Selecting a Trim Color

Selecting a Trim Color

An exterior color scheme is typically made up of three elements. The first is the "field", which is the large area such as the house walls. The second is the trim. These are corner boards, window trim, fascias, etc. Finally, there are the accents, and these include shutters, doors, and any other architectural features including, of course, decks. We will be focusing on the trim and the deck accent color, since those are our specialties, of course.

What color you should use for the trim depends on many factors, not least of which is the house color itself. While every decision regarding color is a matter of taste, artists and designers generally use something called the Color Wheel as a general framework for determining which colors do and do not work with one another.

Color wheel
The Color Wheel is an age-old tool designed to be an easy visual reference point for color selection. The color wheel can tell you which colors are analogous, which color are complimentary, and which color are unrelated and probably wouldn't look great together.

Analogous colors are those color which are adjacent on the color wheel. For example, blue and purple are often used together (although not so much in home coloring). Complimentary colors are colors on those color on the color wheel which are opposite one another. For example, red is opposite of green, and red and green are commonly paired together (ho ho ho!).

There are more advanced color theory pairings on the color wheel such as triadic and tetradic color combinations, but unless you're planning the most exciting home on the block, these are more for artists than exterior design color.

Things to Consider when Choosing Color
Aside from the Color Wheel, there are additional considerations to take into account. For example, if you have a small house and are seeking to make your house look larger, paint the edge trim the same color as the field or just a bit lighter. This blends the edges in with the body of the house and draws your eyes to other color, which in this case would typically be the door. On the other hand, some people feel that this color scheme makes the house look unfinished. Similarly, if you'd like your windows to look larger, have the trim match the window frames.

Another thing to take into account when selecting trim color is the particular style of the house. If your house is of the colonial style, white is an extremely popular choice, especially when the main color of the house isn't white. In the event where you do have a white colonial house, popular trim colors include black, green, and even red.

Here are some rules of thumb for selecting trim and accessory colors on your home's exterior:
  • You can use more than two colors (one field and one accessory color), but too many colors can overwhelm the eyes.
  • Keep in mind the colors used on your neighbors' homes. You can be as similar or different as you'd like, but remember that your home is part of the neighborhood's landscape. Using colors that are too harsh or that clash can make your home stand out in a negative way and potentially damage resale value.

Lastly, when choosing exterior colors, don't forget to enjoy the process! A happy designer makes for happy design!