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How to Improve Curb Appeal with Paint Color

How to Improve Curb Appeal with Paint Color


By:  Teri Danahey, Accredited Staging Professional (ASP), REALTOR®

Daniel Fevre, REALTOR®




Real estate agents will tell you that buyers often decide “at the curb” whether they will like a home on the inside.  If the curb appeal is too disappointing, there are many instances where the buyers don’t even go in.   Here are some tips on how to make a home’s curb appeal irresistible with paint color..


The two most important factors when choosing exterior paint color are:


·        The neighborhood

·        The style of the home


The Neighborhood


Buyers favor homes in neighborhoods that have a cohesive appearance because it suggests community spirit, common goals and like mindedness.  A peaceful street of homes punctuated by one house with a garish paint color is disturbing and reduces the overall appeal of the neighborhood.  “Fitting in” is a critical element of curb appeal and adds value to the bottom line.   (You can always express yourself on the interior of the home!)


The Style of the Home


There are no ‘forbidden” house paint colors (except possibly black), but there are colors that just don’t seem to fit the style of a house.  For example, a traditional New England salt box style home would look odd painted pink.  Yet, a Mediterranean style stucco home in a warm climate may look right at home painted pink or coral.


Mid-20th Century Modern homes look best with one subtle color over 90% of the house and minimal, monochromatic trim accents.  In comparison, ornate Victorian or Carpenter Gothic style homes look best when the characteristic trim is accented with as many as 6 different colors of paint.  Research the home style to see what colors complement the style of the house.  There are some excellent online tools in the personal color viewer at and architectural styles at


As a rule of thumb, houses that take their color cue from their immediate environment will look most at home, such as:


  • Homes in the northern climates tend to look best with a muted palette since nature dims the surroundings for much of the year.  Consider these colors:


    • Benjamin Moore – Stratton Blue – HC-142
    • Benjamin Moore – Monroe Bisque – HC-26
    • Sherwin Williams – Simple White – SW 7021


  • Homes in southern climates tend to look best with a brighter palette since there is abundant sunshine and vibrant blooming for much of the year.  Consider:


    • Sherwin Williams – Faint Coral – SW 6329
    • Benjamin Moore – Camoflage – 2143-40
    • Benjamin Moore – Windham Cream – HC 6


  • Seaside homes in northern climates look best with muted water and fog colors; coastal homes in southern climates look best with clear water and sand colors.  Consider:


    • Benjamin Moore – Silver Marlin – 2139-50
    • Benjamin Moore – Saybrook Sage – HC-114
    • Sherwin Williams – Take Blue – SW 6513


  • Homes in woodsy areas look great with a natural palette; homes in more urban areas can look nice with fresh colors.  Consider:


    • Sherwin Williams – Morning Sun – SW 6672
    • Sherwin Williams – Restoration Ivory – SW 6413
    • Benjamin Moore – Montgomery White – HC-33


  • White is the one “safe” color that works everywhere on nearly every style of home.


As people embrace eco-friendly products and a more natural lifestyle, we see these preferences for the colors of trees, earth and stone that almost make a home look as though it grew from the ground.  Apply the most muted tones of greens, browns and grays in the northern climates and the brighter tones of greens and browns including beiges for the southern climates.  These are the color choices used by new home builders; older homes painted the same current colors as newer homes will knock years off the appearance of the house.  Examples:


  • Sherwin Williams – Mega Greige – SW 7031
  • Benjamin Moore – Rockport Grey – HC-105
  • Benjamin Moore – Saybrook Sage – HC-114


Choosing the Palette


Consider the roof color when selecting the primary house color.  Homes look most interesting with this general design principle:


  • 60 percent of your paint color will go on the body
  • 30 percent of your paint color will go on the trim
  • 10 percent on feature items such as the front door or porch elements


Most homes do well with this principle but it is wise to alter the proportions when painting “extreme” styles like a Mid-20th Century Modern or Victorian.  


In general,


  • Smaller homes look larger with a greater percentage of one color
  • Homes with brick or stone look larger when the body color is similar with the brick or stone
  • Monochromatic schemes tend to look more refined; contrasting schemes tend to look more cheerful


About Trim


Trim and trim color defines the house and distinguishes it in the neighborhood.  Again, consider the roof color when choosing a trim paint color in order to pull the body and roof together as well as highlight notable features.  Select just one trim color or trim color family.


  • Paint trim a color similar to the body to simplify the style or enlarge the appearance of the home.
  • Paint trim an accent color to highlight interesting details such as roofline, windows, shutters, etc. 
  • If there is an unattractive trim or distracting part of the house, you can minimize it by painting it the same color as the body.  
  • If there is a detail worth noting, this is the time for a trim or accent color.


The “Invisible” Trim


Invisible trim are things like


  • Window frames
  • Soffits
  • Door jambs


These are items that the eye skims over and are seldom noticed unless you get it wrong.  Like most interior ceilings, these items are usually best painted white.  However, if the body of the house is a muted color, stark white trim would be too bold so add 15% of the body color to the white to return those items to “invisible”.  Craftsman style homes are heavy with wood trim and muted tones so a heavier tint (30% or more) of the body color may be necessary to retain the characteristics of this earthy style of home.


Never paint window frames the same color as a dark shutter, for example.  This treatment looks like bad eyeliner and the result is a distracting, patchwork of small windows.


What to do about the garage door(s)?


  • The sheer size of a white garage door will create an undesirable focal point and imbalance unless the house has a lot of white trim,
  • If the garage door is closer to the curb than the front door, the garage door should be painted the same color as the body or a slightly deeper tone of the body to recede it and enable the front door to be the focal point  
  • It is out of style to accent the raised panels or other door details with paint.
  • Wood stain or a wood look is a good, neutral look for garage doors.  


Accent colors - the final 10%


The most interesting color choice will be for an accent color, used on the front door, for example.  Have fun with this and choose a welcoming, standout color such as eggplant, plum, cranberry, maroon, persimmon, copper, marine blue, teal, peacock blue or forest green.  A rich wood stain is also a good look.


The most important thing about an accent color is that it be used sparingly.  The second most important thing is that the accent color should be concentrated in one area so the eye doesn’t bounce around and dilute its impact. .   


Getting it Right


Many paint manufacturers have assembled color combinations and some websites have virtual-design tools that can help you make a decision.  Definitely ask for help from color experts often found in high volume paint stores.  Note:  a painter or how-to-paint expert found in high volume paint stores may not be a designer so take care where you get your color advice.    


  • The greater the area devoted to one color, the more intense it will be so if the goal is a sand color, look at color chips that appear lighter than the intended result. 
  • Buy test quarts of prospective colors and apply it in 1 foot square samples on both the sunny and shady side of the house. 
  • Live with the colors for a few days before deciding.  


Finally, make the most of the color selection with the best possible paint job.  This means adequate preparation, good tools and top quality paint that will yield excellent curb appeal for years.  


See these excellent resources:


  • See the personal color viewer on the Benjamin Moore website (  Also find a full description of architectural styles with companion color suggestions.


·         Sherwin-Williams:  check out the Virtual Color visualizer tool.


·         Behr:  check out the Color Smart tools and inspiration library.


Comments:  Please contact Teri Danahey at


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Contact Information

Teri Danahey & Daniel Fevre
1260 Springfield Ave.
New Providence NJ 07974
Fax: 908-450-1374