home, lover of wallpaper, tiles, gin, Formula 1 Racing and potatoes. Who's with me?

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Summer is here , and it’s a great time to update the exterior of your home with paint.

Although in some cities there aren’t too many true mid-century gems, there are still 50’s and 60’s bungalows, and rad properties from the 70’s whose simple architecture lends itself to a mid-century inspired update.

As the colour of your home has a huge impact on curb appeal, and is something you don’t change very often, it’s a good idea to take your time to plan the right colour choices to create the mid-century inspired exterior for your home that you have been dreaming of.

Here are my tips for choosing paint that will create that modern mid-century look for your home:

 


How to Choose Exterior Paint Colours

 

1. LIGHT or DARK

To start with, have a general idea of whether you want a light house or a dark house – or a mid-tone. If you aren’t sure, search Pinterest for inspiration, (check this board of mine to start) and tour neighbourhoods with modern or mid-century type properties to see what you like.  

Climate will play a part in this decision. One of my favourite places to vacation that is a mecca for mid-century homes is Palm Springs CA. Many homes are painted bright white, which is perfect against the back drop of sunny skies, cool blue pools and lush palm trees. I love how it looks.

  

  

Contrast that with where I live in Calgary, Canada where a stark white doesn’t have the same impact when there is snow on the ground 6 months of the year. In a cooler climate consider using deeper, warmer colours that will look great year round, such as this Oregon home below.

  

  

2. TAKE NOTE

Your home will give you hints at which paint choices will be best. Look at the fixed elements such as your roof, brick, stone, wood accents, soffits, and eaves troughs. If you don’t plan on changing these, they need to be considered as part of the overall palette.

With stone or brick, work with the undertones to establish good complimentary colours. In the example below the painted siding amplifies the green undertones in the stone, creating a soft exterior palette.

 

 

For a red/brown toned brick you will be more limited to soft taupes or deep chocolate browns to make these work. Taupe or grey toned brick allows you to experiment with blues, greens and neutrals. Of course, you can paint your brick too, in which case treat it either as a trim or body colour (see point 3 below) depending on it’s placement on your home.

 

 

Be mindful to work with your roof if it’s visible as it is a large expanse of a single colour that will affect the exterior paint colours that you can choose.

Brown toned roofs, especially if they have a red undertone are the most limiting to work with, and just like the brick, you will want to stick with neutrals. If your roof has strong red tones I would avoid blues and greens, as they will amplify the colour, but not in a good way! (Remember that your roof should not be the star of the show, just a supporting cast member!)

For roofs with a blue or green undertone try to find colours that have that same undertone to create a more cohesive scheme. Black and grey roofs have the greatest flexibility for colour choice on the body of your home.

 

  

 

Your landscaping could also play a part – if you have a lovely red maple tree that you want to be a feature, you will want to avoid a red house. A charcoal or navy house is a better choice to show it’s beauty in the fall.

 Look to your neighbours too – you don’t want to match them, but equally you don’t want to stand out being the only bubblegum pink house on the block.

3. SELECT YOUR COLOURS

Ok. Now for the fun part.

In keeping with the simplicity of mid-century architecture, don’t complicate the exterior with more colours than necessary.

Working with your fixed finishes (roof, brick etc) select three exterior paint colours:

  • Body – this will be the most dominant colour. Whether you want a light, mid-tone or dark house, this is the colour that will determine the overall look of your home.

 

  

  

 

All gorgeous, but different, right?

  • Trim – depending on the final look you would like, either select a low or high contrast colour.

    In the examples below, the white house has no contrast, while the blue house has high contrast with the use of white trim against a navy body colour.

    Unless your garage is a standalone structure, or it cannot be seen at the same time as the front door, or it’s on a different level (such as the image above) paint out garage doors in the trim or body colour so that they don’t dominate the front elevation of your home.

 

 

  • Accent – usually reserved for the front door, or sometimes decorative breeze block, so guests clearly know where to enter. Plus it’s a place to show your personality. With a mid century inspired home, a bold hit of colour is always on point! And if you tire of it, painting a door is a quick weekend project.

 

 

4. SAMPLE, TEST, SAMPLE AGAIN

Do not miss or rush this step!

Because daylight will change the colour of your paint colours significantly, you must sample several options, and I would suggest testing them on all the exterior walls of your home by painting 2’ x 2’ squares.

North facing walls or shaded locations will likely read darker as they receive less sunlight, while south facing walls the colour will wash out more with the sun. Be prepared to go either lighter or darker to achieve the look you are after.

Check your samples in the morning, middle of the day and at dusk to ensure you are happy with how they appear. Step back from your home to see how they look from a distance, not just close up.

 

 

5. PAINT

If you are pretty handy, this is a great project to do yourself and get a huge bang for your buck. However, be realistic about your abilities and your time available to do this as it is a big job to prepare and paint an entire house. If in doubt, secure the services of professional painters.

 

 

 

In case you are still feeling a bit overwhelmed I have compiled my top 5 exterior paint combinations inspired by mid-century homes that you can use with confidence.

Remember to send photos of your completed home – I’d love to see how you increase your curb appeal with exterior paint!

Thanks for popping in!

Caireen


 

If choosing your exterior paint colours still feels overwhelming, help is just a couple of clicks away. My Custom Exterior Palette package takes away all the guesswork, with paint colours, accessories and lighting customized for you, giving you the confidence to create a modern looking house that you love coming home to.

  

  

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  1. Millie Tyler says:

    As I look at the examples of mid-century homes posted on the linked architectural page I didn’t see any roof shingles. Say I’m thinking about purchasing a mid-century home desperate for curb appeal with a brand new light-brown roof. I wouldn’t choose a cool neutral like grey for the exterior. Does your color pallet address roof shingle color?

  2. taana says:

    Hi! Can you tell me please what is the green paint color on the doors of the 1st photo of the white house with the cactus outside?

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