When (Design) Rules Are Made to Be Broken: Exterior Paint

Oh, for the love of God, if I see one more house painted beige with white trim, I’m delivering the owners an oxygen tank. A big one with a powerful valve.

I’ve spent a lot of this Breaking the Rules series talking about specific rules or attacking myths, but this time it’s not about any of that. It’s about how incredible boring we’ve gotten with paint, and why it’s just so very wrong.

Yes, kids, we’re talking about exterior house paint this time.

Nature is colorful – why not your exterior?

If you THOUGHT there was a rule about what colors were okay to use on a house, you were wrong. There are none. Zilch.

If one more person tells me they’re using only “natural” colors for painting their house, then chooses SAND and WHITE, like the Mother Earth pukes green, brown and nothing else, I might just have an aneurysm.

Did you know colors exist in nature? Vivid stuff! Where do you think we get colors from, a laboratory? Some nerd messing around in chemistry? No! Nature!

Okay, “natural” colors, let’s see what nature has. Bright yellow? Check. Indigo? Double-check. Purple? Sure! Vibrant red? Yup. Wicked orange? Yes. Psychedelic patterns? Yep.

Those are “natural” colors. They’re of the earth. They’re on flowers, on animals, in foods — everything given to us by nature is filled with color.

Need inspiration? Start in your refrigerator’s produce drawer, or look outside on a spring day, and then try telling me the only “earth” tones are sandy brown and forest green.

When it comes to painting your house, ANY color goes.

Get the heck outta Pleasantville!

If you can think it, you can use it. That’s right! We’re not living in the classic movie Pleasantville where there’s an anti-color squad out to crack you on the head should you break the Beige-Humdrum parameters of modern life.

Somewhere, somehow, someone decided that using color on houses was verboten. Like, if your house stood out from the crowd, the zombies would know where to find you… or something.

“Buddy, the turquoise blue house with the red door: Tasty brains. Pass it on.”

Let’s face it, the zombie analogy makes as much sense as choosing beige with white trim for a house color, okay?

Fun and quirky

Cast your minds to the infamous “Painted Ladies” in San Francisco. Houses painted everything from bubblegum-pink to verdant green and eggplant purple. Vibrant, beautiful homes you’d pay well over a million dollars to own.

You look at those houses and it’s hard not to believe living in a home that looked like that would feel different. Fun. Quirky. It’d be an experience waking up and stepping outside, seeing the sun hit your pink house with blue trim.

Unlike beige and white. Or beige with brown and white trim. (Ooh, living dangerously.) Or grey and white. Or pale blue and white. It’s decorating with a yawn. “I’m trying to be boring, but at least I’ll paint inside the tape.”

Seriously. I cycle down a street filled with white, beige, pale grey, and pale blue houses, and I either want to carpet-bomb the street like I’m in Apocalypse Now, so they can start over — “I love the smell of a paint-job in the morning!” — or pipe oxygen into everyone’s houses to make sure there’s a pulse.

Explore color, explore vibrancy

If you’re painting your home this year, I beg you, explore color. Explore vibrancy. Paint with personality. Stand out, don’t fade away. Be the house that says “We’re alive!”

Surf the web for daring color combinations, or visit your local library for books that might have photos of heritage housing paint schemes.

There are a world of combinations that are fun, interesting, and will not bring the zombie hordes to your door, I promise.

Color shouldn’t scare anyone.

Heck, San Francisco built a tourist empire on their famous painted ladies, which got their infamous heritage colors before color-TV was even invented.

Trust me, the 21st century is ready for a little color pizzazz. Is your neighborhood ready too?

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