In my mom’s neighborhood are a couple houses that have been painted unusual colors, colors one doesn’t normally see on a house, maybe even in nature.  They are ‘slap you in the face’colors.

Orange sherbert?


I’m sure you’ve seen houses like this.  Painted in colors that should be reserved for fruit or flowers…or underwear.

local daycare in the U.S.

Mazatlan, Mexico

I’ve specified colors for various multi-home projects and I always lean toward slightly more vibrant colors than the standard beiges that are considered safe choices.  I was going to scan some colors for you to see, but they don’t come out very well, so never mind.  I particularly love one called Lemongrass and have used it a bunch of times. 

 Kelly-Moore is what I specify most often.  They have a very easy to use set of color-chips.  I also have a Dunn-Edwards set but its huge!  So cumbersome and I have no ideal place for it, so unless a client comes to me with a Dunn-Edwards preference, I don’t use it.  We used Olympic paint for a recent house, it was available at Lowe’s and they had a Zero-VOC paint.  But I can’t get a set of chips from them, only a color wheel.  So, sometimes I’ll pick a color then find the closest match to a Kelly-Moore color and call it the Lowe’s color.  Its not generally a problem, the colors are virtually identical to most people’s eye.  Planning doesn’t really worry about slight shading differences.

 Side note:  NEVER use a color chip from a name manufacturer and then go to a home supply store and ask them to match it.  NEVER!  I mean it.  We did that once and it was impossible to match perfectly when we had to go get more paint AND the home supply store CHANGED THEIR PAINT MATCHING PROCESS IN THE MIDDLE OF MY PAINT JOB!  That was a real pain in the patootie!  If you like the color by Martha Stewart, then bite the $$ bullet and get that paint.  Caveat:  I’m talking bigger projects like painting your house, not painting a table and chairs.

 But, I’ve never specified colors like in these pictures!  They are so strong and out of place in the neighborhood.  They stand out like a sore thumb.  Do I want to have to look at that color every time I drive to my mom’s house?  What would I do if someone in my neighborhood painted their house Luscious Lavender?   

Coastal town in the U.S.


At what point is the color choice a bad one?  What constitutes a ‘normal’ color for the outside of a house?  Part of the answer depends on the era in which the house was built or styled after.  Victorian homes are painted with lots of detail in multiple colors that compliment one another but don’t necessarily ‘match’.  Craftsman homes were painted or stained in strong earthy colors. 

Lavender is really popular!

Strong, earthy tones


Bold but appropriate colors

So much detail to paint…


Plus there are colors that geographical areas lean toward – Santa Barbara, CA, has rules about painting buildings. 

Typical, beigy color

 Here is a link to their brochure about it

Timisoara, Romania

 In researching this topic (which is word I use loosely – research, not topic), I remembered that there’s a town north of here that requires all residents who go through the Planning process to choose an approved color from their color wheel.  Hmmm, that certainly rubs me the wrong way.  Don’t presume to tell me what’s a good color!   Color wheel requirements are for people with no color sense!  I know my personal taste in colors is awesome, as is yours.  Therefore, we don’t need to have our choices approved by some authority-happy city employee!

 Which means, I’m torn.  On one hand, I don’t want color choices ‘legislated’, Planning is already over-involved in many cases (a different post for another time and I’ll try not to hyperventilate when I’m writing it).  And on the other hand sits that Pepto-Bismol colored house!

The Bahamas

hmmm, I'd label this a 'fail'


And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want regulations created which restrict color choice.  In our business (both architecturally and in real estate) there are so many rules, laws, regulations, ordinances and hidden preferences that cities have, that hinder the creative process and give power to neighbors (such as allowing neighbors to speak to the Planning Board or Commission about a tree being removed or solar panels being installed on a roof – again, another subject for another time).  So…I’d rather not see yet another rule placed on the books which takes away property owner rights.

 I’ve decided that I’d rather allow my neighbors to paint their house in whatever color they choose rather than allow the Planning Department to decide for us.


Then, I was thinking about those colors.  They are (mostly) lovely colors in and of themselves.  Looking at these pictures, I realize that they are similar to homes found in communities in Mexico or Spain or Italy or Romania!                                                                                           

 In fact, when I’m in those countries, the colors are charming, not at all offensive.  So what makes me decide those colors are unattractive when I’m back in the States?  Maybe I’m being an ugly-American about it. 

 So, now, instead of complaining about that awful color, I’ll think of it as being a glimpse into another country – someplace where I’ve been on vacation or a mission trip – maybe one with sandy beaches and palm trees and I’ll smile 😉