Some might argue, but when building a home I believe that color selection is one of your biggest decisions, second only to the floor plan. We’ve all driven past that obnoxiously colored home and wondered “what in the heck were they thinking”. My guess? They picked the color from a little swatch and learned quickly that what’s on a 2in x 2in square doesn’t always translate well on a 20ft x 20ft wall. Unless you’re going for a major statement, you want to find a happy medium between classic, which can be borderline boring, and trendy, which is probably more popular than timeless.
Read on for a compilation of our favorite colors that will hopefully make picking the perfect shade a bit less stressful. All of the colors and pictures below are linked for easy access.
Trial & (a lot) of Error
With a good number of builds now under our belt, I feel like we have a decent handle on colors, and have learned from our mistakes… for the most part. Though a few missteps are likely in our future as I deviate from my go-tos in an effort not to be so predictable.
I’ve had the tans that turn pink, the grays that turn purple, the whites that turn yellow and the blacks that turn blue… I even had a white that turned green in the evenings which still confuses me.
Sometimes it’s the color combo that falls short and sometimes it’s just the color itself. Luckily, paint can be painted over. It’s not like you painted the whole house a color that missed the mark… just me? Oh, okay.
Loving a color doesn’t necessarily mean it will look good in your space. Pick a paint color because it looks great with the light and furnishings in your home, not just because it’s pretty.
Setting the ‘Tone’
Benjamin Moore (BM) and Sherwin Williams (SW) colors are usually what we end up with, likely because I have their fan decks within reach at all times. With a combined pallet of over 5000 colors (4000 of which should be retired IMO) there is truly a shade for everyone. PPG and Behr would be a close #3 and #4.
I’m not sure if this is common knowledge and I just didn’t know for a while, but if you like a BM color and you’re at Lowes that only sells SW, they can still mix the color because all colors are universally coded. They just use whatever brand of paint they sell at Lowes, search it up and mix it up.
To each his own… to an extent
It’s okay and often encouraged to be different, but when it comes to paint you might need to reign yourself in. If the color is tried and true, it will likely be posted all over Pinterest. A good litmus test is to google search your color for interior and/or exterior pics, which typically helps to nix or confirm your selection.
Tip: to choose between shades of the same color, open up myperfectcolor.com in multiple tabs and search your color in each. You can then click back and forth between the tabs to see the differences between the shades. Sounds weird but try it and you’ll see what I mean.
A Rainbow of Possibilities
Most colors fall into two categories, cool shades and warm shades, just like lightbulbs. Cool shades having grayish-blue undertones and warm shades having tanish-yellow undertones.
When we first started building, I selected a different color for almost every room. A bit much I now know looking back on it. I stuck to mostly neutrals in the open living areas and bedrooms but always did fun colors in the powder room and laundry room because I think you can get away with a little personality in smaller spaces (and if you have to repaint, it’s not such a chore).
But over the years we seem to have evolved to more intentional color schemes, painting the living areas one color and all of the bedrooms and baths a second color. Or we’ll do the whole downstairs one color and upstairs another.
If your personal preference is different colors in different rooms, Pinterest is your friend. They have so many inspiring whole house color pallets.
Side note: the typical rule of thumb for finishes is eggshell for walls, flat for ceilings and semi-gloss or satin for trim and doors. The contrast in sheen adds dimension.
You’ll usually end up with 3 complimenting colors: main, trim and accent. If you decide to do a two-toned house, think neutral for at least one of the colors. I’m a big fan of a tone on tone house which I attempted on our latest model home but fell slightly short because the shades of grayish-blue pretty much looked the same.
Your accent color could be in a gable, on the doors or shutters, or my personal favorite, the classically Southern “haint” blue porch ceiling (BM Palladian Blue is the perfect shade). Natural wood seems to be a popular accent ‘color’ these days, especially to warm up a white + black space, a mainstream trend that I’m hoping sticks around for a while. Or perhaps we’re trending back to classic and it’s here to stay?
When narrowing down your selections for interior or exterior colors, take the time to go to the paint store and have them mix up a few little pots. Or streamline the process with SAMPLIZE which is a site that overnights you 9×14 peel and stick paint swatches. Paint (or stick) a square on the wall and revisit it at different times of day.
White is white, right? Wrong.
Seemingly simple, but white might be the trickiest of them all. We have painted a lot of homes white, both inside and/or out, my personal favorite being BM Simply White. On exteriors we often contrast the white with a black roof, fascia, soffits and doors. White walls inside can look shockingly stark so adding a lot of wood elements and colorful decor is a must.
Side note: If we want plain white trim and ceilings, we usually don’t give the painter a specific white color, he just gets the paint untinted.
Off-whites have thrown me more than any other color. I have narrowed it down to 2 and I’m not wavering. BM Navajo White for a warmer tone and SW Toque White for a cooler tone.
We have been using BM Navajo White as a trim and accent color since 2005. But two years ago we painted a whole house Navajo White and it turned straight up yellow. That calamity led me to my new favorite, SW Toque White. So far we have used this on the exterior siding of the Southern Comfort home, the exterior trim on the Breezeway, and the gate house just got freshened up with Toque White siding and BM Oyster Bay trim.
Here are some other popular whites that the pinterest world swear’s by…
Most of our builds are coastal inspired so we often gravitate to a blue pallet. We have painted a handful of home interiors our go-to light blue SW Topsail, aka the blue neutral. Another good barely blue is SW Glimmer, it has a hint more green than Topsail. Treat these colors like jeans, they look good with anything.
I’m a sucker for a dusty-aqua. BM Santorini Blue looks awesome on doors, shutters and other exterior accents. Jump up one on the color wheel and use BM Brittany Blue for the porch ceilings to tie everything in. Stay tuned for pictures from our Hatteras model home that is using that combo on their double-decker porches😍
In 2015 we did the selections for a spec home called the Blisswood Cottage. Up until then we had kept exterior colors in a very neutral range that fell nicely within our comfort zone. It was about that time we started Pinteresting… yes, it’s a verb. We fell in love with dark house colors and chose BM Hale Navy for the exterior, unsure if we could pull it off. The nerves turned into excitement when it was done and the Blisswood ended up being one of our favorites. Seven years later and it’s still on trend, especially in places like AP that are surrounded by water.
Coastal Heritage Construction is pairing navy cabinets with gold hardware in their nautical lake cottage that is now under construction on Rigging Loop.
Greens: the full spectrum
Lots of blurred lines between blues and greens. They often go hand in hand, both being the colors of nature. So many of the colors we use are blueish greens or greenish blues depending on the light.
There are two light greens with gray undertones that reign supreme, SW Oyster Bay and SW Sea Salt. We started off with Sea Salt in bathrooms but it has become so popular that we see it now used throughout the whole house. This summer we used it in all of the beds and bathrooms in The Palmer on Chicory Lane.
The medium green tones that we use tend to have a good bit of blue mixed in. SW Rocky River tops my list, it’s in the green family but looks blue in different lights.
We’ve started painting the inside of our garages dark colors. I’ve rarely seen a clean garage (at least not at our homes) so besides looking cool, the dark color serves the purpose of hiding the dirt and cobwebs. The painter thought they mixed the color wrong when we he opened the paint for our garage… nope BM Yorktowne Green was on purpose. He gave me one of those “whatever you say crazy lady” looks but I don’t think I’ll ever paint another garage white.
Greige, yes it’s a color
This is exactly like it sounds, Greige is a mix of gray and beige. If you’re a ‘not too dark – not too light – not too cool – not too warm’ type of person, greige is for you. This category is where you will find most of your true neutrals. Greige colors are typically ideal for walls, but trim and interior doors painted greige are a great contrast to white walls. They often look different in different lights. So you could eat breakfast with gray walls and dinner with tan walls.
Classic combo: we have painted the exterior siding on several houses BM Nantuket Gray (actually an olive-y color) using the BM Navajo White for trim.
SW Agreeable Gray and SW Accessible Beige go with all types of decor, these colors just sound like they’ll get along with other colors. BM Revere Pewter, BM Moonshine and SW Repose Gray are the other medium greige tone favs. Versatile and immensely popular, this shade is here to stay.
From Gray to Black and everything in between
The overall trend we’re seeing is that the gray wave is fading as warmer colors gain popularity. A few years ago everyone wanted gray everything… walls, floors, decor. We actually have some home interior pictures that look like they’re in black and white! Of course gray is so neutral that you’ll still see plenty of it.
Even slight undertones can overwhelm grays, they can go really wrong really quick. For me, it’s a 3 way tie for the no-fail medium gray tones: SW Argos, SW Passive and BM Coventry Gray.
If you want a moody vibe, BM Gunmetal is a great darker gray. Keegan picked this color for his room, we compromised on the top of the walls and ceiling in gunmetal. Don’t be afraid to paint the ceilings, especially when you have weird angles or a son who wants a black room!
But my hands down favorite is BM Wrought Iron, a barely black that we’ve used on just about every home we’ve built. Doors, stair rails, islands, fireplaces, even steps!
Making a Statement with Pops of Color
They call it a statement peice, meaning you should just make a statement on a peice of it, not the whole thing. Yes these colors are super cool but please use restraint. A door, furniture, an accent wall, a kitchen island perhaps?
So rethink pink… paint that door periwinkle… funk up a fixture… sunny up your space with yellow… or dress up the dresser with aqua. Just think in quarts not gallons 😉
I hope these selections will give you a bit of inspiration and help you narrow down the infinite possibilities.
It’s true, especially with colors, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So paint to your version of perfection, and remember, it’s just paint.