Picking An Exterior Paint Color

When we last updated you on the progress of the showhouse that we’re working on for Habitat For Humanity (you can read more about it here, here, and here), its exterior was largely complete and it was awaiting some paint. Well, then it snowed for three weeks in a row, which is a complete rarity in Richmond, so while we continued to scurry around finalizing materials like light fixtures, tile, and cabinetry (more on that here), we weren’t able to update you on our color choice. UNTIL NOW! Can you tell I’m EXCITED?! Get those jazz hands up, y’all.

We knew from the get-go that we wanted it to be in the navy family with crisp light trim and some rustic touches (like chunky wood porch beams and some stone around the foundation). The builder was completely on board when we pitched him our navy concept, so we were tasked with choosing the shade so his guys could get painting. Our first step was to bring a ton of swatches that we thought could work down to the job site and hold them up against various planes of the house (the front, the side, etc) just to see how they looked in different lighting situations. Here are the nine swatches that we brought:

Some immediately eliminated themselves (Gravel Gray and Polo Blue looked almost like black when we held them up, Westcott Navy looked a smidge too gray, and Van Deusen Blue oddly read much lighter – like a medium blue). After a little more debating, we whittled our collection of swatches down to just three contenders:

We liked that Hale Navy had some charcoal-ish undertones, Genteman’s Gray was pretty pure in that “it’s just navy” scheme, and Newburg Green was a smidge lighter with a hint of a green undertone. Between the three of them, there was a nice range (unlike getting test pots of three identical navy colors) and we honestly thought all three of them could work, which was comforting. So off to the paint store we went…

We came back with three test pots to apply right to the house’s siding. Clara helped with the mixing:

We just brushed them right on, being sure to remember which one was which. After each one dried we applied a second coat and waited for that to dry so we could get a true read on each color.

Clara even got in on the action at the end. Start ’em young.

These are just iPhone pictures on a cloudy day, so they don’t really capture all the nuances that we could see in person, but after two coats of each color had dried, it was clear to us that Hale Navy and Gentleman’s Gray were slightly darker and more intense, while Newburg Green was a bit less “midnight-ish” and a little less serious and formal, if that makes any sense at all.

It’s weird to describe colors as being more or less formal, but something about Newburg Green felt more casual and friendly in person. Gentleman’s Gray and Hale Navy certainly would have been handsome, but Newburg Green was just calling our names a little louder. We also thought it would have a bit more contrast with the roof (we worried the other two might blend in with it too much since they were darker/grayer).

And so it was decided. Newburg Green was IT. And after holding up a bunch of trim swatches, we ended up with Steam as our trim color of choice. It would still read as a nice clean white on the house, but it wasn’t too stark or blinding, which we liked.

And here she is all painted and lovely! We’re really happy with how it looks with the tone of the roof and the Steam colored trim. And aren’t those two round windows in those peaks adorable?! The paint color really seems to emphasize the pretty architecture, thick trim, and sweet details like those windows. Of course there are still a bunch of unfinished elements going on (we have awesome chunky columns that will be going in above each of those stone pillars around the porch, and then all of that wood will be sealed, which will give it a slightly deeper but still warm & rustic tone).

And we can’t forget how much of a difference a little landscaping will make. It’ll take the look from “The House That Sprung Up Out Of Nowhere” to “The House That’s Integrated With Its Surroundings.”

But let’s look at the front door for a moment. We’re currently debating a bunch of colors for it, so we thought it would be fun to have you guys weigh in too. It arrived in this tone (we didn’t paint it this color, but it isn’t able to be stained), so we messed around with a bunch of color options in Photoshop (over two dozen!) and these were the ones that seemed to work the best with the other elements that we had going on. Some of the nixed colors surprised me (I’ve always loved navy houses with yellow doors but it just looked too crazy on this house) and the ones that we ended up liking also surprised us (who knew we’d ever even consider a blue-gray-green door on a navy house?). So without further ado, here are our six finalists:

Note: Photoshop is not real life – so the door will most likely look a lot more dimensional (and generally better) than these fake renderings when it’s actually painted.

But let’s zoom out and break things down for a hot second (although the colors are generally a lot easier to see in the up-close grid above). First we have a paint color we’re affectionately calling Blue Steel, which is a greeny blue-gray. None of these are real colors from a paint deck (we picked all of them in photoshop), but we’d choose a swatch that has the same undertones if we opted for any of these choices.

Next we have something in the chocolate range. Sort of like this:

Another color we considered was red, for that nautical, all-American look.

We also played around with the idea of a rich plum door, although this one’s a lot easier to see in the zoomed-in grid above.

We thought something in the rust family could be a nice nod to the natural tones in the stone and the porch beams (which will end up a bit richer/darker than they are now, but should still feel warm as opposed to cool).

Lastly we have putty, which ties into the tones in the roof and some of the colors in the stone around the porch.

So don’t be shy, we’d love to see which way you guys lean! We can’t finalize the door color until the porch beams are all installed and sealed, but we’re hoping that’ll be pretty soon. ***UPDATE: THERE’S A POLL EMBEDDED RIGHT HERE (we just learned it’s not showing up in Readers for some reason, but if you click through you can vote and see which color is winning).

[yop_poll id=”3″]

As for the inside, exciting stuff like tile and hardwoods are going in and we’re beginning our furniture/rug hunt along with trying to pin down a bunch of interior paint colors, so we can’t wait to share that progress. Hopefully in the next week or two!

Psst- In The-Saga-That-Never-Ends news, instead of getting our new washer yesterday, we got a call that bad weather delayed a truck that was coming from the midwest and now it should arrive on Saturday. So here’s hoping that no amount of hail, sleet, or snow will keep that washer from getting here tomorrow!


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by Reshma_Sanjeev by RebhanRenovation
by BrynAlyn by emloco


  1. says

    I love the bold color choice for the house. I would never see something like that around here and I’m not a fan of cookie cutter. You could never get away with that here due to the white/beige/taupe police that seem to rule all the neighborhoods.

    I’ll be interested to see the most popular color choice on the door. I know what mine is! :)

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS says

      Yes! Me too. Colors are great. Off the bat I selected Newburg Green. Not overly crazy about choice shades for door, but I did pick RED. Other shades do not seem appropriate. Ohmygosh …. no, no to brown. Never do browns. Too dull and boring. We have a red outside front door, not bright tho. Siding is white/gray. I love red, white and blues for the front of a house. Looks really nice. Especially with our white swing and pole flag. Sherry, Jon, Clara and Burger + new baby soon, are the best family! Totally enjoy your blog.

  2. says

    Love the house color! It really makes the thick trim on the house pop out, and I love that look. I’m biased on purple doors, since that’s what color I painted ours, but I think as a second choice, I would go with either Rust or Putty. I am definitely not afraid of color, hence the purple, but I think those two would go really well with the blue of the siding.

  3. Kelly says

    LOVE IT! The siding color is the perfect combo of sophisticated and fun!

    I think all of the door color options are lovely. Perhaps you could choose based on what’s going to be happening INSIDE the house. My guess is that there’s going to be a pretty strong overall palette inside, and maybe the front door could be a little hint of things to come?

    • says

      Ooh that’s a fun idea! We’re just diving into choosing interior colors and furnishings (without any idea what our bedding/textiles/curtains will be) so it should be fun to see where we end up with those!


  4. says

    LOVE the color scheme so far! And stoked that I picked your final color choice out of the first line up! Digging the plum or the rust for the front door, but I may be partial because I just painted my own front door and shutters plum :) GORGEOUS, Y’ALL! When can I buy this house?

    • says

      Haha! I’m not sure when the seven showhouses will go on sale (maybe in a few months when the interior finishes are more complete)? Will keep you posted :)


  5. says

    I can’t believe I’m going to say it, but I’m really liking the Blue Steel! I think the concept for the rust is great – but if the focus of that area is the gorgeous rustic beams, I wonder if the rust colored door may compete instead of compliment. So I’d say blue steel is my #1, followed by putty!

  6. says

    I love that you went with Newburg Green – that’s what I liked best when I first saw all the choices too! And I’m voting for a Blue Steel door – seems very complementary with the trim and house color. So cool to see it all coming together!

    BTW, we also have had issues with appliance delivery during this polar vortex weather. We’re in the Chicago area, so we are really getting the brunt of it – we ordered a new refrigerator that was supposed to be delivered during one of the extreme cold spells, and it was delayed because of that.

  7. Rennie says

    Really? Yellow was bad? I think a deep mustard yellow — like the putty but with more color to it — would look great! Love the house color.

    • says

      Isn’t that funny?! I think the issue was that since the blue siding has that soft green undertone, the yellow door was just too colorful with it (it started looking like a clown house) even in a deeper mustard tone. I think with a more deep/charcoal-y navy (like Hale Navy) it could have looked awesome though!


    • Jorja says

      My first thought was mustard, too. Sherry – I saw you said that mustard was looking a bit too colorful…what about a more greeny-mustard? Now that I saw that out loud, that sounds a little, um, unappetizing? Ha!

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS says

      Door s/b Red …. a brighter shade. This door has to compete with a huge house. If it was a double door, situation might change up a bit. Red is just absolutely wonderful for so many holidays. Always looks great. Red.

  8. Tirsa says

    Can’t believe I picked the right color from the get go. I LOVE the color on the house! Can’t wait to see what color wins for door.

  9. says

    I love the house color! It’s very New England, in all of the great ways! I voted for a plum door. It just seems to stand out a little bit more. The house looks HUGE and the door looks itty bitty. I think the plum door really makes it stand out.

    Love, love, love where this is heading!

    • says

      Good question! We’re planning to get into this in a future post about furnishings/shopping, but some items in the house are “loaned” from companies and then offered up for sale during the event (so they are allowing the showhouses to “display” them for free, and then hoping to sell them during the show). Other items are just straight up purchased (we have an allotted budget to furnish the house, and the builder will stage future homes with those items). John and I are also reaching out to some of our contacts to see if they’re interested in donating things for Habitat (the more donations we get, the less we dip into the decorating budget, which means the builder can directly donate that money to Habitat instead of spending it on stuff for the house).


    • says

      So much fun! I actually shouted out yellow in the post as a color I thought I’d love but it looked weird in the photoshopped versions (total surprise). I think if we went with a more charcoal navy (like Hale Navy) it could have worked better, but the green undertones and slightly lighter blue color looked a little too compete-y with a yellow door.


    • Jen. says

      Ha! I was just researching plane tix for our vacation there this summer. You live in the best city…*envy* :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *