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From Habitat magazine - issue 13

When your canvas is literally as big as a house, you want to make sure you get the paint colours right.

Resene colour consultant Angela Fell has loads of advice to help you select colours for your home’s exterior that work on a number of levels. Here are some tips and tricks to steer you in the right direction.

Villa exterior
Villa exterior repaint
Resene colour consultant Angela Fell says this scheme is a popular choice for villas. She used Resene Half Tapa on the weatherboards; Resene Grey Friars for the roof, guttering, porch and steps; Resene Sea Fog for the window joinery, balustrades and detailing and Resene Nero for the front door.

How and where do you start to select paint colours?

To find inspiration for a great exterior scheme, look all around you. Check out other houses in your neighbourhood and in areas that have similar house styles to yours. Keep a scrapbook of any ideas that you come across that you love. This will give you a great place to start as you will get a good feel for your personal style. Check out the array of colour swatches at all Resene ColorShops and resellers, and browse through the pre-designed schemes on the Resene EzyPaint software.

Bungalow exterior
Bungalow exterior renovation
While transforming this small family bungalow in Alexandra, architectural designer Gary Todd (ADNZ) included new cladding and a more contemporary colour scheme. The Linea weatherboards, garage door and entry are in Resene Grey Friars with plaster walls in Resene Tapa and the screen wall in Resene Tia Maria.

What’s in fashion for house exteriors?

We’re opting for simpler schemes based on three to four colours – one for the main body of the house, another for the trims and another for the roof. The fourth is an accent that might be used on the fences. You might choose a fifth colour to be used for a striking front door. Soft mushroom shades have been fashionable, for example Resene Napa for the weatherboards, Resene Black White for joinery and trims and Resene Ironsand for the roof. But we’re starting to see a move into cleaner colours with greyer bases like Resene Half Pravda weatherboards, Resene Black White trims and Resene Grey Friars for the roof.

Beach home exterior
A brave colour choice for this modern Napier beach house won Wilson Jack Architects a Resene Colour Award in 2009. The scheme uses Resene Moroccan Spice (orange), Resene Tea and Resene Masala. Steel roof flashings and spoutings are in COLORSTEEL™Smokey and the window joinery and garage door are Resene Flint.

Is black the new white?

In the past five years, a popular architectural look has been to use black on exterior walls with pale trims to create a striking effect. Using this scheme may be limited, however, by the cladding or substrate you have on the outside of your home as many manufacturers have minimum light reflectance requirements that restrict you to using lighter colours. Darker colours generally absorb more heat from the sun than lighter colours, so may not be recommended on unstable substrates.

You can find out the LRV (light reflectance value) for a colour by looking at the back of Resene colour chips or check them out in the online Resene colour library.

And if I still want to use a darker colour?

Consider using the Resene CoolColour™ range formulated with special pigment technology to reflect more of the sun’s energy than a standard colour. This keeps the coating and substrate cooler, reducing the likelihood of heat damage such as warping. Resene CoolColour technology is available in a wide range of colours and products suitable for a whole host of exterior projects.

Are there other restrictions I might encounter?

Some councils place restrictions on colours that can be used on a house exterior to create more harmonious neighbourhoods or to make sure houses don’t stand out too prominently from the natural environment. For example, Auckland City Council has a district plan for the Great Barrier/Hauraki Gulf. Check with your council for any restrictions in your area. Regional colour palettes for some locations are also available on this website.

If you’re choosing bold colours, it might pay to discuss it with your neighbours first.

Traditional villa exterior
Traditional villa exterior repaint
A handsome traditional villa in Auckland’s Mt Albert is updated by designer Leonie von Sturmer with a harmonious contemporary scheme using a palette mainly from the Resene The Range Whites & Neutrals collection – Resene Truffle for the weatherboards; Resene Rice Cake for the trims; Resene Half Grey Friars for the window sills and garage door; Resene Masala for the porch floors and steps, and Resene Diesel for the front door.

How can I choose a tried and true colour scheme?

If you’re nervous about choosing colours, taking inspiration from other people’s projects is a great way to see what the colours will look like. Bring in a photo of your home and let the Resene staff help you with your colour choices. They see a wide variety of successful decorating projects and tend to have a good idea of what will, and just as importantly won’t, work. And they can provide you with tools and recommendations to help you with your project. You can also employ a professional colour consultant.

Always test your colour with a Resene testpot as colours will change depending on what they are painted onto and the quality of the light. Colours usually look much lighter outdoors, especially in our strong sunlight. They also change depending on other colours you put beside them, for example, a grey roof will make green walls look fresher. A high-gloss finish will make a colour look brighter than if you choose a lower sheen finish.

Home exterior
Home exterior renovation
To help sell this home and gain broader market appeal, the owners developed a colourful, contemporary paint scheme that stands out in a conservative Taupo street. On the upper storey, Resene Mako matches existing silver joinery in a low sheen which hides the imperfections of older claddings. The owners didn’t want a cold blue tinge for the concrete block base so they chose Resene Eighth Gravel, a warm grey that anchors the home to the ground.

Then there’s the Resene EzyPaint software.

This is great for selecting colours yourself. This virtual painting software programme has a gallery of images with different architectural styles of homes from different eras to choose from. Choose a home like your own and paint it using one of more than 500 pre-designed colour scheme ideas or create your own unique scheme. You can even upload a photo of your home exterior and colour it in. If it doesn’t look right, just keep trying out other colours until you create a look to suit you. Once you’ve painted your house in the virtual world, grab some testpots and try the colours out in the real world to make sure they give you the look you are after.

The Resene EzyPaint software can be downloaded free.

Lime coloured home exterior
The owners of this Nelson home designed by David Todd (ADNZ) are pleased with the bold lime colour suggested by their local Resene staff. Paul Morgan and Toni Grant used Resene Double Concrete on the plaster walls, Resene Kombi on the Linea weatherboards, while the front door and garage door are in Resene Charcoal.

What about schemes that honour the heritage aspects of my house?

If you have a heritage home from any era, check out the Resene Heritage colour range and discuss these with a colour consultant. These are classic colours and combinations that tend to outlast changes of fashion and will complement the architectural features of your house.

How can I disguise flaws?

High sheen paint is easier to keep clean but it does tend to highlight imperfections. Conversely, lower sheen paints like Resene Lumbersider hide imperfections but can be harder to clean. A good option is to choose a semi-gloss finish like Resene Sonyx 101 which hides more imperfections than a gloss but will also be easy to clean. Fences that have surface imperfections such as those found in rough sawn timber can look better in a low-sheen finish and a darker colour which will also better complement and offset your plants and landscaping.

What about accents?

Should I highlight the window joinery and trims? Should I go lighter or darker? It comes back to the style of the house. Only highlight details if they are worth it. Contrasts are good to make the colour scheme more interesting but practise with Resene EzyPaint or testpots first to help you get the right balance between interesting and overkill. If all else fails, you can always paint over anything you decide you don’t like. Make sure you live with it for a short while first though, as often you’ll find the colours change in hue as they fully cure and you fall in love with your new colours.

Top tips: If you’re stuck for inspiration for your next colour scheme, try out the free Resene EzyPaint virtual painting software. You can test-run an infinite range of colour options quickly and easily. If you live in a villa, check out for hints, tips and ideas about villa living.

words: Vicki Holder

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